Monday, January 4, 2010

What do funders want?

When you start out on the path of grant writing, figuring out what funders want can seem very confusing.  Actually, it's not as complicated as it seems. Here's the answer to that elusive question, "What do funders want?"
  • They want to know they are funding an organization that has a vision that matches theirs. They don't have time to mess around with folks who are just chasing money, and you don't have time to chase the money at the expense of your organization's mission and vision.  Look for and find funding sources that want to fund projects like yours.
  • They want to know that their money will be well spent and well managed.That's why many foundations won't fund organizations that have been in operation for less than three years.  That's why they want to see your overall agency budget.  That's why they often ask to see audit reports.Think about it.  When you donate money to a charity, don't you want to know it will be well managed?
  • They want to fund organizations that have the capacity to implement the program they funded. If your overall budget is less than $1,000,000 a year, you will be unlikely to receive a grant for several million dollars.  Why?  Because you have not yet demonstrated the capacity to manage that amount of money successfully.  Even if you have a larger overall budget, if all of your programs have been local and small scale, you would be unlikely to receive a grant to implement a program nationally.  That doesn't mean you can't work up to it, but don't underestimate the importance of capacity.
  • They want to to receive proposals that answer their questions directly and succinctly. Imagine that you had $10 to give to someone to start a lemonade stand, and you asked for essays describing how the recipient would use the money to start a lemonade stand. When the proposals roll in, half of them address the questions you ask clearly and directly . Some of the others make the case for why a hot chocolate stand would be better, or how they would like to expand their very successful muffin stand, or something else. Some of the others address the question, but they go on and on about how many soda stands they have implemented, and how many bike routes they have built, and....and.....and....Even though they all took the time and effort to put proposals together, the only ones who have a chance are those who directly and succinctly described how they would use the money to start a lemonade stand.
  • They want to make a difference in the world - just like you. Even though they may not say it, funders want to recognize and feel your passion for what you do.  Addressing the questions in the application directly is important.  Competence and capacity and good fiscal stewardship matter, to be sure, but make sure the funders know that you have a heart, that you care about the work you do, and that you are making a difference in the world.

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.