Picture this: Sicily. 1942.
Just kidding, I do love me some Golden Girls, but this is a grant blog post. Let’s try again.
Picture this: your boss hands you a federal grant proposal. It is due in two weeks. After reading the grant guidance you start talking to the appropriate co-workers. Turns out, there is no program in place, no plan of action. Suddenly you are scrambling to make up something. You are calling in every favor to get the support letters, community partners, and budget numbers needed to put together a compelling proposal. You’re begging coworkers to find some data, anecdotes, ANYTHING to help you prove there is even a problem for this grant to help solve. You’re working around the clock, missing family dinners and the Bachelor season finale. (Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.)
If you have worked as a grant professional for more than a few months, you’ve survived this very scenario. It’s called chasing money, and it’s a lose-lose scenario. Every time. Sadly, people who do not eat, breathe, and live grants do not understand how they work. Grant funding exists to serve a public good. Grants are awarded to organizations that can show a need, develop a project or program that meets that need, and showcases a grant narrative that tells a compelling and linear story from problem statement to budget narratives.
To do all that, one must find the funders and associated grants that best suit the needs of your organization and the community you serve. That means thoughtful planning and research is a vital step before submitting a grant proposal. The scenario outlined above is a waste of everyone’s time. When all you’re doing is going – hey look, there’s money, let’s see if we can grab it – you might as well be chasing million dollar bills that have been let loose during a Kansas tornado. Sure, you might be lucky enough to grab a few dollars, but will you be alive long enough to spend it?
To be successful in grant writing, getting that coveted award letter, organizations need to be better than money chasers. Whether you work for a nonprofit, hospital, K-12 school system, local government, tribal organization, or university, conducting grant prospect research is a good first step to take. Most grants start with need, and there is what drives your research. Figure out what is needed. And please don’t tell me: well, we need more staff, and better technology, and maybe a new car… I mean what are the needs of the people, community, animals, or environment that you serve? Use those needs to drive your research.
When conducting grant prospect research, consider all manner of grant funding sources: corporate, foundation, federal, state, and local dollars. Focus on the mission and funding priorities of each funder, ensuring they align with the work your organization wants to implement. Another consideration is what types of organizations the funder deems eligible, because they can be extremely specific.
If I didn’t lose you with the Bachelor reference, you may be wondering where on earth to conduct this grant research. The answer is simple: about a million places. The good news is there are multiple means to find grant funders and their grant applications at no cost to you. That’s right: you do not have to pay for a grant subscription to find funders. You can, and there are certainly benefits to paid subscriptions, but there are a multitude of ways to dive into research. If you are looking for public grant money, federal agency websites and state websites share grant information. A typical go to search engine is grants.gov. For private funding, guidestar.org is a good starting point. You can also view the Foundation Directory Online for free through Candid’s Funding Information Network. I visit my local library anytime I want to use this subscription.
If you want to hear more about free and paid subscriptions, plus other ways to stay in the know when it comes to grant seeking, check out Season 4, Episode 11 of the Fundraising HayDay Podcast: Prospect Research: What’s Old is New Again (podbean.com). As a bonus, my cohost Kimberly and I break into song. If that doesn’t get you excited about grant prospect research, I don’t know what will. I wish I could promise you some cheesecake, but I’m not a Golden Girl.
DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 4 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 3 and stay up to date on the new season here.
Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.