There is a lot to know about grants and successful applying for them. We try to pick areas for our blogs that cover some of the more important areas. Here are five items about types of funding and grant application processes that we hope you find useful.
1. Government Grants Differ from Foundation Grants
While both can support for your efforts, they can have different requirements and timelines. Government grants—grants given by the federal, state, or local government—are typically awarded to projects that the government deems within its sphere of responsibility. Topics include health care, education, or human services. These grants can take anywhere from six months to a year for review and often require detailed application packages. Governmental units such as states, counties, cities, park districts, etc. are among the prime recipients of Government grants.
A private foundation is a non-profit organization that awards money for a specific cause. This cause is clearly stated by the foundation and only organizations working within the foundation’s guidelines will be funded. Dollar amounts and turnaround times vary by foundation, but most will set up specific timelines and application requirements. Foundation grants are typically awarded within three months, and grants are in most cases only awarded to other non-profits.
You will want to consider both government grants and foundation grants when determining what to apply for. Many private foundation award grants only to not-for-profit organizations that have been granted 501(c)(3) status by IRS.
2. Formula Grants Differ from Project Grants
Formula grants, sometimes called state-administered programs, are non-competitive grants awarded based on a specific formula. For example, a state may be awarded a formula grant from the federal government based on the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) program, and a set number of dollars would be awarded based on the number of people who qualify in an area.
Project grants, on the other hand, are just what the name suggests. These grants are awarded to non-profit organizations, municipalities, and schools to support a specific, described project. The project type is typically determined by the organization giving the money.
3. Grants Aren’t Always Money
Not all grants are going to show you the money. Some can help in other ways. Other awards that can be given might be for pro bono services, paid release days for employees to volunteer their time, or materials (such as food companies providing food to food pantries or The Home Depot that awards materials for projects from what is sold in its stores). Sometimes companies are willing to help out with products rather than cash donations.
4. Grant Proposals and Processes Differ Widely
While most grants are available for any non-profit, municipality, or school, some grant-givers are not taking unsolicited proposals, or only award grants to particular geographic areas. When a foundation states that it is not taking “unsolicited proposals,” it means that it already funds particular organizations and is not interested in reading about other projects at this time. This does not mean that you cannot attract their attention, though. Take a look at what they are currently funding and reach out to those organizations. Often you can work with another non-profit to reach common goals.
That being said, some proposals work differently than others. For instance, some foundations ask for a letter of intent (or inquiry). This letter typically outlines your project goals, what need you are addressing, how you will address it, and what results you expect. This (usually) two-page or three-page page document sets forth the basic reasons the foundation should fund you. Because every grant is a competition, be sure to make your case to the funders.
If a letter of intent is required and you received positive feedback, foundations may ask for a letter proposal or full proposal. The letter proposal is shorter than the full proposal, and therefore must make its case more quickly and efficiently. The full proposal, on the other hand, is probably what you think of when you picture a grant proposal. It often follows a standard format of cover letter, project summary, project plan, budget, and whatever additional information is requested by the foundation. These tend to vary in length from 5 to 25 pages depending on what is requested.
5. Avoid the Most Common Errors
Although there are enough of these to write several blog articles of its own (and we have!—check out: Common Errors of Grant Writing), here are some common grant mistakes to avoid:
--Make sure your project follows the foundation’s purpose. You may have a great project that will help thousands, but if you apply to the wrong foundation you will not get the funding. Pay close attention to what the foundation wants to fund and tailor your project accordingly.
--Make your request clear. Ask for a specific amount of money and show how every dollar will be used. When including a budget sheet, make sure the information you are providing makes sense.
--Follow deadlines and get your proposal in on time. Submitting a late proposal will all but guarantee a refusal. Watch for deadlines and plan accordingly.
--Most importantly, follow the grant proposal instructions. Include the information asked for and leave out what isn’t. Put your pages in the correct order and double check before you send it that you have done exactly what was asked. Don’t let your hard work be set aside because you didn’t follow the directions.
Have a question about an opportunity or how to apply for a grant? Let us know! Comment on the blog, or contact us. We can help with every step of the process. The initial consultation is always free.
Photo Credit: Pictures of Money