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Incorporating Grant Writing Assistance into Your Budget Planning Process

by Beverly Browning on June 17, 2015
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writing_May2012_KB_article.jpgAnnually, units of municipal government, nonprofit organizations, and other eligible grant applicants go through a budget planning and preparation process for the next fiscal year’s anticipated expenses and revenues. This is a long process that often involves public meetings, department-level number crunching, and governing body review and approval of the final proposed budget. While this can best be described as a labor-intensive project for all parties involved, it frequently overlooks the possibility of retaining the services of an in-house grant writer or a third-party grant writing consultant.

Below are some questions to consider in your budgeting process that can lead to your next fiscal year’s budget being approved and a grant win.

Where can we find the funds to get help with our grant writing?

Possibility #1

Consider the following questions if you plan on hiring an in-house grant writer or contracting with a grant writing consultant

  1. How many positions in the current fiscal year were never filled?
  2. Were these positions approved and budgeted for in the current fiscal year?
  3. How were the allocated unused funds tracked and used in a more cost-effective manner?
  4. Did the funds remain in the general fund balance or were they moved to the reserves balance?

The point I’m making by asking the above questions is that if you were approved for 55 FTE positions and only actually had 45 FTE positions, what did you do with the remaining allocated monies? Were they transferred to another line item? Did they just remain in the general fund budget unexpended? The funds for one or more of these unfilled positions could have been reallocated toward a part-time or full-time in-house grant writing position or a contracted services grant writing consultant.

Possibility #2

If your general funds are insufficient and you’re experiencing a budget deficit (current and new fiscal year woes), then take a look at who’s retiring (across departments). Brainstorm the answers to these questions with your financial team or committee:

  1. Are retiring staff being replaced immediately? If not, are there sufficient funds available to retain the services of a part-time or full-time in-house grant writer or a contracted services grant-writer?
  2. Rather than trying to budget for grant writing assistance from one expense line item or one department, have you looked at the leftover funds in each department’s budget to see if there are enough monies collectively? If not, consider allocating the expenses for a part-time or full-time grant writer or contracted services consultant proportionately across multiple departments (remember, select those departments that are high on the grant application submittal list). Making every department pay may not work since not all departments are seeking grant funding opportunities and/or applying for them (at all or on a regular basis).

Possibility #3

After you have explored all the internal funding possibilities for incorporating grant writing assistance into your budget planning process, don’t forget to consider a public-private partnership to underwrite the expenses of getting some grant writing help.

What is a public-private partnership? The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships defines this alliance as a contractual arrangement between a public agency (federal, state, or local) and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. In addition to the sharing of resources, each party shares in the risks and rewards potential in the delivery of the service and/or facility.

Source for additional referencing: http://www.ncppp.org/ppp-basics/7-keys/

Recommended action steps for finding a private sector partner for your public unit of government or nonprofit organization are:

  1. Identify current partners and new partners.
  2. List the pros and cons of approaching each partner and the individual within your unit of government or nonprofit organization who has the authority and influence to reach out to potential partners.
  3. Review the cons and work on reducing the barriers/negative aspects of each potential partnership with the outreach person or committee.
  4. Develop a written partnership proposal document so everyone stays on track with the purpose of the partnership and a win/win/win for the partner, the community, and your agency/organization.
  5. Make the connection (one at a time) and assess the response before moving to a formal written agreement. What do you want? For the private sector partner to fund a staff or contracted position. I can tell you from experience, the contracted position will have a lot more appeal than the employee-status position. Why? No one wants to pay salary and fringes that will increase annually. It is also difficult to show any type of return on investment with a full-time employee because once they are hired, their tasks gravitate from 100% grants to a little bit of everything—reducing the impact analytics of your partner’s financial investment. I recommend going with a flat-rate contracted services amount that can be negotiated for longer terms and at a cost-savings to your partner.

You now know some options for incorporating grant writing assistance into your budget planning process. I hope these options generate robust discussions that result in your community being on the receiving end of phenomenal grant awards.

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