Monday, May 07, 2007

About Grant Guidelines...

[This post is not, and no post in this blog, is legal or financial advice. If you seek either you should contact either a lawyer or a Certified Public Accountant. The information, herein, is simply information, not legal or financial advice.]

Every grant donor has preferences, requirements, and an application process. Grant donors who are public institutions must tell you how to apply for their grants. They do not have to tell you their preferences (though it helps, when they do -as those non profits who do not fit their preferences should not apply - thus saving everyone time). Often, it is a really good idea to speak with fundraising colleagues at other non profits who you know successfully raised grants from a foundation that you're approaching, just to ask for their suggestions or insights.

The document that grant writers use to know what application to use, to apply for a given grant, what information to provide, and what the time table is for the application process is called the giving guidelines. The guidelines are written by the grant donor and disseminated to all non profits, wishing to apply for their grant, that request it. Every grant donor has different grant guidelines because they're each different organizations with different goals, interests, experience, etc. Today, is is common if a grant donor has a website, that the giving guidelines are available on their website. If it is not, simply call their main number and request them. They are also required, if filing an IRS tax form 990, that they state the grant application process for their organization, on the form. To understand the IRS tax form 990's function in grant writing read the following post: http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2007/03/grant-writers-little-helper-irs-tax.html Often, though, (unfortunately) the description on the form 990 is scant, and frankly, it's likely filled in on form 990 by a bookkeeper and overseen by an accountant. These folks are not necessarily familiar with the grant application process and may not give all the necessary details to successfully apply for their grant.

Guidelines will state what kind of organization the grant donor gives grants to (and don't give to, sometimes). They will explain what causes (specifically) that they support and if your cause is not listed you are really and truly not likely to receive a grant if you apply for one, anyway. They will also describe where organizations must be located. If your non profit is not in the region that they prefer to support, do not just submit your application, anyway. If you believe that there is a strong fit for your organization to partner with this grant donor, but aren't a clear fit according to their grant giving guidelines, do not just submit a proposal. Call and ask to speak to one of their program managers, first, and explain why you think that there's a good fit. You're likely not going to be asked to apply, but you never know, you may be right!

Small grant donors, such as start up family foundations, my simply tell you over the phone how they prefer that you apply for their grant, the deadlines, and when to expect a response as to whether you've received the grant. You'll need to know what application form to submit, whether they prefer receiving a letter of inquiry (LOI) before receiving a full proposal, and what attachments they want with your application and proposal. Smaller grant donors will also, probably, use your local community foundation's grant application form, rather than creating their own. They will let you know if they do, and where to locate it (often it is available on the community foundation's website).

For instance, some grant donors request that non profits applying for a grant only submit a two page letter of inquiry (LOI), first in the process. After they receive and review it, they will let you know as to whether they want you to go ahead a submit a full proposal applying for their grant. Upfront, it may seem 'cut throat' or tough, but it's a nice process, because if you submit the two page summary (LOI) and they find that your project/program is not a good fit for what they're looking to fund, they decline your interest and you can spend your energy on other applications that have much better chances of acceptance. They've done you a favor.

Some grant donors want specific information in the grant proposal, itself. Often guidelines for many different donors will require that the non profit's mission statement, service statistics, current services/programs being provided, etc. Every now and then a grant donor may require that a non profit submitting a grant request include a statement about the organization's discrimination avoidance policy in its proposal. Or, I've written proposals where I had to state what the disability persons' access was like in our office.

Grant donors will often require specific attachments with the grant proposal. The most common are: a copy of the non profit's IRS letter of 501 (c)(3) status, the list of the board of directors, financial statements, list of staff and their professional experience, a copy of a proposed program's budget, etc.

As I've said before, no legitimate grant donor will request, nor do they need, any of your bank account numbers, investment account numbers, or any kind of asset down payment in order to get a grant. If you are ever asked to give any financial access or assets - back away from the exchange and research the organization with your state, the Better Business Bureau, colleagues at other organizations, and Guidestar.org before proceeding at all with them. As you know, if a situation tells your gut that something is wrong - listen to your gut; something is likely wrong.

Having stated this caveat, a potential grant donor (like any of your organization's donors) are investing in your organization's future and capabilities. So, they do have a right to know how financial stable and healthy your non profit is, to know that your group is a legal 501 (c) (3) non profit according to the IRS, that your staff and board are experienced and upstanding, etc. As I always state, transparency is a tremendous asset to the healthy, strong, successful, well managed non profit. Donors, like investors, have a right to know who they're partnering with to benefit your community. If you are an excellent non profit, market that! You're upping all of your fundraising if you do. Don't make it difficult for them to figure this out! This is your organization's best asset!! Be proud of your excellence.

Don't submit more than the particular grant donor asks of you, for a specific grant application. The grant donors receive tens if not hundreds of applications for a given grant. The less work that you create for them (i.e. having to recycle extra papers that they didn't ask for from you) the better off you'll be with them - and grant raising is all about relationship building. Follow their directions. If, though, you have an update to your application, or you've recently received great press after submitting your application, you can send in a short note or a clear copy of an article; referencing your organization and your recent application.

After prospecting for likely grants, and you've culled a list of grant donors in your geographic region, start to collect the giving guidelines for each grant donor that you seriously intend to apply to for a grant. To understand how to look for grants for your organization read my prospecting 'how to' post at: http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2004/08/how-do-i-prepare-to-find-foundations.html

Here are some examples of real giving guidelines for many different kinds of grant donors. Look them over, get a feel for the norm and what is unique to each of them. These are just some random examples.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's basic giving guidelines (Each mandate has its own guidelines. Click on the links below this basic giving guideline to get specific.) http://www.gatesfoundation.org/ForGrantSeekers/

Home Depot's Community Impact Grants giving guidelines
http://corporate.homedepot.com/wps/portal/!ut/p/.cmd/cs/.ce/7_0_A/.s/7_0_121/_s.7_0_A/7_0_121

Satterberg Foundation note that this is a smaller to medium sized family foundation that does not accept unsolicited requests for grants. In other words, you may only apply if they invite you to. http://www.satterberg.org/invitational_grants/guidelines

Bullitt Family Foundation calls their giving guidelines their "Grant Eligibility Checklist"
http://www.bullitt.org/grants/grantseeking/granteligibility
This is an interesting and informative guide. They explain to you how they evaluate each grant application which tells you what they are specifically looking for.

If any of these links fail, please email me, via this blog, and let me know. Thank you so much.

No comments: