New Media & Grants
Monday, November 15, 2010
By Susannah Mayhall
The progression of the Information Age has fundamentally altered the ways in which people interact, affecting all areas of our lives. From communicating with friends and colleagues on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to keeping up with global news (and our favorite celebrities) via feeds such as Twitter and Digg, the world in which we live has become increasingly digital, connected, and immediate.
The grants world has also been affected by this fundamental shift. With the launch of Grants.gov in 2003, billions of dollars' worth of federal grant opportunities were made available to the public from one centralized location. Many state granting agencies and local foundations also have a home on the internet, making grant details, applications, award lists, and administration requirements available online. In many cases, these changes have served to simplify and streamline the grant application and administration process, as well as to inform a much larger audience of available funding opportunities.
However, along with the democratization of information comes a variety of inherent problems such as inconsistency, outdated details and documents, and a simply overwhelming quantity of information. Although great strides have been made to make grant information available to the public, the quality and quantity of information varies greatly from agency to agency, state to state, and website to website. Another likely effect of the increasing accessibility of grant information is an increasing rate of competitiveness among would-be grantees. Particularly in these economic times, when the needs of nonprofits have skyrocketed, a simpler, digitalized grantseeking process has likely contributed to the rising competitiveness across all levels of grant opportunities, from wide-reaching federal grants all the way down to small, locally-focused foundations.
Taking these factors into consideration, how can your organization make the most of the new media forms at work in the grants landscape? One crucial step is to be certain that the information you find is reliable and current. While search engines like Google and Yahoo can make finding information fast and easy, they can also bring up a plethora of misleading and inaccurate websites. Always strive to educate yourself as much as possible about the source of your information, and stick to websites that have .gov or .org domain names. You also want to be careful that the information you gather is verified on official government agency or foundation websites. While third-party articles and databases can be useful tools, any provided information should be linked to an official announcement.
Another step you can take to maximize your grantseeking efficiency is to get involved in new media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other networking and communications platforms. Many government agencies and foundations provide up-to-the-minute news and press releases via these and other communication vehicles, and signing up can help keep your organization up to speed on the latest grants news. Another useful tool is a Real Simple Syndication (commonly referred to as RSS) feed. Signing up for RSS feeds from relevant government agencies and foundations will help ensure that you stay informed of the most current grant programs, deadlines, and other useful information.
New media outlets and devices can become vital tools to aid you in your grantseeking efforts. By approaching the available information with a careful yet aggressive attitude, you can increase your organization's chances of grantseeking success and make the most of the funding opportunities available to you.