BEWARE! Funding pitfalls
Is the application a good fit for your organisation?
If you’re running a healthy eating program and the potential funding is coming from a sugary drink company it’s pretty clear the fit isn’t good. However summing up the appropriateness of an application isn’t always so easy.
When you’re hungry to solve a problem in your community, and in need of money to do so it’s likely you’ll jump at any opportunity to raise the dough.
BUT WAIT ! This could lead you to a dire set of issues which could impact on the reputation of your organisation, your team and even your own health.
Time and time again I’ve seen organisations apply for funds they have no capacity to delivery – “We’ll just make the changes if we get the money” they said “it’s not likely we’ll get it anyway” they joked “we’ll just keep applying for everything until there’s nothing left to apply for” they pontificated.
And maybe your organisation can shape shift quickly to meet the terms of a grant that has nothing really to do with your core purpose, maybe you do have the energy to pivot – it’s what all of the cool kids are doing right now, right ! Take it from me, you can only pivot for so long before you fall over in a dizzy heap.
A clear idea of what is needed
As mentioned way back in part one of this series, every funding mission starts with a clear idea – that’s hatched even before applications are sought. You need to know:
- Exactly what you need funding for (the stuff that is)
- Precisely the role you are playing in community – who are you assisting and why
- That the people you want to assist actually want your help and in the way you propose to deliver it
- You have the capacity to deliver, and if not how you’re going to get that. Is it hiring new staff? Acquiring new equipment?
A process map, flow chart, or even a list of the funding bodies, and types of funding you’ll work with
“But we can work with everyone!” they said. “We can shape our program in any direction to match the funding” they cheered.
Imagine for a moment that grant writing is akin to a sausage factory. You can take any type of ingredient (let’s see that as a mix of need and capacity), shove it in a case (let’s see that as the application), throw it in the machine and turn out something ready for market.
The problem is, anchovy and offal sausages are difficult to sell and probably even harder to eat.
I know, metaphors may not be my strong suit – however, if you’re left with an icky idea in your mind that’s the right notion.
If you are a community oriented service wanting to create more community engagement and doing so via applying for funding that’s aligned to job creation you’d better know where those jobs are coming from, really. And while you may get away with some made up stats. the first time don’t expect to stick your hand out a second, or third.
Mission drift is one of the biggest pitfalls for organisations hungry for funding. And if you find you are constantly on the hunt for dollars I suggest you seriously dive into some business planning to get you out of the hole over the longer term.
Time to work on funding
Grant writing takes time, not only in the actual writing but also the searching for, lobbying and implementation. Without adequate time you’ll quickly find yourself in a heap. So go on, grab your pen and schedule in some time each week for funding. If you don’t need it that week you’ve got some bonus time – maybe take a walk.
Is your committee up to date with your applications? Try sharing a list of your opportunities at each meeting in your management report, list the grants by opportunity name, funding body, what it would pay for within your organisation, due date and announcement date. Also add current funding to date in your list – that will also make you feel good.
Lots of little bits
While there have been a lot of larger grants in the marketplace in 2020, smaller grants are still more likely to come across your desk. Beware, beware, beware… It can take just as long to deliver and administer a small grant as it can a larger one. Multiply this by seven or seventy and you’re back in that heap again.
Are your costs covered?
Whether you’re doing the work or not every, single funding application delivered by your organisation costs the entity money in some way, shape or form. While most grants easily enable a 10% administrative fee remember to write in things such as office rent, stationery, vehicle usage, phones and internet, accounts and bookkeeping, management and project management – many of which are over and above the 10%
Kerry Grace – Evolve Network Founder and CEO