Monday, June 27, 2016

Why didn't you get the grant?

You've poured your heart and soul and maybe money into creating the perfect grant proposal.

After waiting weeks or maybe even months, you either get a Dear John letter saying thanks for applying, or you go to the grantor's website and you are definitely not on their list of funded proposals.

Even worse, you may not get any feedback at all

Your first (printable) reaction is "what did I (we) do wrong?"

Maybe nothing. Statistics show that there are often as many as 100 applications for each round of funding awarded, and that brings the laws of supply and demand into play.

In that case, your carefully crafted proposal just got lost in the crowd.

That's not to say that your proposal is always perfect.  I get a few requests to review and/or "punch up" proposals every month and some of them …well, let's just say some of them need a lot of help. Perhaps they don't have any tangible results to report, or there are grammatical or logic errors, or their program didn't really fit the grantor's mission very well.

But some are stellar. No, really, there is absolutely nothing to fix.

That's the most frustrating part of proposal submissions.  Perfect isn't always good enough.

In that case, it really isn't you, it's them.  Here is a short list that explains how that happens.

1.  The grantee was pre-selected. They already knew who was going to win before you ever wrote the first line.  That happens when the grantor's bylaws or guidelines require a minimum number of applicants.

2.  They ran out of money.  I actually know of a foundation that had so many good proposals that they assigned each a number and picked the winners out of a hat.

3. They were looking for an intangible quality that they didn't include in the guidelines. I call that the "I'll know the perfect house when I see it" effect.

4.  Too many applications, and they just didn't have the time or inclination to evaluate every proposal thoroughly.

5. Fear of the unknown.  Grantors may have had a long-standing relationship with just a few nonprofits and the award committee might be afraid to try something new.

In some cases, you may get a letter that invites you to try again. I always suggest that you update the necessary areas (results, other supporters, etc.) and give it another chance. The next time you may be top-of-mind because of your previous submissions.

If the grantor is located close to you, do a little more in-depth research.  Check out the principals to see what sort of organizations they belong to or whether they may circulate in the same social circles that you frequent.

In fact, I usually recommend that you try at least three times. Things and people change and it would be a shame to fail to even try.

Also, it never hurts to check out the competition, assuming you know who got the grant. Sometimes there are subtle (and they can be very subtle) clues you can use to tweak your proposal next time.

In one case,  I noticed that all the grantees selected were within just a few miles of the grantor's headquarters. My client was over 50 miles away, although still within the geographical zone of the guidelines. The next time they applied they addressed the distance factor in a positive manner and were awarded a piece of the pie.

Although it seldom bears fruit, it can't hurt to ask why you were not successful.  Sometimes you will get an answer. Bear in mind, some grantors will say right in the guidelines that they don't give feedback.  In that case, save your breath and time.

You should always write the best grant application possible, but if it doesn't work out, don't get so discouraged that you quit trying.

If you would like a review of or assistance with a proposal, you can reach me here.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When something isn't working…

Stop doing it.

Some of may have noticed this blog has been on hiatus for the past six months. That's right, I took down a reasonably successful blog and just stopped, cold turkey.

Part of that was due to a long-term contract, but to be truthful part of it was due to a need to re-assess why I write it.

I've always thought that if your advice is worth anything, you should be able to take it yourself.

I started this blog to provide insight for you into the world of start-ups, which I define as any time between the day you think of starting a nonprofit or small business and when it first becomes self-sustaining.

The less altruistic motive was to generate serious clients that truly wanted to provide a service or product and make or attract money while doing it.
The blog did generate client interest, but not from the type of serious entrepreneurs and social-preneuers I wanted to help.

Instead, I was seeing a lot of people looking for a get-rich-quick scheme. Maybe that's a result of the hustler world we live in, but part of it was me.

You see, I honestly believed that there were a lot of people out there who wanted to experience the satisfaction of having built something with their own two hands, nurturing it and watching it grow.

I would provide the knowledge via consulting services and the nuts-and-bolts tools like grant writing, planning documents, and web and print content, and they would use them to move forward.

All right, all right, so that was naïve.  In other words, I misidentified the target market.

I just had no idea how naïve until I started the afore-mentioned contract. Without giving away any secrets, it was designed to monitor large societal shifts in attitudes. 

Suffice it to say, this blog was always for people that really want to do the work to succeed. But now it will ask you to demonstrate that commitment.

Here's where this blog is going from here.

Just how serious are you about succeeding?  We're about to find out.

The main content will only be available to readers that ask for it.  It will offer new content on a semi-weekly schedule on a subscription basis.  The topic will be teased before publishing, so you'll know what to expect. 

I still think there are people out there that fit my target audience, but I could be wrong. If, after 3 months, i.e. by September 30 , 2016,  it isn't proving to be viable, the blog goes away forever.