Right on the Money: Going After Grants—Are the Time and Effort Always Worth It?

A diverse group of philanthropists.

Nothing in life is free, and that holds true for grants. When deciding whether or not to seek funding from a foundation, government agency or corporation, busy youth-service professionals need to weigh the costs and benefits of writing the grant proposal, managing the project, and reporting back to the funder, says John Porter, executive director of the American Grant Writers' Association.

In fact, putting together a grant proposal might not be worth the time and effort if the award is small and the grant maker requires a lot of documentation. "Estimate the man hours to both write and administer the grant," Porter says. "In a few cases, the hourly wage may actually exceed the amount of the award."

When considering whether or not to go after a grant, take the following steps:

Read the grant announcement or RFP (request for proposal) closely to learn what is expected of groups that will receive the grant. "The best place to find funders' RFPs is the Foundation Center Directory," Porter says. The directory is available for free in a number of locations across the country. In addition, he says, "Nearly every local library will have at least a few other sources of local funding in print form."

Determine if your organization and your clients (who will receive the services made possible by the grant funding) are eligible. "Even though one could argue that all youth are deserving, the RFP may stipulate that only a certain sector of youth are eligible for a particular award," Porter explains. "This group might be identified by income, at-risk, health, school district, etc."

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your organization ready to receive grant funding? In other words, do you have the people, connections, and expertise to do the work a grant maker will ask of you?
  • Do the purpose, activities, and goals of the grant fit your mission?
  • Will you be able to keep the project going after the grant runs out? If so, how?

Find more information about fundraising in general and grant writing in particular, as well as links to fundraising resources, on the NCFY Web site.

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