Arts for the Aging

Arts for the Aging

CONSULTING AREA: Grant writing, strategic planning, other projects

Mary helped us think through how to become a more sustainable organization and one that really is grounded in its own identity….She helped us understand how to keep as many people under the tent as possible even though we were going through transitions.

– Janine Tursini, Director and CEO, Arts for the Aging

courtesy of Arts for the Aging


The mission of Arts for the Aging is to engage older adults and caregivers with diverse abilities and backgrounds in health improvement and life enhancement through regular participation in the multidisciplinary arts. Arts for the Aging and Capacity Partners forged a dynamic partnership over several years, engaging in various projects ranging from strategic planning to business model restructuring to grant writing. The collaboration has been marked by successful outcomes and an enduring relationship, demonstrating Capacity Partners Founder and President Mary Robinson and her team’s depth and creativity in addressing diverse organizational needs and challenges.

Key Challenges

The organization needed to redefine its identity in the transition following the passing of its founder. The organization also needed to reevaluate how to maintain its sustainability without relying as heavily on individual giving. Other challenges included the sudden loss of a significant funder and some internal staff management issues. Throughout, Director and CEO Janine Tursini says, Capacity Partners served as a trusted advisor and coach, offering guidance and providing a sounding board.

Services Provided

The collaboration addressed multifaceted goals, including strategic planning, communications and branding, and diversification of funding streams. Tursini says the strategic plan created in collaboration with Capacity Partners in 2016 has served as a cornerstone, with “the bones” of it holding up through a later refresh. Working with Capacity Partners, Arts for the Aging successfully navigated the transition following the founder’s passing, evolving into a more sustainable entity with a renewed sense of identity centered on the organization’s mission.


The strategic plan laid a solid foundation, with subsequent updates reflecting the organization’s adaptability. The revenue diversification strategy, including the acquisition of a major county contract through the grant process, has contributed to sustained growth. Capacity Partners Mary Robinson “helped us think through our business model and then, in particular, how to build earned revenue for the organization, which we never had before,” Tursini observes. She describes the revenue diversification project as “a really big success.” The organization has grown in capabilities, making the transition to managing grant writing and fundraising in-house, achieving a long-term goal to build its internal development function.

Finding A Great Grant Writer: What To Look For

Increasing your organization’s capacity to compete for grants can be a key strategy for expanding your income sources. Do you have the bandwidth to pursue opportunities and succeed? Finding the right grant writer – whether hiring internally or engaging outside help — can make all the difference.

Here are some key qualities to look for:

A Track Record of Success

First and foremost, seek out a grant writer with a proven track record of securing grants from various sources. This includes private foundations, as well as county, state, and federal sources. A successful grant writer should be able to share tangible results they have achieved, such as amount of funding secured and the impact the funding has had on the organization’s mission.

Knowledge of Fit with Funders

Understanding that alignment between your mission and the interests of potential funders is critical. A skilled grant writer should be able to assess whether your organization’s mission and programs track with a particular funder’s guidelines in terms of relevant criteria, which can include geography, thematic areas of interest, and organization size.

Proficiency in Reviewing Funders’ Fundamentals

Grant writers should be adept at analyzing a funder’s financials, such as their Form 990, to discern past giving patterns and preferences, notes Barbara Wille, Capacity Partners Partner Consultant. Additionally, they should be able to determine whether a funder accepts unsolicited proposals or if they require a prior relationship or a direct invitation. This knowledge can save time and resources by focusing efforts on the most promising opportunities. “Many funders are not open to unsolicited proposals, no matter what a great match you are with their interests,” says Wille.

Experience in Developing Essential Components

Crafting a compelling grant proposal requires more than just writing skills. A good grant writer is also a good project manager and collaborator. A proficient grant writer should be experienced in managing and pulling together essential components such as mission statements, organizational history, impact assessments, goals and objectives, and leadership profiles. Furthermore, they should understand the ancillary materials that sometimes are necessary for submissions, such as board lists, IRS documentation, and financial statements. They also must be able to work with those in your organization who can provide them.

Bringing In an Outsider’s Perspective

Hiring a grant writer who brings an outsider’s point of view can provide valuable insights into gaps in your narrative and presentation, notes Capacity Partners consultant Laura Apelbaum. They can offer fresh perspectives that you may overlook, ensuring that your proposal effectively communicates your organization’s strengths and potential impact while infusing new energy into the content of your submission. One strategy for managing your grant application development process is to develop your proposals internally and then bring in an outside consultant to give them a final review to give them a polish and vigor that can take them across the finish line.

 Ability To Elevate a Submission

A skilled grant writer goes beyond simply drafting text – they understand the importance of overall presentation. This includes strengthening the budget with explanatory notes, reworking tired narratives, and ensuring coherence and consistency throughout the proposal. Their expertise can elevate the quality of your submission and increase its chances of success.

In the competitive landscape of nonprofit grant writing, selecting the right grant writer is paramount to securing essential funding. By seeking professionals with a proven track record, a thorough understanding of funders’ interests, proficiency in financial analysis, and the ability to enhance presentation, organizations can maximize their chances of success.

Capacity Partners has a proven track record of providing successful grant writing assistance that has taken organizations to the next level. Read more here.