Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Six ways to provide program results when you don't have any.

One of the most frustrating parts of being a newer organization or trying to grow a new program is the requirement that you provide a prospective funder with results. It's especially hard when the grant application is an online form that gives you a limited amount of space to explain your results or projections.

That was the case for "Mary", who called me yesterday about reviewing her grant application to a major foundation. She was trying to raise money for a new program, and had been rejected  at least four times. Saying she was frustrated could be the understatement of the year. Her comments were along the line of "How can I produce results if I can't get the funds to even begin?"

For Mary and all the rest of you out there spinning your wheels, maybe these tips will help you with your fundraising

1.  Have reasonable expectations. You are probably not going to find one source that will fund your whole program. Separate your program into specific sections that can be presented as individual opportunities for grantors to help, and ask for funds to support them in that order. This can also create an opportunity for the grantor to continue to support your program year-over-year.

2.  Develop reasonable goals that are commensurate with your capabilities and be able to condense them into  a short sentence or two. If it is a new program, forecast your expected results clearly by setting milestones. This also makes it easier to provide or forecast results.

3.  Research the grantors. This means searching for organizations that specialize in capacity building or seed money that have a history of funding new programs and who are aligned with your mission and geographic area.

4.  Be objective. One question I often ask is, what you would do if the roles were reversed?  Read your application as though you are the one furnishing the money. Would you invest in your program? How is your organization different from all the others pursuing the same funding?

5.  Understand the difference between funding a program and supporting an organization's basic infrastructure. If you need general support, look for grantors that have shown an interest in providing that type of funding.

6.  Grantors are often looking for a long-term result or benefit, so be prepared to illustrate more than the immediate needs in your program. For instance if you are opening a food pantry, the immediate short-term goal is to provide food. Can you show  how will this impact the recipients in the long term?

Your job as a grant applicant to  prove that investing in your program is a wise use of the finite amount of grant money available.

In Mary's case she was approaching the wrong grantors and expecting funding for goals that would take at least five years to attain. By targeting her appeals to a different type of supporter, and breaking her request down into phases, I think she will have better success.

Want someone to look over your grant language?  Email me and let's look at it together! 

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