The excerpt below gives some good advice on what to do, and what to
avoid doing, when applying for grants. It is from: DEMYSTIFYING
GRANT SEEKING: What You Really Need To Do To Get Grants, by Larissa
Golden Brown and Martin John Brown. Forward by Judith E. Nichols,
PhD., CFRE. Published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company 989 Market
Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 (
Copyright ? 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Jossey-Bass is a
registered trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reprinted with
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COMMON MYTHS ABOUT GRANTS AND GRANT SEEKING
This book gives you simple techniques you can use and habits you can
develop to become an effective grant seeker. But before you try to
apply them, you need to free yourself of some common misconceptions
about grant seeking and get a more realistic idea of what you should
and shouldn't expect from the process.
Myth; Grants are something for nothing.
Reality: Grants are rational deals between colleagues.
Grants are appealing because they look like big chunks of free money.
Unlike most individual donations, grants are often large enough to
actually buy something, that is, to fund a whole program for an
entire year or to purchase a major piece of equipment. And, to get a
grant you just send in an application. The funding party sends back a
check, and you don't need to pay it back. A grant seems like manna
from heaven or a winning lottery ticket.
This perspective feeds some unfortunate practices and beliefs. Buying
a lottery ticket takes no skill, so nonprofits that see grant seeking
as gambling apply on impulse, without preparation; they assign the
wrong people to work on proposals, or they place no value on the work
of a skilled grant seeker. The only way they can increase their
chances of winning a lottery is to buy more tickets, so some
organizations practice the "spray and pray" method of grant seeking
sending out scores of identical proposals in hopes a few will "hit"
and provide a windfall. Some non-profits go fishing for funds,
returning to the same foundations over and over again, hoping to
eventually get a bite. Worse, some nonprofit staffers become
sycophants, flattering grant makers and hoping this will provide an
edge or an "in."
These methods are recipes for resentment and waste labor. Rejections
of desperate, heartfelt proposals naturally fuel the attitude that
grant makers are fickle and unfair. Winning (or losing) a grant on
the basis of flattery and connections rather than on the merits of
the proposal can't do much but create a malaise that few at
idealistic nonprofits will be comfortable with. And sending out
scores of ill-considered proposals wastes a lot of work, not to
mention paper and postage, considering that none are likely to be
Grants are not free money. Foundations and other grant makers are
organizations like your nonprofit. The have mission and goals just as
you do. Funding parties award grants because what the grant
recipients plan to do with the money fits in with the funding party's
own goals, initiatives, and dreams-and with their founder's stated
It makes sense to see a grant as a fair deal between colleagues whose
interests are similar but whose resources are different. Your
nonprofit and the funding party have similar goals. One example might
be housing the homeless. The funding party has money to use for work
toward that goal. Your nonprofit has the capability to do the work,
with shelter space, expert staff, connections with health care
providers, and so on. Your organization performs the work in exchange
for the money. Your organization and its programs have a value that
is equal to grant money.
If you can recognize this value, you will stop praying, fishing, and
flattering for grants. You will begin to look for and see matches
with funding parties whose interests and goals are most like yours.
You will behave less like a supplicant or gambler and more like a
partner with funding parties. You will handle rejection better, too,
because you will be able to conceive that it is possible that some
other organization had a proposal that fit the funding parties goals
just as well as yours.
Acknowledging the full value of your own organization and its
programs isn't always easy. Grant seekers and grant makers are bound
up in a status relationship so deeply ingrained it is sometimes
difficult to recognize. Grant seekers are accustomed to-even proud
of-being poor, fighting for recognition and justice, and having to
beg for money. They have a lower status than grant makers, who often
play the part of exclusive or "noble" organizations.
This status difference seems to come from a belief that money (or the
ability to give it away) is more respectable than expertise, ability,
or action. It hasn't helped that some funding parties have been
willing to take on a superior role, hiding behind unlisted phone
numbers or gatekeepers and making forbidding statements like one we
heard recently: "Dr. X prefers not to meet with anyone." At one
workshop we attended, a program officer from a well-known national
foundation seemed to admit his organization found ambiguity
convenient when he said, "It is the policy of the foundation to not
be comfortable with getting too clear."
The pecking order is perpetuated every day when nonprofits flatter
and supplicate in their grant seeking. They are just as complicit as
funding party's, coming to believe they are "owed something" for
their good work. They attempt to play their low status to their
advantage, appealing to those higher up with their incredible need
and devotion, Some grants consultants might advocate that you adopt
this role. But no matter how we in the nonprofit world martyr
ourselves for the good of our causes, funding parties are free to
make their own decisions.
Although it is unproductive to demand or expect to be funded just
because foundations "have to give it away," it might empower you to
remember that a funding party's money can do little good for the
community unless it is invested, for example, in organizations like
yours. Funding parties need nonprofits to spend their money
effectively just as much as nonprofits need funding parties to pay
for their programs.
It's also encouraging to remember, that although grant seeking seems
surrounded by mystery, it is basically a rational process. Usually
some or all of the criteria used toward a grant are presented in
writing, and if you are not awarded a grant, you may be able to find
out why. Often it is because your organization did not fit the
written guidelines or the unwritten but discernable priorities of the
That's not to say grant making is 100 percent fair. Even fair deals
between colleagues involve some intangible elements like trust, and
any process involving money is open to misunderstanding and
corruption. Even at the fairest of trustee meetings, very good
programs and proposals can end up as the least important ones on the
Still you have control over many elements of the process: which
funding parties you apply to, how you relate to those fund parties,
which information you present to them, how you present it, and how
you organize your efforts. Efficient grant seekers raise more money
in less time because they take charge of these parts of the
process-the parts they can control-rather than leaving them to
vagaries of flattery, hope, or luck.