Cover image for Demystifying grant seeking : what you really need to do to get grants
Demystifying grant seeking : what you really need to do to get grants
Brown, Larissa Golden, 1968-
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 241 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Electronic Access:
Table of Contents
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HG177 .B767 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HG177 .B767 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HG177 .B767 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HG177 .B767 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Demystifying Grantseeking is an inspirational and instructional guide to grantseeking. The authors--successful grantseekers in their own right--show you how to overcome the common fears fundraisers often experience and offer sound, practical advice to successful grantseeking. The book provides you with a systematic and logical way of searching for grants, and helps to identify which foundations to approach so fundraisers don't waste time on dead-end proposals.

Author Notes


Larissa Golden Brown is a partner in Brown and Brown Consultants which helps nonprofit organizations streamline their grant-seeking process and fund their plans and dreams. Brown also spe-cializes in grants coaching and instruction inspiring people to take on their own fundraising. Her clients have included the Oregon Children's Foundation, The Salvation Army, Community Outreach, Inc., Portland Opera, and Sisters Of The Road Cafe.

Martin John Brown is a partner in Brown and Brown Consultants. He is a scientist turned writer whose work has appeared in High Country News , Venue magazine, The Bear Deluxe , and other publications.



Clear Away Myths and Fears Perhaps this sounds familiar. You're staying late-very late-at work the night before the proposal is due. Even the intern went home hours ago. You put on another pot of coffee and slog once again through the twenty pages you've written. Then you spend extra money to send the package by FedEx, the only way you can get the proposal in on time. You swear that after tonight you're not applying for any more grants. You just don't see how the few grants you get are worth this agony. Or perhaps you supervise a staff person who handles grant writing, but he just doesn't seem to be getting that many checks in-or that many proposals in the mail for that matter. Perhaps he is caught up in other development projects, or his time is limited. You'd rather not nag him again about a grant resource he's neglecting to tap into. You wonder whether you will ever see results. It doesn't have to be this way. Grants are part of almost every nonprofit's world, whether your organization receives dozens of them or you are just beginning to wonder about them. Grants can be a substantial and meaningful funding source for many kinds of projects and organizations. And they can be a source of great hope and excitement. At the same time few subjects in nonprofit management are surrounded by such fear and mystery. Few tasks are faced with such dread as writing and submitting grant proposals. Because you may never know why you do or don't get funded, it's common to look at grant funding as an irrational or chaotic process and grant makers as cruel or fickle. Nonprofits that agonize over grant seeking act in accordance with these beliefs. When they hear about a grant opportunity, they scramble to design a program that fits the guidelines or work all night to get a confused proposal in the mail by the deadline. They conduct their grant seeking as an intermittent series of desperate gambles, which we call episodic grant seeking. The odds of success are poor. Nationally, only 1 to 10 percent of grant proposals are funded, according to a review in Dennis P.McIlnay's How Foundations Work . The effective grant seeker believes something completely different: that grant seeking and grant making are understandable and fairly rational processes. They run a steady, intelligent, fearless grant-seeking effort that minimizes work and pushes their odds well above the average. They do so by targeting the funders most compatible with their organization, by cultivating professional relationships with those funders, and by organizing their efforts for efficiency. COMMON MYTHS ABOUT GRANTS AND GRANT SEEKING This book gives you simple techniques you can use and habits you can develop to become an effective grant seeker. But before you try to apply them, you need to free yourself of some common misconceptions about grant seeking and get a more realistic idea of what you should and shouldn't expect from the process. Myth: Grants are something for nothing. Reality: Grants are rational deals between colleagues. Grants are appealing because they look like big chunks of free money. Unlike most individual donations, grants are often large enough to actually buy something, that is, to fund a whole program for an entire year or to purchase a major piece of equipment. And to get a grant you just send in an application. The funder sends back a check, and you don't need to pay it back. A grant seems like manna from heaven or a winning lottery ticket. This perspective feeds some unfortunate practices and beliefs. Buying a lottery ticket takes no skill, so nonprofits that see grant seeking as gambling apply on impulse, without preparation; they assign the wrong people to work on proposals, or they place no value on the work of a skilled grant seeker. The only way they can increase their chances of winning a lottery is to buy more tickets, so some organizations practice the "spray and pray" method of grant seeking: sending out scores of identical proposals in hopes a few will "hit" and provide a windfall. Some nonprofits go fishing for funds, returning to the same foundations over and over again, hoping to eventually get a bite. Worse, some nonprofit staffers become sycophants, flattering grant makers and hoping this will provide an edge or an "in." These methods are recipes for resentment and wasted labor. Rejections of desperate, heartfelt proposals naturally fuel the attitude that grant makers are fickle and unfair. Winning (or losing) a grant on the basis of flattery and connections rather than on the merits of the proposal can't do much but create a malaise that few at idealistic nonprofits will be comfortable with. And sending out scores of illconsidered proposals wastes a lot of work, not to mention paper and postage, considering that none are likely to be funded. Grants are not free money. Foundations and other grant makers are organizations like your nonprofit. They have missions and goals just as you do. Funders award grants because what the grant recipients plan to do with the money fits in with the funders' own goals, initiatives, and dreams-and with their founder's stated wishes. It makes sense to see a grant as a fair deal between colleagues whose interests are similar but whose resources are different. Your nonprofit and the funder have similar goals. One example might be housing the homeless. The funder has money to use for work toward that goal. Your nonprofit has the capability to do the work, with shelter space, expert staff, connections with health care providers, and so on. Your organization performs the work in exchange for the money. Your organization and its programs have a value that is equal to grant money. If you can recognize this value, you will stop praying, fishing, and flattering for grants. You will begin to look for and see matches with funders whose interests and goals are most like yours. You will behave less like a supplicant or gambler and more like a partner with funders. You will handle rejection better, too, because you will be able to conceive that it is possible that some other organization had a proposal that fit the funder's goals just as well as yours. Acknowledging the full value of your own organization and its programs isn't always easy. Grant seekers and grant makers are bound up in a status relationship so deeply ingrained it is sometimes difficult to recognize. Grant seekers are accustomed to-even proud of-being poor, fighting for recognition and justice, and having to beg for money. They have a lower status than grant makers, who often play the part of exclusive or "noble" organizations. This status difference seems to come from a belief that money (or the ability to give it away) is more respectable than expertise, ability, or action. It hasn't helped that some funders have been willing to take on a superior role, hiding behind unlisted phone numbers or gatekeepers and making forbidding statements like one we heard recently: "Dr. X prefers not to meet with anyone." At one workshop we attended, a program officer from a well-known national foundation seemed to admit his organization found ambiguity convenient when he said, "It is the policy of the foundation to not be comfortable with getting too clear." The pecking order is perpetuated every day when nonprofits flatter and supplicate in their grant seeking. They are just as complicit as funders, coming to believe they are "owed something" for their good work. They attempt to play their low status to their advantage, appealing to those higher up with their incredible need and devotion. Some grants consultants might advocate that you adopt this role. But no matter how we in the nonprofit world martyr ourselves for the good of our causes, funders are free to make their own decisions. Although it is unproductive to demand or expect to be funded just because foundations "have to give it away," it might empower you to remember that a funder's money can do little good for the community unless it is invested, for example, in organizations like yours. Funders need nonprofits to spend their money effectively just as much as nonprofits need funders to pay for their programs. It's also encouraging to remember that although grant seeking seems surrounded by mystery, it is basically a rational process. Usually some or all of the criteria used to award a grant are presented in writing, and if you are not awarded a grant, you may be able to find out why. Often it is because your organization did not fit the written guidelines or the unwritten but discernable priorities of the foundation trustees. That's not to say grant making is 100 percent fair. Even fair deals between colleagues involve some intangible elements like trust, and any process involving money is open to misunderstanding and corruption. Even at the fairest of trustee meetings, very good programs and proposals can end up as the least important ones on the table. Still you have control over many elements of the process: which funders you apply to, how you relate to those funders, which information you present to them, how you present it, and how you organize your efforts. Efficient grant seekers raise more money in less time because they take charge of these parts of the process-the parts they can control-rather than leaving them to vagaries of flattery, hope, or luck. Myth: Writing grant proposals is an ordeal. Reality: Proposal writing is predictable and simple. Although the specific requirements of grant makers vary, and your proposals should be tailored for each funder, all grant applications involve just one basic activity : responding to a set of questions about your nonprofit organization and its programs. This set of questions varies little from funder to funder. A few you'll see again and again include: Who and how many people will be served by program X? How will the effectiveness of program Y be evaluated? What other organizations do you collaborate with? What other funds have you sought? If you know your organization and its programs well, answering these questions will be a fairly straightforward process. The experience of grant writing as an ordeal-staying up all night, agonizing, and racing the envelope to FedEx at the last second-comes not from the nature of grant seeking but from predictable situations at nonprofits that are desperate for money but ill-prepared to answer key questions. Presented with a grant opportunity, some nonprofits try to design whole new projects from scratch at the last second so they can apply with something that fits the funding requirements. We strongly object to this practice on the grounds of both practicality and principle. In purely logistical terms, designing a new program is naturally hard work that takes a long time and must be done before the questions in a grant proposal can be answered . It's work most appropriately done by an organization's program staff , who are the experts on day-to-day operations. An experienced member of the development staff , such as yourself, might have skills in spotting good programs and be able to help design new ones, but you never want to invent a new program without the cooperation of program staff. You could get funded for a program that is not ready to roll and have serious trouble following through. You might even have to return the money. Or you might raise the money, your organization might follow through, and you'd "get away" with it. This can create what nonprofit managers call mission creep, that is, when your mission changes due to external factors such as money. Why would you want to be involved in such a transaction? If you're like many fundraisers, you got involved in nonprofits because you really believed in a cause or program. We think you should hang on to that idealism and use it as your guiding star rather than pursue funding for funding's sake or create bureaucracies that no one believes in. A better way to operate is for you, the grant seeker, to ask the program staff basic questions about your organization and relevant programs and use their answers to write grant proposals. If the program staff have trouble answering the kinds of questions foundations often ask, they probably need to think through their ideas or document their experience more carefully before they ask you to write a proposal. As you become experienced with grant seeking, your role as development staff should be to help program planners ask themselves the right questions. (Chapter Four contains exercises to help both development and program staff collect the answers you'll need to know before applying for any grant.) When you know your organization well, and programs are fully designed and ready for grant seeking, the actual writing of grant proposals turns out to be easy. After creating a few of them, you'll notice that although the order or wording of the questions may vary from funder to funder, the questions themselves are very much the same. The requirements of grant applications are repetitive and predictable. As a consequence, making an investment in preparation and organization will speed the writing and assembling of all your proposals. Several chapters in this book describe how you can anticipate needs and have much of the necessary material ready before you even think of applying to any particular funder. In fact grant seeking involves so much organization and preparation and so many clerical tasks that it is more trouble than it's worth to apply for one or two grants. If you make an investment of time in setting up a grant-seeking system, you can easily apply for ten or twenty grants instead of one. And if you make a steady, consistent effort, even if it is low key, chances are that your investment will eventually pay off. You'll be left with more time to spend any way you want: on the finer points of each proposal, on your other job duties, or on sleep. Myth: All you need is one well-written grant proposal. Reality: Winning grants depends on pinpointing matches and tailoring proposals. As consultants we have been approached by many nonprofit organizations, each asking us to write a single "boilerplate" proposal that can be sent out to many funders. This is the kind of job we don't take because a single grant proposal is right only for the funder for which it is written, and sending it to dozens of funders at once is usually a waste of resources. Grant makers can tell when they've been sent a form letter, and it likely makes them feel just about as special as you do when you get a letter from Ed McMahon. Continues... Excerpted from Demystifying Grant Seeking by Larissa Golden Brown Martin John Brown Copyright (c) 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Judith E. Nichols, Ph.D., CFRE
Figures and Exhibitsp. xi
Forewordp. xiii
About the Authorsp. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introduction: Who This Book Is For and How to Use Itp. xix
Prologue: Get Inspired and Ready to Gop. 1
1. Clear Away Myths and Fearsp. 3
2. Understand the Grant-Seeking Cyclep. 17
3. Set Up a Simple Officep. 23
Step 1 Learn About Your Organization, Community, and Fundersp. 33
4. Learn About Your Organization and Programsp. 35
5. Synthesize What You've Learned So Farp. 59
6. Learn About Your Communityp. 69
7. Learn About Fundersp. 77
Step 2 Match Your Request to a Funderp. 95
8. Move from Lead to Prospect to Matchp. 97
Step 3 Invite a Funder to Invest in Your Organizationp. 109
9. Invite a Funder to Givep. 111
10. Guide Relationships, Meetings, and Toursp. 135
Step 4 Follow Up with Your Organization and Your Funderp. 145
11. Communicate After Mailing a Proposalp. 147
12. Follow Up After a Funding Decisionp. 155
Step 5 Evaluate Your Results, Methods, and Opportunitiesp. 163
13. Evaluate the Past, Strategize the Futurep. 165
14. Personalize Your Grant-Seeking Cyclep. 173
15. Set Your Grant-Seeking Ground Rulesp. 179
Epilogue: Get Inspired All Over Againp. 193
16. Grow from Efficiency to Expertisep. 195
Notesp. 201
Resource A Hands-On Forms for Grant Seekersp. 205
Resource B Complete Sample Grant Proposalp. 221
Indexp. 237