The Bottom Line: Grant Writing as Social Action
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.