If you are going to pursue grants to fund your program the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether or not your program is “fundable”. Being fundable goes beyond whether or not your organization has a 501 c 3 tax exempt status.
The competition for grant dollars is fierce and the process is time consuming, so before you expend all the energy into applying for grant funds, you want to be sure it’s worth the effort. The best way to determine that is to make sure you have a fighting chance. So, let’s discuss a couple of things you need to evaluate prior to submitting a proposal to a funder.
Does your organization currently have consistent funding or revenue streams beyond grant dollars? This is important to funders for several reasons: they want to know your program will be around beyond the duration of the grant they award to you; they want to ensure that other people (community stakeholders or other foundations) have invested in your program; they want to know that your program is sustainable, and the best way to demonstrate sustainability is by showing them you have other funding sources. You have to remember that grants are temporary, and if that’s your only means of survival, that increases the likelihood that your program won’t endure over the long term.
Is your program already operating or are you looking for money to get started? There are some funders who are interested in awarding seed money for programs, depending on the scale of the project, but the majority of funders award funds for programs already in operation. Even if you are looking for seed money, your organization should still have some funds set aside to get started. As I indicated in my previous blog, you need to treat your nonprofit organization as a business, which means you need a financial plan for implementation.
Has your program proven to be successful by yielding measurable outcomes? One of the most effective ways to get funding for your program is to demonstrate that what you are doing has been proven to work. This is why most Request for Proposals (RFP), especially those released by the Federal government, require you to use evidenced based programs. Funders always want to know that you are using a proven strategy, something where the research has been done and it has yielded the desired results. Grant dollars are too scarce and most funders are reluctant to invest in an experimental project. There are grants for some experimental projects, but those are typically science and technology related – not community programs.
Finally, the most important question you want to ask – “Is your program addressing an identified need in your community or service area? Is anyone else doing what you do?
It is crucial for your organization to demonstrate that you are not duplicating services. If there is another teen pregnancy center or after school program in your vicinity, it will be more difficult for your program to get funded. You would be better off collaborating and/or partnering with the existing organization. In fact, most funders want to see collaboration among organizations; they typically require it in their RFP. Prior to beginning your program you need to make sure that you are meeting a need in the community, and you can do so better than anyone else.
These are some key questions you need to ask BEFORE you start pursuing grant funds. If you can answer these questions favorably, and you have a solid program, then you substantially increase your chances of getting funded.
Greater Vision Consulting: “Inspiring Vision…Empowering Visionaries”