Knowing Where Your Organization’s at and Advancing Its Future
The hardest part of getting to a goal, is sometimes just getting started. However, as painful as it may be, it’s a necessary component and you will never regret it. This is often the case with organizations that decide they want to pursue grant funding. Going after grants can be a daunting task. The grant guidelines are often long confusing documents, program planning makes you depend on assumptions that you may not know to be true until implementation, partnerships are often new (if at all existent), staffing may be thin, and the exact needs of your particular community may not be crystal clear. Having said that, it should not hold you back. The first step to getting started in your pursuit of grant funding, is to do an analysis of your organization. This will allow you to know where your organization is, in real time.
The first thing you need to analyze are the needs in your community and how those needs match up with the mission of your organization. For example, if your organization is a homeless shelter, then you must become familiar with all the contributing factors related to homelessness in your target area. Some things that you may want to ask yourself include; Where are homeless people located in my community? Why are they homeless? How can we help them? What barriers do they face to getting a home or job? What resources do they need related to healthcare, housing and employment solutions? Once you have taken that inventory you will be one step closer to going after grant funding and making your goals a reality.
The next thing you will need to devise is your program plan. How are you going to address the needs you identified? What activities need to occur? What resources are necessary to implement these activities? Remember, the answer isn’t, “We need money!” It must be more detailed than that. What would you do with the money? How would you spend it? Once you have these answers, then identify the steps that will be taken.
After you have identified the community needs and the intricacies of program planning, you must then make sure that your organization has the resources, staffing and capacity to implement the project. If you do not have these resources, then take your planning one step further and figure out how to get them. Grant funds often provide you with the needed resources, but you will have to show some sort of capacity to get a grant that funds your project. If your organization doesn’t have the resources readily available, then consider partnering with another organization in your community and leveraging its resources. Whether you are using your own resources or a partnering organization’s resources, make sure that it is very clear to the funder that you have the capacity to implement the project and your organization is the best organization to do so.
You will also want to start building a preliminary budget for your project. If there are people that you want to employ for the project and they are not currently hired, begin recruiting, then you can include resumes in your grant application. Also, start thinking about how much time each staff member will need to commit to the project. It is likely that you will also need to include supplies, equipment and contractual/consultant lines in your budget. Start collecting bids now for inclusion in your grant application.
Partnerships are important when it comes to a grant funded project. Make sure that you contact partners and request their support for your proposed project. If they are a partner that can provide support, then include a letter of support from that individual or partnering agency. If they are a partner that will be contributing resources to your project, then you will want to secure a letter of commitment or memorandum of understanding. Both items describe each partner’s history, their working relationship and outlines the expectations of each party. Make sure to make these agreements as specific as possible.
Doing an analysis of your organization to prepare for a grant writing venture will help you succeed tremendously. It will allow you to have a smoother grant writing process because when you are developing the application you will have as much information as possible. Getting started (and doing as much early preparation as possible) will get you into the world of grants. It only takes one grant to change your entire organization’s future and kick-start your goal of addressing the needs in your community. Getting started and sticking with it, will assure your success. Keep meeting those needs, until they no longer exist.