Welcome to part one of a four-part series that focuses on the policies and procedures that your organization—whether large or small—needs to have in place in order to be grant ready. We think of “grant readiness” as the ability to identify funding opportunities and respond to them efficiently with competitive proposals. The end goal is increased funding to carry out your organization’s mission.
Of course, good planning is key, so the first blog in this series addresses the plan. Good planning can make your organization more agile and better equipped to respond in a timely manner to requests for funding proposals.
PART I: The Importance of the Plan for Generating Grant Funds
Grant Readiness Means Having a Plan.
If I'm learning how to play a game that's new to me, I have a few key questions I want answers to. And I want those answers before the game begins.
- What is the aim of the game?
- What are the rules of the game?
- How is the game played?
- Who are the other players and what are their roles?
Leaders in organizations that are grant ready ask and answer similar questions with regard to the organization's approach to seeking grants. Answers to those questions may take the form of Strategic and Operational elements that are included in the grant plan.
- What are the organization's priorities when it comes to grants?
Example: If your organization’s mission focuses on early childhood care and education, then the grants you apply for should focus on early childhood care and education.
- Which program areas are the highest priorities to pursue?
Example: A city may choose to devote more of its limited grant resources to public safety than to energy efficiency.
- Which types of grants are the highest priorities initially and in the long term?
Example: A small organization that is just getting started may focus on smaller grants initially, with an eye toward larger grants over time.
- Which partnerships are worth cultivating in order to maximize funding?
Example: The same small organization may partner with more experienced, regional organizations initially, with the goal of developing and leading state-wide or multi-state consortiums over time.
- What levels of resources are to be allocated to grant proposal development and with what anticipated results?
- Who in the organization performs what roles and duties related to grant seeking and funding?
- What records are kept, where are they kept, and how are they accessed?
- What tools are in place to support grant efforts?
Once a grant plan is developed, it needs to be communicated and made easily accessible to all within the organization who need to use the information.
Related to Operational Elements--Many organizations are not staffed in ways that allow for a full-time grant administrator or coordinator. However, if grant-funded initiatives are a desired component of the budget, then there need to be individuals within the organization whose key performance indicators include outcomes directly related to grants.
What Are the Potential Benefits and ROI of Being Grant Ready?
Developing organizational policies and procedures to guide the grant-seeking process requires an investment of time, energy, and resources. So what's the potential pay-off? Simply stated: Increased funding.
Having a sound plan will dramatically increase your organization’s odds of receiving funding from multiple funding sources over time. A plan accomplishes this in several ways:
- Alignment. As will be discussed in the next blog in this series, the grant plan helps assure that precious proposal development resources are directed towards meeting organizational goals, where they will do the most good.
- Effectiveness. Over time, what you learn from a history of proposal writing allows you to hone in on the factors that matter most to funders, so your percentage of winning proposals increases.
- Efficiency. As you build tools and capacity, streamline procedures, and develop banks of reusable materials, the effort needed to complete any given proposal decreases, while the odds of success increase.
- Protection against Staff Turnover. Written procedures and corporate history help convert individual staff knowledge into corporate assets that remain in place, despite changes in personnel.
- Agility and Responsiveness. Many times the window of opportunity for completing funding proposals is very narrow. Having boilerplate information at the ready and processes clearly defined and widely publicized can significantly shorten the turn-around time.
A simple Return-On-Investment (ROI) analysis can help convince a board to invest in grant writing. To calculate ROI, divide the returns (total money awarded minus costs) by the costs. Here’s an example that you can adjust for your organization:
Assume you apply for 3 proposals a year, totaling $150,000, and each proposal has a 33% chance of funding. You would anticipate $50,000 in funding. These are the anticipated gains.
Then assume you dedicate an average of 4 hours a week to proposal development at $60/hour. That’s about $12,000 per year. Also, assume that you hire a grant development expert to assist with the applications, at 3% of the proposed funding request. That’s $4,500 more, for a total of $16,500 in expenses. In this example, the ROI is returns ($50,000 - $16,500 = $33,500) minus costs ($12,500), which yields 203%. This is a more than double ROI—a compelling argument for devoting the resources.
ROI calculations are also useful in establishing metrics that help organizational leaders decide whether to expand, curtail, or otherwise alter an ongoing grant development effort. If you’re applying for more qualified opportunities and getting more funds, continue or expand your grant development efforts. If you’re not meeting goals, then maybe it’s time to adjust or eliminate those efforts.
Why Is It Important for YOUR Organization to Have a Written Grant Strategy?
"Always know why you're doing what you're doing" is a maxim I often have shared with pre-service teachers. The same admonition applies to your organization's attempts to secure grant funding.
For the reasons outlined previously, every organization needs a workable grant plan. The plan can serve as the primary tool to help your organization generate multiple streams of grant income over time.
So, what are you waiting for? Each time you go through the plan–do–check–act (PDCA) cycle, the opportunities for increased funding go up.
Get to work on your plan! It's also essential to assure that the grant strategy (your plan) is aligned with your organizational mission. That's the focus of Part II of this series.
We can help you develop a plan that sets you up for multiple streams of grant income over time. Or we can review an existing plan. If you would like to talk about your plan and the planning process, contact us for a free consultation.