No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Friday, October 15, 2010
By Susannah Mayhall
October 2010 (GO Know)
Run a grants search on the internet and you'll stumble across many websites claiming to provide access to "Free Money," "Grants for Moms," and "Government Grants - Everyone Approved!" These claims have a common theme—easy, free money. In a perfect world, organizations laboring for a worthy cause would be able to tap into the money they need simply on the basis of their noble aims. Unfortunately, there truly is no such thing as a free lunch.
There are indeed billions of grant dollars available for municipalities, school districts, health care providers, and other nonprofits, but this money is available only to those who are willing to dedicate time and resources to their grantseeking endeavors, as well as the projects that are ultimately funded through grants. A grant, after all, is not just free money, but rather a contract connecting an organization that can carry out a worthy project with an agency or foundation capable of funding the project.
Many organizations might be daunted by the level of work involved in actively seeking grant funding. A typical grant application requires a lengthy narrative description of the project to be carried out and a detailed budget of costs associated with the project. Frequently, funders also require proof that the project outlined in the application will be effective in carrying out its claims and accomplishing the purpose of the grant program. Some grant programs may also encourage or require collaboration with community partners and/or a cost match for a portion of the project.
Despite the seemingly overwhelming nature of grantseeking, our experience has proven that the more effort that is put into the application, the more likely the application is to receive funding. As competition for grant dollars continues to increase, the hours put into an application may very well be a crucial factor in determining who ultimately receives funding. Rather than dedicating minimal exertion to a large number of grant proposals and hoping that the project will get funded, grantseeking organizations should strive towards applying to a few carefully selected grant programs to ensure that they have the best chance at receiving funding.
There are myriad resources available online and in print to help would-be grantseekers make the most concerted effort possible, and many of these tools are available at little or no cost. Some good places to start the search for grant funding are Grants.gov (http://grants.gov), the official United States government database of all federal funding programs, various state government grants websites, and searchable databases such as Grants Office's UPstream™ Online Knowledge Base (http://upstream.grantsoffice.com).
Other good sources for reliable grants information are Grants Office's category-focused .info websites, listed at http://www.grantsoffice.info/. In times when funding is tight for municipalities and nonprofits, grants can be an excellent source of support for much-needed projects. Organizations will find the most success in grantseeking by pursuing appropriate grants with as much diligence as possible.