Monday, September 27, 2004

What Amount of Money Should I Ask For?

This is a common question among those new to grant writing.

We work for non profit organizations which, by their definition, need as much financial support as can be raised. So, don't we all just want to ask for $50,000, on each grant proposal that we submit?

Wanting $50,000 and being able to raise $50,000 or more are two different but complimentary realities.

Most non profit organizations that are ready to be successful grant raisers could raise $50,000 if they need to. This concept is the key to knowing how much to ask for.

To be ready a non profit organization needs to be a 501 (c)(3), filing its taxes and form 990 regularly, auditing its accounting with an outside auditor, following its charter, have buy in from its own board and volunteers, be receiving support from the community (volunteer, in kind, financial, etc.), and have its proposals well researched, informed, current, factual, accurate, etc.

In order to decide, though, how much money to ask for from each and every foundation that your organization is going to approach - you have to have accurate budgets pulled together for every program, project, or capital item (etc.) that you are requesting grant support for.

Be sure that the foundations you are going to approach are interested in funding your cause, in the geographic region that you serve, and like to give support to whatever you're asking for grant money for. You can check foundations' guidelines to know whether your org and its needs match a foundation's interests.

Don't expect a foundation to give your org a grant to cover total expenses. That happens under special circumstances, so assume that your circumstance is not special if you aren't sure. It is really rare for a single foundation to pay for the whole enchilada. So, you will have to assume that you will have to go to many foundations to pay for a single project, program, or capital item.

The way that I determine how much to ask for from a foundation is I look at their giving history to other organizations in my region, that focus on the same kind of work that my org does, and for the kind of project/program/item that we're looking to fund. This gives me a ballpark number of how much they would give to my non profit's item/service/project. This number is a strong indication of how much you should be asking for your own request. Knowing what they gave to a similar org as yours' for a similar project gives you something to place 'next to' the budget you have for that item/project that you're looking for grant support for. The foundations that you're going to approach that tend to give more historically are who you're going to ask for larger grant donations from. The foundations that tend to give lower amounts will be who you approach for small portions to fulfill the budget needs.

For instance:

You and I work for a paranormal research non profit and we need a new ghostbusters ray gun. The budget looks like this:

Ghostbusters Public Meet and Greet - $5,000
Ghost detection service fees - $15,000

One ghostbusters ray gun - $3,000
Ghostbusters ray gun fuel - $1,500 x 2 loadings - $3,000
One ray gun handler's class - $500
One ray gun vest - $500
One employee to operate ray gun - $40,000

Total: -$27,000

Then, you and I reassess our local foundations and find the following foundations are interested in funding paranormal research, in our city, and have paid for capital items for other orgs like ours' in the past.

Here's the list:

Hitchock Family Trust - has given $100,000 to the PhantomFinders organization in 2000 for a similar ghost implement.

Mystery Machine Foundation - has given $10,000 to two different paranomal groups in two separate years for payroll expense.

Vlad Dracul Community organization - gives $3,000 annually to local groups who work with the community to better ghost/human rapport.

Ok, from the above we know that we will be submitting the larger grant request to the Hitchock Trust. We won't be asking for a full $100,000 because our budget doesn't warrant that kind of need. We need $27,000 - we could approach Hitchcock with a request for the largest amount of a portion of the total $27k necessary. If we're going to ask Mystery Machine for a medium size amount of the total needed and Vlad for a smaller grant then I'll guestimate that we ask for:

Hitchcock $15,000
Mystery $10,000
Vlad $5,000

We will also need to ask other foundations for grant support, too, but of these three foundations for this particular request this is a fair breakdown of how to come to what amounts to request from each foundation.

What if we get less than we were 'counting on' or don't get a grant at all from one of the foundations?

First, no one said you were guaranteed anything from soliciting grants (every fundraising plan should be diverse and include raising money from other sources beyond grants).

Second, if at first you do not succeed, try again, and succeed the third or fifth try.

Third, only ask for what you need - if you ask for some large amount randomly and don't have the budget/planning/bookkeeping to back up that request - you'll appear greedy and unprofessional - an image that you don't want.

Good luck!

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