Sunday, November 01, 2009

That Physical Address Location Question On Most Grant Proposal Applications... What Gives? Read More...

Which comes first? Is it the chicken or the egg?

I received a question on Seeking Grant Money Today, this week, that I thought I'd write about because I've heard it asked, before.

A reader of this blog posted a question asking how their brand new nonprofit can apply for grants when so many grant application forms require the physical address of the location where the nonprofit will provide the program or service that it is requesting funding for. It would seem, for any nonprofit that does not yet have a physical location (building, classroom, conference room, etc.) to conduct its organization's work that this is a barrier. The question can often become, 'well...we just started up...we can't afford a building, yet,'. That's actually, not the point, but the misunderstanding is not uncommon.

This question is a perfect example of a situation that warrants a nonprofit calling the potential grant donor that they are applying to (whose grant application apparently stumped them) and ask to speak to a program manager at the foundation. Ask them, given your organization's specific situation, what they prefer a nonprofit answers for that question. Explain your nonprofit's situation (for example, perhaps yours' is not a brand new nonprofit but has, in fact, existed for fifty years - but is only now providing services or assistance to the public and, let's say, has no gymnasium to provide after school camp for youth in, yet). You will receive the answer from that specific potential grant donor and you'll know how to answer their grant application; but please do not assume that all of the other organizations that you're sending applications to will want the same. Again, phone each (as long as they accept unsolicited phone calls - some prefer not to hear from applicant organizations. In this case, make your best guess as to what they wish to know and provide the appropriate answer). This inquiry also establishes the beginning of a relationship and relationships are how donations are raised (larger donations, anyway).

When a donor asks for a physical location on a grant application, they are considering the program or project that your nonprofit is requesting funding for. They, in fact, do not EXPECT any nonprofit to own a building, and usually aren't surprised at all when a start up nonprofit is using the facilities of another nonprofit's or other organization's. No grant donor, very often, expects anything of any nonprofit and in fact, that is the point of asking questions in the grant application. They simply ask questions, in the grant application, to get the honest answers from the applicant nonprofit. They probably aren't so interested in the square footage or how many public facilities there are on the premises (although they may be), but rather they are more likely gauging other considerations such as:

__ is this building's location easily accessed by the target beneficiary population the program is supposed to serve (e.g. are bus lines running nearby during program hours, is there free parking nearby, is it well lit and safe at night, etc.);

__ is the building easily accessible for the disabled;

__ is the building a modern, safe, well maintained facility, or is this a notoriously 'red - flagged' potential death trap repeatedly dinged by the city or county to require safety upgrades, etc.;

__ are there enough classrooms or is there enough space in the rooms planned to be used for the anticipated number of participants or attendees;

__ etc.

As I've always written, here, it is never wise to lie in any grant application about anything. If your nonprofit is applying for grants to, let's say, provide an after school camp for youth - but your board has not come to a formal agreement with the property owners of a proper facility, but you all are pretty sure that it's a done deal: then tell the potential grant donor this. Do not claim, if it is not the case, that a location will be used for certain. If, though, a location has been arranged for and is formally your organization's for this program/project at a certain date and time - then state this in the grant proposal.

Some potential grant donors may wish to know the physical address of the proposed program or project (proposed in the grant proposal) because of other reasons. How can you know? It's best, for each potential grant donor that your organization is apply to for a grant, to know their reasoning behind asking the question (and remember, all grant donors are separate, different, individual entities - one's thinking or reasoning is different from another sometimes and its always best to tailor each grant proposal per the recipient grant donor's interests, demonstrated track record, recent actions, etc. to increase the chances in receiving a grant from them). If you area allowed to phone them, have the executive director or a board member (someone who is 'peer to peer' on the same level as the leaders of the potential donor's) phone them. If you can't phone the organization, read over their giving guidelines, other literature, their website, or research recent past grant recipients' programs/project's physical addresses (for programs or projects that they funded that are similar to the one that your agency is proposing).

This question also demonstrates a common misconception on the part of nonprofits about potential donors of all kinds: they just want us to jump through hoops. In fact, grant donors, in particular, are usually staffed with and led by people are are very knowledgeable about, professionally skilled in, and perhaps lettered researchers in the very field of work that your nonprofit works in. They, themselves, have often worked at nonprofits (perhaps ones serving the same cause as yours') and are usually very up to date on professional and ethical philanthropy. They are weighing which nonprofit should receive the next grants that they are about to donate. Most grant donors are not, in fact, being flip about just randomly asking for nonprofits to provide this, that , or the other. They are using some key information, for each proposed program or project, that they hear about in each round of grant applications to decide which (of likely tens if not hundreds) of grant applications they will award a grant to. Grant donors are not giving to get a tax break, and leave it at that. They are very active, engaged community members who are looking where they can best place their cash donation (or other contributions) that will help the nonprofit do the best, most effective, and perhaps the most good for the community. Grant donors are looking for honest, well run, efficient, knowledgeable, expert, talented, successful nonprofits that they are more likely to get excellence for the community out of the fiscal (or other) investment that they place in the awarded nonprofit.

1 comment:

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