I was recently asked to help a nonprofit organization that was located in an affluent city and that was continually rejected by grantors when it sought funding to supplement its other revenues. The organization’s staff figured that potential funders had perceived the nonprofit as being as well off as the high-median-income city in which it was situated.
The query took me back to a point in my consulting career when I was approached by a nonprofit based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, an affluent city with a population just under 4,000. The organization, like the one I mentioned above, needed grant funding to supplement its other revenues. Every grant proposal that the nonprofit submitted for funding consideration had been rejected. The rejections were not due to poor writing, late submissions, or even missing attachments; they were related to the funders’ inability to see a dire need for grant funding that would benefit a nonprofit based in a community with a six-figure median income (circa 1980s).
The organization was perplexed and assumed that there was no way that they could ever win a grant award. They were so desperate that they even considered moving out of the city to a poor community with a high number of residents living below the federal poverty rate. (I will not name their options out of respect for the State of Michigan, my birth state!)
Grant Seeking Strategies
After some brainstorming with myself, I came up with this idea for the nonprofit as well as for the City of Bloomfield Hills, who was a key partner with the organization seeking grant funding. My ideas on how to approach this funding barrier also helped the city in their future grant submissions. Here are some ways you can overcome the mental barrier of presenting your organization or unit of government to potential funders when you are fortunate to have a large percentage of the population earning high incomes based on federal definitions:
- First, take a long look at ALL your demographic indicators. Use the U.S. Census website as well as any census-related reports available through state agencies and reputable online data sources (see my source links below).
- Second, create a table to insert all your findings. You can use the table below in all future grant applications as long as you update the demographics annually. For this exercise, I’ve extracted demographics for the City of Bloomfield Hills.
A Glimpse of Bloomfield Hills and the Need for Grant Funding
As a government grant reviewer (working with a small team of peer reviewers who review and score grant applications for funding consideration), if I see this type of table in a grant application from a grant applicant with a high median income, I recognize that there are still critical indicators to show me how this community is hurting economically at multiple levels.
Golden rule if your community fits this profile: Look for the demographics that focus on needs-based living.
Sources for Demographics
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