November 7, 2009 by David Gillaspie
GRANTING FOR THE GREATER GOOD
If you pay seventy five dollars a head to sit in a swank little theater inside an arts center, you pay attention. It’s not a ballgame and there is no replay on the big screen, but you know major leaguers are in the house. The cost of admission guarantees that. Who are they? People from the states largest granting institutions are on the floor. You get your notepad out.
You’re there to learn from the pros, to network, to learn to network.
You pay seventy five dollars to learn trusts and foundations give money for demonstrated needs worthy of their time. It’s really demonstrating a need worthy of the money, but time is money, right? Either way it’s the demonstration part that gets a hard look.
It might seem like simple logic, but nothing is too simple, or simple enough; you notice a need in your community, a gap, and you find a way to make it smaller. Write the idea down and show the folks who’ll benefit. Show it to groups and organizations who will benefit. What’s next? If everything checks out locally, write a grant. Write two. Write three. Find the money to make a good idea a reality and you’ll find people who want you to have it.
But they’re not throwing it away.
What often goes unnoticed down the grant road is the trust or foundation actually wants to see the result of what they funded. They want evidence that what they support actually gets done. Hearing about accountability was worth the price of admission.
You couldn’t find five nicer people than the five from the big foundations and trusts. Four women and one man opened up to the audience in ways that fit the theatrical surroundings. If the questions from the crowd weren’t specific enough, or the expected follow-up question went unasked, the panel quizzed each other. They knew what needed to be said and found new ways to say it.
These five people know grants. They read grants. They want to read good grants, well prepared documents that conform to the requirements of their respective agencies. They want you to care enough to get it right.
You want to show them you care, but how?
They want to see need? then show them need. Get as many people as you can involved. Show them how your project will benefit them or someone they know. Knock on a door. That’s the roots of grassroots action.
The more people and organizations you have involved, the more stable the stool, as in platform. The more legs on the stool, the less likely it will fall over. This is a metaphor for failure and success. You get the feeling from the panel that more than a few stools have fallen.
Who do you approach as the first leg of the stool? A board member, that’s who, after all those are the people charged with either giving money, getting money, or getting off the board. If they’re there, they’re there for a reason, and it’s not to keep a seat warm.
Grant secret: Getting a board of directors interested in a project is good news for grants evaluation. It shows care.
If grantors want to see as many legs on the community stool as possible, the organization has a similar goal. Their project is further validated by the range of funding sources they attract. Just a different side of the same stool.
On the subject of wasting money, a project that is grant worthy starts with a budget. This is the solid ground the stools sit on. List expenses to complete the project and the income expected afterward. It looks simple, right? Nothing is that simple. It’s a recurring theme.
The demographic in the arts center theater are most encouraging. Forty three women and twelve men in the audience give promise to any projects they approach. The four women and one man on the panel fit in nicely. This wasn’t a white stocking group of dabblers. These were roll-the-sleeves-up doers.
“Are you worried about swine flu?”
“I live at nine thousand feet in the mountains. I don’t worry about anything until I come down here.”
She could have been speaking for everyone. They gather to learn; to make their concerns a reality. You get the feeling they care about others, and they don’t back down.