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Grants: An Overview of the Process

October 2003
By: Margaret Hartshorn
Some people think that and some of the advantages and disadvantages will be discussed in this article. Subsequent articles will cover the grants process in more detail and offer tips on writing persuasively.

Matching the purpose of grantor and grantee
The grants process essentially involves a grantor with money designated for a particular purpose and grant applicants (potential grantees) who have a similar purpose. A grantor may be a government agency, a private or community foundation, a business, or a private individual. Typically, a grantee must be a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) federal tax status.

Grantors issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or let the public know in other ways (e.g., brochures or notices) that funds are available. These make clear what purposes the grantor is interested in (the arts, recreation, social services, education, programs for teens or minorities, health, etc.) and what an applicant must do to apply.

Identifying grantors
Most libraries have guides in their business or reference sections on grantors, and there are several major grant libraries in the United States. However, for most pregnancy resource centers, it is best to investigate local grantors. Check your city or county health departments, human services, education departments, or county commissioners to see if any monies are available. Check local businesses to see if they have corporate giving programs or foundations (good sources are department stores, insurance companies, and banks). Check with your local or state coalition of pregnancy centers for leads.

The best grantors for your purpose might be those who have the fewest restrictions in the use of their funds. These probably will be businesses, which also tend to have the simplest application process. As a general rule, the larger the business, foundation, or government agency, the more complex the application process and the more stringent the parameters for the use of the funds. It might be more practical to receive several smaller grants with fewer strings attached than one large grant with many restrictions.

Find out who is involved in the funding organizations. Perhaps you or someone in your organization knows an executive at the granting company or a program director in the granting agency. You might uncover a contact who could go to bat for your proposal, write a letter of recommendation, or hand-deliver your proposal.

Identifying your programs
Grantors generally fund programs. They do not buy copy machines, pay rent, or pay phone bills. Present your needs in terms of your organization's various programs. For instance, if you give maternity and baby clothing, you have a "Clothing Closet" program. If you teach abstinence, you have a "Healthy Choices" program. If you take mothers and their babies to the library, you have a "Books Are Friends" program. These would appeal to those who fund services to the poor, teens, or children and those who fund programs supporting health or education.

You can sometimes include some operating expenses in a proposal for such a program. If it is held in your office and an employee supervises the program, include part of that salary and rental expense for that space. Regular fundraising activities or regular donations, however, should cover most of your operating expenses.

Calling the grantor
While you can call the grantor at any step in the process, you should definitely call first to determine if the grantor is interested in your program. It is better to find out early that the grantor is not interested, before you spend time on the proposal. Grantors generally want a relationship with grantees and want their funds to achieve the intended purpose. Some grantors even have meetings with potential grantees to help them understand the expectations, the application process, and the periodic reporting process.

Deciding if you really want to apply
After identifying potential grantors whose purposes match yours, reading their requirements carefully, and calling to determine that they are interested in your program, decide if you really want to apply. Your board should be involved in the decision. Proposals often require a board signature.

Consider the following:
Do we have the staff and organizational structure to supply the grantor with the statistics and/or periodic reports required?

Does the grantor have restrictions or requirements that would shape our program in an unacceptable or undesirable way? An important issue for Christian organizations is that you cannot proselytize with government funds. There are ways for a Christian organization to appropriately use government funds; however, some boards decide that they do not want to deal with the restrictions.

Can we continue the program, once started, if grant funds are discontinued? What would be the effect on our clients or organization if the program were stopped abruptly?

Should we propose a new program (if the grantor wants to fund a start-up project) when we really need money for present programs?

Would this program (if expanded with grant money) take too much time and attention away from our core programs?

Writing and submitting the proposal
If you decide to apply for funds, write the proposal, following carefully the suggested format. If no format is given, follow a general proposal format (which will be described in a subsequent article). Government grantors often have lengthy instructions for their applications. While they can be daunting, you can usually figure out the instructions if you take them slowly. If there is anything you do not understand, be sure to call the grantor for help. Submit the proposal by the date given, in the exact manner required.

Being selected or turned down
Be prepared for a site visit if you apply to a local grantor and become a finalist. The grantor should notify you of its decision by a stipulated date. If your proposal is not funded, graciously ask for the comments of the readers (the panel that has made decisions regarding your grant proposal) or for information that might be helpful should you apply again. If your proposal is selected for funding, rejoice! In either case, maintain a good relationship with the grantor. One of your future proposals might get funded.

Copyright 1996, 2003. All Rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission from Margaret Hartshorn, Ph.D. is strictly prohibited unless the article is reprinted in its entirety with an accurate credit for the source of the reprinted material and included in the credit is the following name and address: Margaret Hartshorn, Ph.D., Heartbeat International, 665 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Suite 440, Columbus, Ohio 43229-3245.

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