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The Business of Grant-Writing

Grant-writing requires more than a letterhead and compelling pitch. Done effectively, it can be a full-time job, but what nonprofit can afford that?

Great Lakes Legal (GLL), a small subsidiary of Elder Law & Advocacy Center (ELAC), suffered from the same hardship as many nonprofit organizations: writing grant proposals while overworked and under-resourced. With too little funding to hire more personnel, GLL could not devote time to performing cost and operations analyses, which are essential components to provide to potential granters.

Nilohit Pratap Singh

Broad MBA scholar Nilohit Singh found a business approach to overcome a nonprofit’s hurdle.

But Broad College of Business graduate student Nilohit Pratap Singh (MBA ’16) knew there was a business solution to assist GLL. He created a grant proposal model that would create transparency between the nonprofits and their potential granters, streamlining the proposal process.

Singh’s inclusive grant proposal model, called the “Service Operations Assessment Model,” incorporates the different costs associated with the organization’s operations, as well as what a potential granter’s money would be put towards if they were to donate. This includes everything from the cost of each legal case to office supplies and salaries. The Service Operations Assessment Model also includes each specific donation amount and how each donation will impact the organization and its ability to expand their services.

“It is not just a grant proposal service. The Service Operations Assessment Model lets the granter decide how much he/she wants to donate by quantifying the social impact,” Singh said. By utilizing a business approach and treating the granter as a customer, Singh was able to create an effective model that can be customized by any nonprofit—or even startup companies seeking VC funding.

Though Singh approached the Service Operations Assessment Model as pro bono work for GLL and ELAC, his work allowed him to better understand service operations in a nonprofit, which he says is a unique skill of its own in the business world.

The unique business experience came to Singh by way of Broad faculty, he says. “I wouldn’t have known that the ELAC and GLL were struggling with grants to begin with if Dean Omura didn’t discover it himself. He finds amazing business and growth opportunities for students that we never would have thought of!”

Singh credits the Broad faculty and breadth of curriculum for the intricate development and approach to the model. “Every single skill I picked up here [from Broad], I put into this model. I took what I learned in cost accounting from Dr. Sedatole, statistical skills by Tunga Kiyak, product positioning by Dean Omura, and valuation from Pedram Nezafat to complete this. Everything was applied here, I can never thank these amazing individuals enough. I am what I am because I came to Broad.”


Eli Broad College of Business

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