Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Wonderful and Frightening World of Grants...

Grants are a big deal in the non-profit realm these days. Many organizations rely entirely on corporations/foundations/trusts to maintain sustainability. This helps create the environment in which non-profits are currently mired and out of which they must climb if they ever hope to really achieve their vision. Too often non-profits feel that they need to beg and barter for every cent because nobody out in the community cares or wants to donate. Harboring this attitude reflects the belief that you don't really think your cause is worthwhile because, if it were, wouldn't people want to jump on board and help?

I tend to think that this situation happens because non-profits are under staffed and this leads to initiative leaders losing sight of the passion that once brought them into the field. Administrators and capacity builders lose touch with the real effects of what they help build while direct service providers get jaded from the constant inundation of the same problems and issues. This creates an atmosphere thick with a lack of ingenuity and an inability to creativity problem solve. By reuniting members of your non-profit with what made them enter the field in the first place, productivity should rise and a happier workplace is the biggest benefit. This is especially important with direct service providers to youth.

Anyways, grant research isn't always fun. Searching google or grants.gov or the foundation center online is no more exciting than hitting up the nearest library with a funding consortium subscription. However, I have found that writing and editing grants is quite enjoyable - but just for me really. Many people around me find the task boring and very bang-my-head-against-the-wall kind of infuriating. These people probably never enjoy writing anything, may not know how to write effectively or concisely, or feel that, in the end, what was once lost does not equal what you could possibly gain. You are rarely ever assured receipt of a grant. The time you spend on it may not end up paying off with dividends. Though, I would posit that every time you do apply you should at least try to learn something. The more you write the better you get and the more (intelligent) things you read the better you'll write (you can't read romance novels all day and expect to get a grant because you used victorian language and the word 'member' a lot).

I've helped my program apply for two, $1,000 grants so far this year. We received the first one and now the high school dance team has cool uniforms, a foldable storage unit, and another music program to help them create mixes. I have yet to hear back about the second grant, but it could turn into funding for a guitar, bass, and drum set, with all the necessary cords, sticks, and even a microphone, to continue the School of Rock program at McLaughlin Middle School. Yesterday I started working on a Citizen's Bank Champions in Action grant that would actually be quite substantial. If awarded, your non-profit receives $25,000 in unrestricted funding, press coverage, and volunteer support. The deadline is next Friday... oof! The good thing, though, is that I plowed through half of the application yesterday and my boss was pretty amazed. The mere fact that I had answered almost three of the response questions was fantastic to her. I didn't think anything of it because, as a philosophy major, I had to write papers about any number of topics at the drop of a hat. Later today, after one my sustainability subcommittee meetings, I'm meeting with the district's grant writer to go over demographic information that should be included.

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