So You Think You Want a Grant!
by Gina Beckles
Gina Wilson Beckles, Ph.D.
Program Evaluation Services, Inc.
With the Gates and Buffetts of the world pledging to give away half of their fortunes, couple with all of the economic stimulus packages dominating the news these days, many individuals and organizations are scrambling to get slices of these economic pies. They want to know how they can receive some of the trillions of dollars currently being pumped into the economy by individuals, foundations, and the federal government. Therefore, they want to get involved in the entire grantsmanship process. However, like most things in life, pursuing grant funding is much, much easier said than done.
As defined on, www.grants.gov, a grant is an “award of financial assistance from a federal agency to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by a law of the United States.” Grants are typically awarded to governmental agencies, educational institutions, public housing organizations, and non-profit organizations. That is not to say that small businesses and individuals cannot be awarded grants. However, grants are much harder to come by for those entities that do not fall within the above-mentioned categories. Therefore, it is very important to carefully review the eligibility section of all Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in order to ensure that valuable time and other resources are not wasted pursuing grants that one is not eligible for. If however, one does come across a grant of interest, they should consider partnering with an appropriate non-profit organization that does meet the eligibility requirements.
One should also be mindful that grants mean paperwork, and lots of it! Almost any time ones deals directly with external sources of funds, there is a myriad of bureaucratic red tape to deal with. Therefore, if you are not the type that can patiently deal with the seemingly endless flow of forms and documents, then pursuing grants might not be for you. However, if one is willing to dedicate the necessary time and effort that it takes to effectively manage a grant throughout the entire process from start to finish, then pursuing grants can be quite lucrative.
There are many resources available to help you navigate through the grantsmanship process. There is a cottage industry of consultants available for a fee. Additionally many colleges and universities have professionals that are willing and able to assist you. Rollins College is home of the Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center, which is right here in our own back yard. It has one of the most comprehensive grants collections in the state of Florida. There are also other organizations dedicated to the art of grantsmanship such as the Grant Professionals Network of Central Florida and the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations that can help. Finally, there are many seminars, books, websites, CDs and DVDs available, as well.
In closing, it is not impossible to be awarded a grant, just challenging. With the right mix of project scope, commitment, and due diligence, pursuing grants can definitely be worth the time and effort.