Hosted by the Highline Botanical Garden
At the SeaTac Community Center
Saturday 11 March 2017

Grant Writing for Non-Profits


Wendy Morgan who has worked as a grant writing consultant for years in the Puget Sound Basin and been involved with public gardens as well, led the workshop. She guided the participants skillfully through the steps necessary in realizing success with many practical insights into what it takes to get the grants your organization wants.

Phase I:
She began with nuts and bolts information. Your organization needs to be ready to apply for grants as granting organizations expect that your non-profit is run in a business-like fashion and worthy of their entrusting their monies to you to realize the purpose for which they were given.

She suggested viewing the grant application process as if your organization were a business seeking funding from an investment group. Funders invest in the non-profits they believe will realize a mission they are advancing.

If you plan to apply for grants your organization should have a number of supporting documents on hand: a document which verifies your status as a non-profit a 501 (c) (3) has your EIN, and evidence that your organization is not a private foundation; a list of current board members, their affiliations, terms of office and contact information; a list of key organizational staff with job titles and main functions; the current 990 IRS forms; the most recent audited financial statement; a summary of actual income and expenses for the past two years; the organization’s current year’s operating budget; a detailed budget and schedule for the project for which funding is sought.

Your organization should have adequate insurance including Directors and Officers insurance and coverage for volunteers.

Finally, in basic preparation for reaching out for grants, your organization needs to have two more planning activities. First you need along-range plan for how your organization intends to further the realization of its mission; it can be called a business plan or a strategic plan.
Second, given your long-range plan you need to define the projects you want to realize in fulfilling that long-term plan? Wendy Morgan recommends that your organization have an annual meeting devoted to project planning. Project planning gives your organization the information it needs to construct the grant applications that will convince granting agencies their investment in your organization will have good results. Project proposal planning focuses your organization’s energy and resources; incorporated the ideas of your board, your supporters and your funders; it suggests realistic pathways and timelines for achieving your goals; it can suggest a logical progression for the steps you will take in making your organization a permanent part of your community.

A sample structure for a project proposal:

Name of project:
Name of Project lead:
Description of Project:
Need for Project:
Budget for Project:
Timeline for Project:
Committee approvals needed:
Impacts of Project for Gardena and Community:
Description of Ongoing Costs or Maintenance:

The project proposals your organization generates will give your organization a list of potential grant possibilities. Your members and Board will know what your organization wants to accomplish.

Phase II:

The second phase of achieving success in grant writing is understanding why organizations and people donate money to non-profits and learning about the donor organizations and individuals whose mission matches yours.

There are many reasons people and organizations give and some of the most common are: they are asked to give, they see some relationship between their own lives or purpose and your organization, they realize a tax benefit, they improve their image in the community, they are an organization that wants to have a community-wide impact (the United Way or Seattle Foundation), they want to sustain a certain cause.

Finding Funders is a matter of effort and luck. Always be an ambassador for your organization as your never know with whom you are speaking and use the bull’s eye target to identify hot, warm and cool supporters. Look to local governments, cities and counties; look for collaborative supporters like the Seattle Foundation or Grant Station; or regional organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, regional tourism authorities; service organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Exchange Clubs; and private donors. Use resources such as Philanthropy Northwest to learn about foundations. Go to donor parties. Look at the annual reports of horticultural organizations and public gardens. Remember to say thank you and recognize others for assisting you in your search for funders. Build a list of funders and their interests and how you think their interests mesh with yours; keep updating it on an annual basis. When researching a funder note the following: the range of the amounts they grant, what their mission is and what they list as the types of grants they give and do not give, the names of the contact people and the ways in which they can be reached.

Morgan also recommended that the GCNN member organizations examine the possibilities for collaborative funding for members such as training on building Boards, or website construction. The potential for funding a special workshop or joint project that would benefit all members has potential if we work together on the granting process.

Once you have developed a list of potential funding organizations you have the basics, it is time to put together an annual calendar of asks to fund the projects your organization wants to undertake. Your calendar will include dates for personal ask times, your fund-raising events, and “ask letters”. The annual development plan should include our annual operating budget and annual capital budget for the projects you want to accomplish that year.

Phase III:

At last you have reached the point of writing a grant proposal. The grant proposals you write are based on the guidelines established by the funding agency and will vary greatly in size and complexity.

Some funders require an initial letter of request which they review before they will accept your grant proposal. A basic letter of request will establish the following as succinctly as possible:

1st paragraph—
What is the connation between your organization and the potential supporter?
Who you are: (your organization’s mission, population served, year founded)

2nd paragraph—
What are you asking for? (description and amount)
Why it is important that your request is filled?
What the impact be when the project is completed?
If you can, include a anecdote that illustrates the significance of the completion of your project will have on a person, family, or community
If there is a benefit the donor could receive them mention it (a newsletter recognition and announcement of the gift during an organizational event)

3rd paragraph—
When do you need the gift you are requesting?
Who is your contact person?
How will you be available to provide additional information?

Wendy Morgan recommended that when you draft a letter of request that you have others critique it. Your critics should know your organization, read the guidelines of the funder, and then the letter.

If your letter of request is successful, and you can apply for the grant, then follow the granting guidelines the funder stipulates, use the resources you have prepared and focus on how your proposal will benefit the community and realize the goals of the funding organization, the goals you both share.

If a letter of request is not required, prior to applying for the grant, then a letter very like the “letter of request” will serve as the cover letter for your grant application.

If you visit their website, you can download the Common Grant Application Form from the Philanthropy NW website:

Grant writing is part of your overall Fundraising Strategy a synergistic activity: Other activities which improve your organizations ability to get grants:

Notoriety aids in getting grants. Market so that your organization is a visible part of the community: you need a website and it should be linked to social media and other related sites; you need a descriptive brochures or rack card distributed in targeted regions; your need a regular newsletter, bulletin or e-newsletter.

Use technology to in your fundraising, set your website up so you can accept donations and use the site to aid in your grant getting efforts.

Besides applying for grants and to aid in the success of your grant applications pursue other fundraising activities: events, twice yearly solicitations (membership renewal and annual fund), membership growth, plant sales, or other activities.

Network locally to support gardens by joining: local arts and cultural coalitions, local tourism authorities, local chambers of commerce, and public garden and horticultural organizations.

Produce an annual report which you circulate and post on your website and include the following. In preparation for drafting the document read the annual reports of other organizations:
Who was served and how many were served
List significant accomplishments
State plans (this helps create a climate for fundraising)
List your supporters
List staff and volunteers
Enumerate the changes in the garden since the previous year



The Passport Brochure: The 2017 Passport brochure feedback: Some people indicated that it was an advantage to have the brochures before Christmas. We also had requests for a poster to aid in the sale of posters and this will be available when the passport is distributed in the future. No one had any comments on whether not 40 brochures was a good number, it was too early in the season to know.


The Fall 2017 workshop will be in Oregon. The Spring workshop in Washington may be at the
Seattle Chinese Garden.
The questioner was just sent out to determine the topic for the autumn 2017 workshop. If you did not receive a copy and would like to vote, please contact us.


Chase Garden: The Garden Conservancy is looking for a non-profit organization interested in assuming the ownership and management of the public garden. If no such organization is found the garden will be put on the market and a garden-friendly buyer sought.

Lakewold is searching for a new Executive Director.


Here are some good quotes from Wendy Morgan which Colleen Adams-Schuppe captured:

  • "Gardens are a piece of art."
  • "Remember if you really love it (your garden), then you are an ambassador for it."
  • "When there is a threat to something we love, people step forward. Ask people for help."
  • "The garden builds community by its very existence. Your garden is a place for people to gather."
  • "Remember your garden is what is important. You are connected to the community. Talk with people about it."


Last update: 18 February, 2018