Funding sources, even those run by the Federal government, are not bottomless wells of money. Case in point; the SBA has just announced it is out of money for FY 2015 for its 7a small business loan program.
One of the hardest concepts to get across to new businesses and nonprofits is that you can only apply for funding when the money is made available.
A large part of my business consists of finding suitable funding matches for nonprofits and small businesses, but that's just the start.
Once a suitable candidate is located, the next step is to ascertain when and how they award funds.
Typically, foundations in particular derive the funds they award from earnings on investments. Like most of us, they can't spend money until they have money.
That produces various cyclical open application periods. For some foundations, that's annually, while others may have two to four open sessions per year.
Ideally, and assuming that there are suitable matches, a nonprofit should plan on having a mix of grantors to approach that award funds at different times of the year.
Of course, given the funding landscape, that isn't always possible so the next best strategy is to locate funding sources that award at the times when you most need the money
That involves planning ahead.
For instance, a nonprofit that needs funds for back-to-school supplies might want to look for awards that pay out in the early summer. Since applications typically open from 30 to 90 days before the award, that means having a list of prospects that accept applications as early as mid winter.
It also means being ready to apply at that early date. There's nothing more frustrating to a grant writer than getting a panicked call to apply for funding with an application close date a week or less out, and finding out the organization hasn't even worked up budget figures yet.
Understanding grant cycles is one of your most important management tools. Use it well and it is an asset, but ignore it and you are going to be in a perpetual state of financial panic.
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