Grant Workshop 101: Clearing Up the Misconceptions of Grants
The idea of free money is an exciting one! The media is constantly sharing with us the millions of dollars that our government and other organizations give to worthy causes. There is seemingly a wellspring of free money for almost every kind of business concept. Most often it is the charitable works of community organizations and non-profits who are the recipients of these grants. It seems that all you have to do is present a great idea and get free money to bring it to fruition. Right? Well, that’s not quite how it goes actually. Allow me to clear up the misconceptions around grant money and how this lack of information can stall your efforts to launch your program.
To be clear, foundations and funding resources are most certainly giving money away. If your organization wants to launch a new program or service, support current programs and services or get assistance with annual operating expenses; chances are there is a grant that can help you. However, certain steps should be in place well before you seek a grant. Once you’ve nailed down these basics, there are some key points to keep in mind while searching for grants.
- Grant benefactors really do want to give away free money: the catch is that they won’t just give it to you without key information and verifiable support. If your idea is sound, you’re off to a good start. However, it takes more than the idea to make your grant proposal worthy of the award. Ask yourself who, what, when, where and how for starters. Benefactors will need to know you’ve done your research and fleshed out a program that is likely to succeed.
- The money isn’t yours to spend: you’ve got to prove through the budget that the money you are given will go exclusively to the program, down to the penny. Many times a grant is awarded with reimbursements rather than direct monies. This means that your organization will have to purchase or provide the things you need for the program upfront and receive reimbursements from the benefactor afterward. So if you’re an upstart business without any previous financial history or documented success, it can be an uphill trudge to get that grant.
- While your grant writer will research, organize and write out your proposal or application, the constituents of your organization will have to be clear and precise with the details of the program. In order to write a proposal that has a strong chance of being awarded, you must be ready to present your case for support. This includes having a measurable impact on the field you wish to serve and a solid evaluation method to measure those results.
Many of these concepts don’t apply to small organizations and upstart businesses. Fret not, I’m ready and willing to share this information with you! In my next article I’ll share some key elements to take into consideration before pursuing a grant. You’ve got to get clear on the organization’s mission, fund-raising agenda and long-range strategic plan.