Grant MythBusters

The popular television show, MythBusters, began on the Discovery channel in 2003. Like this tv show which fact checks and dispels or proves urban legends, the world of grants is ripe with myths. Time for Spring Cleaning! Let’s bust three of these grant myths!


Myth #1: Grant funding should only support program costs. Vu Le, Executive Director of Ranier Valley Corps, has a reply for this one. “Stop bragging about overhead and admin-to-program ratios: Remove all instances of statements like “95 cents of every dollar go to our programs.” These types of stats do nothing but perpetuate ignorance about what it takes to do our work. They make donors and funders look unfavorably on orgs that do not have these unrealistic and nonsensical rates.” If you don’t subscribe to Vu Le’s blog, run and do it right now-he provides thought-provoking nonprofit views, tips, and resources. He will make you laugh and cry, plus he sells cool nonprofit unicorn gear.


Myth #2: You’re not a real nonprofit because you pay staff instead of only using volunteers. Yes, there are successful nonprofits with no paid staff such as Angel Charity for Children, Inc. However, this volunteer-only structure does not work for all nonprofits, and it should not be a standard that all non-profits follow. For example, Angel Charity for Children raises money through membership fees, donations, fundraisers, and grants, but their organization is based on stakeholders who have the time, money and resources to be able to volunteer. This structure does not work for all based on location, community resources, and other factors. The business world often reprimands nonprofits that they need to be run more like a business, which entails paying staff living wages and benefits. Why shouldn’t a nonprofit expect to have all the resources that a business does to operate successfully? Nonprofits in the USA employ 11.4 million individuals, which equates to 10.3% of our workforce between 2007 and 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “If the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world” (National Council of Nonprofits, World Bank). Per a 2016 nonprofit impact report, in Arizona alone, nonprofits contribute $28 million annually to the economy, 7.9% of the state gross product. Arizona nonprofits provide as much economic impact as construction and retail industries in the state.


Myth #3: You pay a grant writer only if a proposal is funded. Read the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Code of Ethics. “Members shall work for a salary or fee.” Refer to the two myths above to reinforce why this myth is unfair. Grant professionals, like any other professionals, deserve to be paid for their hard work and they contribute to the economy. If you don’t like a massage or a haircut, you still must pay the service provider. Like other professions, grant professional compensations are based on experience and market analysis.


What other grant myths do you bust daily as a grant professional?


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