This article is the first of a series written on grant writing, one of the many areas in which Tiny Frog Strategies works with organizations to get from where they are to where they want to be.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? When we talk about grants, what are we talking about?
In my opinion, a grant is…
A specific amount of money given from a grantor (funder) to a separate organization. (Maybe yours?) It is not a loan, but there are usually expectations about reporting on results or how the money was spent. The relationship is usually managed in WRITING – there is an application or proposal submitted, a review period, and a grant agreement (often a binding document), prior to the funds being transferred.
Let’s break it down further – who gives grants?
Grants come from foundations, many who grant only in specific regions and/or in specific areas. Grants also come from government, and the funding may start with the government and flow through a secondary non-profit organization who is responsible for dispersing the funds.
Check out: Where do I find grant opportunities for my organization?
Check out: I need money for all the things. How can I write an application that will get funding for what matters to my organization?
Now, how does the grant process work?
Let’s just skip the above two steps for now and say your organization has found a foundation that funds work in your neighbourhood and in your particular field. Or, better yet, a foundation has become aware of the work of your organization and approached you saying,
“Hey, we’d really like to give you some money.”*
Let say it was my favourite imaginary foundation, Bodies of Water Foundation. And they approached my favourite imaginary charity, Save the Pond, and said,
“Hey, ponds are bodies of water! We have some money to fix that pesky mosquito problem common with bodies of water. Do you have mosquitoes at your pond and would you like some money?”
Now Frieda Frog, the Executive Director of Save the Pond, can totally agree that they have mosquitoes at the pond, and that a lot of the pond visitors complain about how pesky they are. At the same time, she knows that the mosquitoes are food for the fish and other insects who in turn are part of the food chain and so the solution is complicated. (Isn’t it always?) However, she’s not stupid, and if someone wants to support the work of Save the Pond, she’s going to do what it takes to align Save the Pond with the goals of the Bodies of Water Foundation.
Wait – stop right here. It’s my imaginary charity and my imaginary foundation, so in an imaginary world I should just make this an easy process – right?
Well, here’s the thing – even if it’s a good fit, there are some myths about grant funding out there:
Myth #1: Grant money is “free” money – it’s out there for the taking and doesn’t have a cost to your organization.
Wrong. Applying for grant money has a cost: in time, in brain power and in relationship building.
Myth #2: Grant funding is straightforward – it involves forms and paperwork, no relationship required.
Wrong. Even with government funders who try their best to be non-human in the process, there is a back and forth of relationship building with the funder, and knowing it’s a dance, not a math problem, will go a long way to increasing your success rate.
Frieda makes a calculated decision – she knows this will take time and she will have to get to know Bodies of Water Foundation. She understands that the time it takes for the application will take away from the time needed to actually deal with the mosquito problem, the tadpole problem, the pond shrinkage and the difficulties of doing an annual budget in the mud, but she thinks adding this to her plate is probably worth it.
Submitting a grant application: Will it change everything, or will it be a waste of time?
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*This actually happened to two clients of Tiny Frog Strategies, in case you were feeling skeptical.