Evaluating if a Grant Opportunity is Right for Your Organization
A significant part of success in grant writing is selecting the right grants to pursue. When your organization is struggling financially, it is tempting to pursue as many grants as possible just to get the cash flowing. Unfortunately, this is a big mistake. Not only is success unlikely with this approach, but if you are applying indiscriminately to private funding sources, you run the risk of eliminating the possibility of applying successfully in the future when you really do have a proposal idea that matches the funding source's criteria.
Here are some tips for evaluating if the grant opportunity you are considering is right for you:
- Does organization's vision match the funding source's vision for the grant? The more closely your vision and plan are aligned with those of the funding source, the greater are the chances that your will be successful. Many organizations try to fit a square peg into a round hole. For example, the funding source wants to fund literacy programs, but the applicant organization really needs funds for transportation, so it tries to write a literacy program that puts most of its money into transportation, so it can get what it needs. In most cases, the funding source will see right through this. The truth is that there is undoubtedly a funding source out there that wants to fund exactly what you need, so spend your efforts on the search, not on applying for every grant that comes across your desk.
- Will the grant pay for administrative costs? Every program you add to your organization places more stress on your organization's administrative services. It simply takes more time and effort to manage each new program. There are personnel, budgets and reporting requirements that must be managed. If the grant will not allow you to charge for this, this may not be the grant for you.
- Will the grant provide enough money to fully accomplish what you will be required to do? Just as you are trying to stretch the resources of your organization, funding organizations are trying to do the same thing. It is more and more common for them to require matching funds when they award grant funds. By doing this, they hope to leverage other funds to make theirs more effective. Sometimes, though, those matching funds (which most organizations calculate in terms of in-kind resources) do not materialize. Then the organization is stuck trying to implement a $150,000 program with only $100,000. Make sure there is enough money in the grant to allow you to be successful.
- Do you have the time to devote to the grant writing task? It may be the perfect grant for you, but if you have too much on your plate to write and submit a good proposal, it may not be the right grant for you at this time. Keep in mind that if you need to pull partners together for a planning process, even more lead time is required. Be realistic about what you can do in the amount of time between now and the grant deadline.
- Is your organization really capable of managing the grant budget? Small non-profit organizations often make the mistake of applying for very large grants that are two or three times the size of their total operating budget. They are usually unsuccessful. Can you believe that being unsuccessful in this case is the good scenario? When they are successful, they quickly learn that they are unprepared for managing so much money. Stricter audit requirements catch them unprepared and they can end up in serious trouble. If your organization is small, start off seeking relatively small grants (no more than 25% to 30% of your total budget). As you become successful at managing those programs and funds, start to seek larger grants.
- Is your organization really ready for this new program? Imagine that your grant application is successful and you are now required to start implementing the plan you described in your proposal. Could you do it? If the answer is 'no,' focus on what you need to do to prepare your organization for success. Perhaps you need to seek some capacity building funds first.
Not every grant is right is right for every organization. Even when a grant is a good match for you, timing can be a very important factor.
Evaluating if a grant opportunity is right for you is one of the most important parts of the grant writing process.
Visit the Grant Goddess website for more tips on grant seeking and grant wrting.