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Note from Diane: We’re so pleased to have another perspective for you from one of our team members about what Grant Funding in Action looks like, or in hashtag speak, how #grantswork. We’d love to hear your stories too! Send them to us so your stories can be featured here!

 

What’s your bottom line when it comes to writing for, or allocating, grants? Is it impact? Is it investing in a financially solid organization? Is it shifting a paradigm? These are some of the questions funders and grant writers struggle with when trying to decide what organizations will receive funding or how to craft a request for funding. Here’s a story about how one organization partnering with one funder changed one small, but very important aspect of a community.

 

One of the most compelling grants I’ve seen in action was a small grant to a food pantry in northern Nevada. The food pantry delivered food weekly to approximately 70 homes across a 40-mile radius. Because the service area was so big, and because many of the people being served didn’t have transportation to get them to the food pantry offices, food was delivered to families every Saturday morning. Volunteers would gather at the offices, pack up groceries for families and then deliver it to homes across the region. As a volunteer, it became apparent very early on that the food was critical to all of the families served but the need was greater than food. I remember showing up at one family’s house and seeing a 1 year old wandering around the yard with paper towel underwear. The next week, at a different home, it was a toddler with saran wrap around their mid section. When I asked the pantry director about this she said it was really common for families to come up with makeshift diapers when they didn’t have money to buy them. Diapers weren’t something the regional food bank could supply and so kids went without. That year a local family tragically lost their infant child and in an effort to find meaning in the impossible, they established a memorial fund that would be run out of a local foundation. With this new funding, the foundation made grants to local nonprofits and the food pantry applied for, and received, a grant to pay for diapers for the year.

 

I love what this grant did on so many levels. First, it built community awareness about a critical need. This grant has evolved into an annual fund that now encompasses many personal care products that aren’t available through a food bank.  On a personal level, the grant made a meaningful memorial for a tragic situation and the family has expressed their pleasure that something positive arose from their tragedy. Finally, what started out as a modest grant application is now a sustained annual fund that brings diapers to kids who really need them—no more saran wrap, no more towel papers. For me, it’s all about a community valuing dignity and critical needs. With grants, it’s about telling the compelling story and then the money follows. Build awareness, create an opportunity for compassion to take action and the funding will follow—that’s the bottom line.

Every established nonprofit was once a fledgling organization, founded by an eager individual with a 501c3 determination letter in hand and a passion to serve their community or change the world. Does this sound like you? First, thank you – we are grateful to people who are willing to roll up their sleeves to tackle problems, and who create and innovate to improve quality of life and, well, to just make cool things happen. The less exciting part – except for grant professionals – is that implementing these great ideas costs money, and, if you are a brand new organization, you may not have much of that.

So what is a new nonprofit with big ideas, a shiny new 501c3 letter, and little money to do? Of course – apply for grants! Big grants! And who better to help apply for big grants but an awesome grant consultant?

We love writing grants of all sizes, and we’d love to help. But you may not need us – yet. A grant consultant can help you understand the connection between organizational development and grant seeking and help you assess and improve your grant readiness, and can help you understand the kinds of grants that you will be most competitive for initially (Pro Tip: if you’re a new nonprofit that has gotten few or no grants, you should start local and start small: a $1,000 grant from your bank’s charitable giving program is a reasonable target; a $500,000 grant from your state government is probably not). But before we even get to that point, ask yourself two questions…

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24 Jul 2017

Is There a Grant For This?

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Is there a grant for this?

Isn’t there a grant for that? 

I’m *SURE* there are grants for this!

Let’s get a grant to pay for this!

Sound familiar?

As we have been talking about the different elements capacity related to grant professionals and grant seeking strategies the past few posts (check them out here if you missed any!), these frequent questions we are asked at meetings, by clients, by employers, at cocktail parties, and the like kept bubbling to the surface. But how do we best address the answer to these common questions and bold statements…

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Note from Diane: As we continue with our capacity theme, today’s post from Bethany is perfect! There are many times that we as grant professionals ask ourselves how to juggle or how to make sure limits are in place for juggling multiple grant deadlines.

 

More often than not I am balancing more than one grant application deadline at a time with each client and between my multiple clients. Certain seasons seem to have a plethora of grant deadlines. It is enough to drive anyone mad.

As the grant professional, it is my responsibility to keep the grant team on track to submit all those applications with all the necessary attachments on time. To do this, I have tips, tricks, and tools I use to help keep the grant team including me sane to share with you.  

1. Grant Calendar: Have a grant calendar that everyone on the grant team has access to. Put all grant deadlines, grant report due dates, grant meetings, etc. on the calendar. Also, put the date you are shooting for to submit the grant. There are lots of tools you could use for your team’s grant calendar – paper calendar or whiteboard that hangs in a place everyone will see or an online calendar shared with the team like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook Calendar.  I personally use a Google Calendar. Find the one that works for your team.

2. Project Management System: There are lots of moving parts for each grant application. To keep track of all the different parts and who is responsible for them, use a project management system. Again there are lots of tools you can use from a spreadsheet to online applications. I personally use Asana. Find the one that works for your team. Sometimes when lots of things are piling up, I use good old pen and paper and make a list of all the things left on a grant application or which grant applications we are currently working on.

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Whether you are an employee or a consultant, you likely feel like you are balancing your personal and professional commitments on a daily basis. Then summer rolls around, and the balancing act for your capacity professionally and the desire for some sun-filled self-care and unplugged time often comes to a head.

How many of you have scheduled your vacation around a large grant maker’s deadline that was announced with a summer deadline? I’ve mentioned before that in New York State, the Consolidated Funding Application process that is how funding is decided through the Regional Economic Development Councils has been early/mid summer *every* year since it was released. You could hear the mixed sigh of relief/groans as the 2017 deadline was announced for late July. I can guarantee that grant professionals throughout New York State planned the majority of their vacation time for August!

What is the answer to the balancing act for our capacity to write competitive proposals with our need to focus on self-care, relaxing with family and friends, and potentially even unplugging?

I don’t claim to have *the* answer to balancing self-care with professional demands. My own two children and spouse will tell you that. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m getting better at it each year.

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