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Making the Best of Bad Situation: Sequestration in the K-12 World

Mar 26

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Tuesday, March 26, 2013  RssIcon

Sequestration may have an impact on the traditional educational federal and state funding opportunities you count on annually, however generally speaking; it will likely not have an effect on corporate and private foundation funding.  In fact, many of these foundations invest their endowments in the stock market, which is performing rather well at the moment.  Now would be an excellent time to review your corporate and private foundation funding portfolio and consider mounting an intensive foundation funding campaign. 

Get the Lay of the Land

Take the time to assess the programs and projects you have going on within your district that have been or may be affected by sequestration.  Survey the foundation funding landscape in your region that fund K-12 educational initiatives, starting with those that are closest to you geographically then working your way out to the larger, national foundations.  From there, you’ll want to explore the foundations that you’ve identified in very granular terms (funding priorities, previously funded projects, typical award amounts, etc.).  Based on the information you’ve gathered, construct a “hot list” of the top five or top ten foundations that appear to align closest to your project(s). 

Make a Plan

Foundation’s deadlines are all over the place-some accept applications on an ongoing basis, while others have quarterly or biannual deadline, and yet others have annual hard deadlines.  To ensure a timely, methodical foundation funding campaign create a grant seeking plan/calendar assign at date to all of the major milestones of your proposal development process and, of course, the deadlines.  Many foundations accept applications throughout the year, so you might want to identify those that do have hard deadlines on your grant seeking plan first and “pepper in” those that have an ongoing (rolling) deadline.  This strategy will help to spread out the grants development activities throughout the year and prevent multiple simultaneous submissions and workload bottlenecks. 

Activate

Most foundations require a letter of intent/inquiry (LOI) as an initial method of contact.  LOI’s are anywhere between 1-3 pages and typically require the following: an introduction; a description of your organization; a needs statement; a description of the project for which you’re seeking funding; a brief budget; and a closing statement summarizing the request.  Keep in mind that most funders will dictate exactly what they want a LOI to include, and their instructions supersede any suggestions written in this article.  I often times hear of organizations using a “template” LOIs or a “standard” LOI.  Due to the fact that the funders are soliciting for information specific to their funding priorities, there’s no compelling reason to use such a document.  It’s difficult enough to get your foot in the door of a foundation and you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so take the time fashion a well thought-out, customized LOI specific to the funder’s request for information.

If your LOI is denied by a foundation, take the time to follow up with the funder to find out specifically why the LOI was not successful and what you may be able to do differently next time to solicit a positive response.  Foundations are not required to provide you with this information, but it’s worth making an effort-the worst they can say is “no.”  Often, in the interest of seeking the best LOIs foundations will have detailed discussions with you about your LOI and project details and offer valuable feedback.

Even in the worst case scenario of not getting any traction via foundation funding while you’re stuck in sequestration limbo the work you do in defining projects, documenting need, creating budgets, and crafting the various LOIs you’ll be able to recycle much of the work you’ve done to reuse in state and federal funding opportunities with similar funding objectives and priorities.

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