Often when we write a grant proposal, our mind fixates on "our" needs; but it's important that we focus on what the funder wants to read when they receive our grant requests. In this article, I’ll share some feedback that I received after surveying foundations when collecting research for one of my Grant Writing for Dummies editions.
How many times have you scrutinized a potential private-sector funder's profile looking for a perfect fit between what your organization needs and what the private-sector funder funds? You've read the funder’s summary or information on funding areas and cannot find any category that is an ideal fit to meet your needs. Should you just cross that grant maker off your list when it happens to be a local funder in your region? Absolutely not.
This is the first installment of a three-part series on grant funding in Arkansas. Part 1 focuses on charitable giving in Arkansas. Part 2 will discuss national foundations and federal programs of interest to Arkansas nonprofit organizations and state and local governments. Part 3 will outline the five things all entities must do to garner external grant funding for their programs and operations.
In 2010, the state of Florida received some of the most generous funding amounts of any state from the federal government in the form of direct expenditures, including grant support, as it has for quite some time. But it never seems to be enough (in spite of the many calls for cuts to federal spending coming from state politicians, including many of Florida’s). Its citizens are repeatedly told that there isn’t enough money for things like education, infrastructure, housing, and so forth.
(The following blog post was written by Dr. Bev Browning, Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis and the author of more than 40 grant-related publications.) “I just don’t have time to write this grant application!” How often have you heard yourself saying this to a co-worker or your supervisor? You likely have one job title but multiple job responsibilities. Suddenly having to assume grant writing duties means that your boss has activated the “and other duties as assigned” language in your job description. Does this sound familiar?
I was reading an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy the other day about the main reasons that grant makers reject grant proposals, and it inspired me to reach out to some major foundations to get the word from the funders themselves. The answers bear repeating: Sources agree that oftentimes a proposal is denied funding not “because there was something ‘wrong’ with the proposal that if fixed would then result in a grant… but because: a) the foundation’s grant budget was insufficient, b) the program or purpose wasn’t a priority, or c) the organization did not demonstrate the capacity to carry out the proposal” (Council of Michigan Foundations, Information for Seeking Foundation and Corporate Grants). This source was recommended to me by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
In this way, project alignment and capacity make up the foundation (forgive the pun) upon which the argument for funding is based. To pick an easy metaphor, take job searching: For instance, you could have the "perfect résumé"—but it isn't perfect if you’re applying for the wrong job. If you’re not the right fit for the company, you’re not getting a call back. It doesn’t matter if you have superb qualifications, grammar, and the premium glossy paper from OfficeMax.
The U.S. economic recovery has been slower than a snail’s pace, and news about foundation giving over the past year hasn't exactly been the most uplifting news. What seems to be good news—the Foundation Center’s June 2012 report states that “giving by the nation’s more than 76,600 foundations totaled $46.9 billion last year, up 2.2 percent—is overshadowed by the fact that "after accounting for inflation, foundation giving was down slightly from the prior year.” It reminds me of jobs reports.