PSGA Ken's Corner

Observations and advice on grant writing from the other side of the desk

An Incomplete project

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Here’s an adaption of a real request from outside the Pacific Northwest that crossed my desk the other day.

“We’re writing to request a capacity-building grant of $18,000 to assist in funding the following:

• A Development Director to help build our individual donor base and to write more grants,
• To engage a graphic artist to develop graphic designs and standards organization-wide,
• A contracted social media expert to launch our social media presence
• A new staff person to do outreach to various communities such as churches, retirement communities, and other groups,
• A new staff member to coordinate our box office; currently the box office is staffed by volunteers, and we rely upon a volunteer coordinator; our anticipated increase in ticket sales will make that impractical.”

Putting aside how compelling this LOI might be about the community need and the organization’s history in its community, what’s wrong with this ask?

Ask yourself, can this organization really do all of that for $18,000? I know grantwriters don’t make a lot of money, yet $18,000 isn’t enough for item #1 alone.

In general, funders want to fund accomplishments. It’s less about line items and more about understanding the entirety of a project and being a part of the project.

What if the LOI had said, “We’re writing to request a grant of $18,000 towards our $180,000 project for capacity-building.” From a funder’s point of view, that provides the context we need to evaluate the proposal. Now I know how much you think it will take to do all the items listed. I can also ask how you’re doing in raising the $180,000; if I know what your plan is I can evaluate it for practicality. For example, maybe it hinges on getting one big grant ($100,000) from one funder and the other $80,000 from a variety of funders.

It also provides a way to look at sustainability. Many of the costs cited are going to be year after year costs. Have you planned for how those will be supported after the initial grants are spent?

This lack of context in this was probably an oversight. But it’s always good to double check to make sure you aren’t accidentally failing to give a funder all of the key information it needs.

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Author: Ken Ristine

Over 40 years experience in the nonprofit sector; Senior Program Officer for a Pacific Northwest family foundation. Co-author with Goodwin Deacon of the recently published Grantsmanship for the Genius.

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