Sometimes I feel like I'm beating that poor dead horse that's being dragged around behind that ridiculous cliched cart - but nonetheless, here we go, again...
Don't write a proposal for a grant competition just because you happened to have found out about it. Pick your project, then go out and find the right source to fund it.
Grants are a wonderful way to inject your organization with the cash it needs to accomplish all sorts of spectacular things. Whether you're making the world a greener place, providing services to support underprivileged children in impoverished areas or working on a cure for cancer, grants can provide the resources to take your mission to a whole new level.
Grants are cold, hard cash; cash that buys the equipment, supplies, training, personnel or just about anything your organization requires to go toe-to-toe with the social issue you are battling. Who doesn't want or need cash?
Believe it or not, lots of organizations don't want grants, or at least there are individuals within organizations that don't want grants. While this may seem insane to the rest of us, these folks have a perfectly valid reason for not wanting grants - they've been burned.
- Some went after a grant that wasn't aligned with their mission and found their organization strained by the pitfalls of mission creep.
- Some lacked the organizational capacity to implement the grant once they received it and created chaos and burden for their people.
- Some were forced to implement a grant they had no hand in developing and became resentful.
- Some found the implementation to be nothing more than added work and couldn't see the benefit in it.
These are just a few of the reasons it's imperative to pick the grant that's right for your project and your organization. Again (and I cannot stress this enough), don't just go after a grant because the money is available.
Still not convinced? Here are some practical reasons:
- Administering the grant may exceed the human resource capacity of your organization.
- A small project suddenly becomes much larger in scope than intended in order for your organization to meet the grant requirements.
- Your organization can't produce the results you cited in the grant proposal because it was written to only satisfy the grant requirements, not to be an accurate reflection of the project.
The worst case scenario here? The grantor asks for its money back. While rare, it does happen. Just ask California.
Chances are better that one bad experience with a grant will turn your organization off this viable funding source moving forward. And that will very likely keep your organization from doing as much social good as it could otherwise.
The moral of the story? Use grants wisely. They are one of the most valuable opportunities out there, but once an organization is burned, it is very hard to bring it back around.
Avoid getting burned. Don't put the cart before the horse: pick your project, then your funder.