Writing Grants and Getting Them Funded
A. Preparing to write grants
These are hard times for nonprofit organizations. Grants from government agencies and foundations are decreasing at the same time as the number of agencies seeking funds and the needs of the citizens for services are increasing.
The time has come for grant writers to develop new strategies for grant writing. Traditionally, grant writers seeking funds from government agencies wait until they receive a notice from a funding source notifying them of the availability of funds. This notice is called a Request for Proposal or RFP and includes instructions for applying for the funds and a due date. Grant writers seeking funds from foundations go to the library or to a variety of web sites for a list of foundations which give funds in their geographic area and for the service they provide. They then mail applications to those which seem to offer the best opportunities for funding.
Invariably, the "due date" for the grant applications to be submitted do not allow enough time for the preparation of comprehensive and well-written grant applications. A new approach is needed. Instead of waiting for the right RFP to come along or locating a possible foundation to which to apply, grant writers should draft a "generic" comprehensive grant for their entire agency.
This approach is realistic because while the format of each RFP seems different, each requests the same basic information:
- What are the needs of the citizens served by the agency?
- What are the objectives of the program?
- What are the services to be provided?
- How will the program be evaluated?
- How much money is being requested?
The development of the "generic grant" would begin with a survey of the needs of the individuals in the community served by the agency for the services the agency provides. Whether the nonprofit provides social services, arts, recreational opportunities or other needs, it must research the needs of the citizens for these services. A survey may yield this information. Interviews with existing or potential clients may be helpful. A new technique is the establishment of focus groups to obtain this information.
Once the needs are established, the next step is to cost out each potential activity or program. It would be essential to know, for example, which activity costs several hundred dollars and which costs several thousand. The board of the nonprofit organization would then discuss the needs and costs and set priorities.
Then the nonprofit would begin to make decisions about where to apply for funds. In some instances, the agency would apply for grants to operate particular programs. The agency then would supplement grant funds received with funds obtained from special events or annual fundraising campaigns.
When the "generic grant" is written and a request for proposal is received from a government agency, the nonprofit can meet deadlines easily since much of the text and the budget has already been written. If money becomes available for a day care center, for example, the agency will already have surveyed the need for a center and will know the costs of operating a center.
If a nonprofit has determined a need for six different programs, for example, it can then search the foundation directories and apply to one foundation for one type of program and another foundation to meet a different need. Also, there is no prohibition against applying to several foundations or government agencies for the same funds, so that may be an option as well.
When a possible funding source has been identified which funds a particular type of program, the nonprofit that has already researched the need for that type of program and explored the cost will be far ahead of all the other agencies applying for the same funds.
(Career Press) by Michael A. Sand, pp. 77-80.
Michael Sand, founder of Sand Associates, has an extensive career that began in 1966 when he served as Program Planner for Philadelphia's anti-poverty program and then Assistant Director of Montgomery County's anti-poverty program. Before founding Sand Associates in 1979, Mr. Sand served as Executive Director of the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania, Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Administrator of the Law Bureau of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Mr. Sand is the author of How to Manage an Effective Nonprofit Organization (Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2005). He leads workshops throughout the United States in areas such as Strategic Planning, Grant Writing, Fundraising and Effective Supervision.
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