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10 Things Committees Need to Know About Writing A Grant

Posted on Wednesday July 25, 2018 at 10:35AM

Almost every person I know is on a committee, and almost every committee I know is seeking funds for something. From bake sales, to chase the ace, from dances with a bar, to lotteries, each of these committees are training to raise funds mostly to improve the quality of life for some sector of our population. Grant writing is an important tool in the tool box for non-profit groups of all kinds. Some organizations depend on grants for their organizational operations, while others look to grants for one-off projects, like replacing a large piece of vital equipment, or a major capital build. Here are some tips:

1. Designate a person on your team to look for grants based on the project you want to do.
I think you would be amazed at the number of applications funders have to weed through that do not meet the basic criteria for application. There are a lot of grants out there, but they are not all intended for everyone. Make a short list of potential funders and focus on them first.

2. Read the application guide, and do what it says.
If the application guide says to send three copies, then that is what you do. If the application guide says send three letters of support, ten letters of support is not better, send three.

3. Get real cost estimates.
While I appreciate these can be a pain to get, and sometimes have a cost associated, it is important that you are not guessing as to costs. If you get the funding based on an underestimate, you run the risk of not having the funds needed to complete the project even if you get the grant.

4. Know that somewhere, someone needs to put up some cash.
Seldom, if ever, do grants pay 100 percent of any project. You are going to need an amount of cash to support a portion of project costs. Grants do not take the place of fundraising, sponsorship, or donations.

5. Understand the mandate of the funder, and make sure your project supports their mandate.
When you apply for grant funding, it is important to understand what the funder hopes to gain by giving the money to your organization. Do some research, and make sure the language of your application supports the funder's mission. When committees submit grants based solely on their own need, it demonstrates a lack of understanding for the entity with the money. The funders are looking at ways of meeting their own mandate by giving money to your organization. Let them know how you are a good fit. Money is not awarded based on how good or how deserving your group is, it is awarded on how well you fit with the goals of the funder.

6. Make sure you know the reporting requirements.
Every successful grant has a reporting component, and it is important you know what is required in advance so that you can be prepared for it. You will need to  keep receipts, (in fact most do) for expenditures, and some require a separate account for the whole project. Knowing what is required in advance is important so that you can produce the documentation you need when it is due.

7. Contact the person in charge of the fund.
It never hurts to contact the person in charge of the fund to determine if your project is a fit, and to introduce yourself. That way, when you have questions, you will have already established a connection and that makes it easier to pick up the phone or send an email.

8. Make sure you understand what is required after you get the grant in terms of acknowledgement.
Many grants require public acknowledgement for the money, and that sometimes means a press release or signage.

9. Stick to the budget, and if you cannot stick to the budget, call your 'go-to' person and ask permission and process to make changes.
Arbitrarily changing how you will use the money is not an option for most funding dollars. If for some reason you cannot use the money the way you intended in the first place, you need to connect with the funder to find out what to do, and the process you need to follow. In some cases you will need to send the money back. While that seems sad at the time, sending money back is a far better option than spending the funds for any reason other than what the funding is for. Eventually you will need to send it back anyway, and that is tougher to do when the money is already spent.

10. Do not count on grants.
When they are available, and when you can access them successfully, grants are an important part of a providing the services and supports we rely on, however, do not create a dependency on them. Grants are not a sustainable form of funding. As soon as possible, your committee needs to look at ways to sustain itself, regardless of the project. No matter what you build, or what you provide in way of services, the clock starts ticking on the need for more money almost as soon as it is built. In order for any project to be sustainable, those long term replacement costs need to be considered as a part of good planning.


Author: Solomon Matthewson Consulting

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