Ask For A Lot; Offer Little

A special column for grassroots and emerging nonprofits and those who fund them.

How much does it cost to apply for a grant? “What?!!??!,” you may respond. “You don’t have to pay to apply for a grant: we will receive money.” That’s true: you don’t have to pay to apply, but there are costs associated with applying. Do you have that money? Grassroots and emerging nonprofits often reply, “we don’t have costs – we write the proposal ourselves.” But that is time that could be used for programming, research, advocacy, or other aspects of your work. Think about it – if you spend 20 hours working on a proposal, that time has a value. What if you don’t get the grant – will you get your 20 hours back?

We suggest thinking carefully about whether you are a right fit for a funder. Read their funding guidelines and review the application closely. Look at the list of required “attachments.” For example, audited financial statements are required and you don’t have those, ask if they will make an exception. If they won’t, don’t allocate time to the application. Don’t think you have “lost out” on a fabulous funding opportunity: it wasn’t a real opportunity. When you decide not to apply you save a precious resource: time.

If you do receive a grant, the reporting requirements can make the grant even more “expensive.” Some grant makers require detailed reports on use of funds. They want quantitative and qualitative data. They want to know who else contributed to the project or programming and what you learned. They may expect you to evaluate your work – and their evaluation methods may be different from yours. It’s the little things that add up.

Before you say, “I’m going do nothing but focus on this grant this week,” ask these critical questions. How much do you intend to apply for? How much time should you allocate to pursuing it? Will it make a difference? Will it cause you more harm than good? These questions are most important when the dollar amount of a potential grant is small, and even more important when you know that the grant opportunity is being promoted far and wide with, for example, five grants of $2,500 being awarded. Its worse when the application is long, and the attachments required numerous.

We know we are pointing out extreme examples, but these are real, despite changes that many foundations and corporations are making. As we suggest that grassroots organizations evaluate which funding opportunities they pursue, we also suggest that funders look at the requirements that are attached to small grants. How do these requirements tie to your larger philanthropic mission? Are you putting up barriers when you want to be seeding good works? Are you being fair to nonprofits with limited capacity when you ask them to jump through so many hoops? Is your grant a token gift that really won’t make a difference? Can you direct funding to grassroots and emerging organizations with a simple grant request? Could a video suffice?

Copyright 2022 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2022! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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1 comment on “Ask For A Lot; Offer Little”

  1. Pingback: Trust-Based Philanthropy | Saad&Shaw

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