An Insider’s Guide to Grants and Fundraising: Interview With Entrepreneur Valerie Grant

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Valerie Grant has worked with nonprofit organizations and for-profit organizations to help obtain grant funding since 1998. Her company, Grant Consulting Services, assists organizations through project development, comprehensive funding searches, expert grant management, and professional grant proposal writing services. Valerie is also a published author and an accomplished freelance writer.

Read on to learn more about her career path and how the grants process works.

What led you to become a grant writer?

I became a grant writer quite by accident. I was working at a nonprofit organization when I lived in Virginia and, like many nonprofit organizations, we wear multiple hats in order to meet the needs of the people we serve. I was the volunteer and transportation coordinator as well as a database administrator. A colleague was also doing multiple jobs and did not have time to work on a small grant application. I wanted to help the team and had an interest in learning more about grants. I worked on the application, submitted it, and it was awarded.

It was a small grant of about $1,200, but it meant a lot to me that I was able to help secure those funds. I started helping more with other grant applications. I found that I really enjoy the grant development process, and found it to be very rewarding, especially because we started to be awarded more and more critical funding for the organization.

Our next service is to identify potential funders through a funding search. Next, we write the grant proposal tailored to the potential funder’s specific guidelines. When the grant is awarded, we assist with the grant management and follow-up reporting. Grant compliance and reporting are essential to continue to build relationships with funders so that organizations and funders can continue their good work together in the community.

What are primary sources of funding?

The majority of fundraising dollars for nonprofits actually comes from individual donors and not grants. Grants being a primary source of revenue is one of the misconceptions that we try to help organizations to understand.

In other words, don’t expect grant funds to be more than about 20% of the budget; the statistics show that about 80% of funding comes from individual donors. Fees for services are also a good way to raise money for nonprofit organizations.

What are the different types of grants?

In general, there are three different types of grant funds: there’s government funding (federal, state, and regional), corporate funding, and foundation funding. There are no fees associated with submitting a grant application. If an organization is charging an application fee, it is a contest—not a grant application. There are very few grants for for-profit organizations or individuals. Grants for businesses are primarily for R&D and green initiatives. Grant for individuals are restricted to higher education.

How do grant funders track how organizations use their funds?

Follow-up reporting is important in order to report how the program performed. Organizations typically track data about how many people they are helping and how they are changing their participants’ lives (outcomes).

For example, let’s presume 500 students were assisted in an after-school mentoring program by this program. Next, the program would demonstrate how they made a difference in the students’ lives. Maybe their grades improved by two points or they feel more comfortable being in a classroom setting; those could be outcomes.

The number of people to be served and expected outcomes are detailed in the original grant request. Organizations want to let funders know specifically what they’re going to do and then make sure to do it within the grant period. If you missed the goals and outcomes by a little bit, that’s okay—just be honest and say we fell short on this one outcome. We only help 450 students instead of 500. And here’s what we’re going to do to improve that in the future. Generally, funders are very understanding and want to continue to help and assist.

A couple of important things to note about grants is that most organizations want general operating support. They want money to pay salaries, lights, and rent. Unfortunately, only about 15% of foundations or corporations actually give general operating support. So use program revenue or individual donations for general operations. Funders may offer seed money to start a new program, or to scale up or expand an existing program.

On average, what is the award rate of grants?

The footwork prior to submitting the application is really important. Always conduct in-depth research about a potential funder to make sure that the mission of the organization is aligned with the funder’s focus area and is within their guidelines. Doing the research prior to submitting a proposal can help to ensure you have a good, solid foundation. Also, try to establish a connection with the foundation or the funding organization prior to submitting the application if possible.

Most funders receive far more applications than they can fund. There’s a limited pool of money and they just can’t help every organization they would like to. Approximately 35% to 40% of grant applications are actually funded.

How important is it for nonprofit organizations to collaborate with each other?

Collaboration is not just a buzzword—it’s definitely important in the nonprofit world. It’s an interesting scenario because nonprofit organizations compete for funds with each other, yet they also need to collaborate and work together in order to help people in their community.

Collaborative efforts are especially important when trying to obtain government funding. Government agencies like to see collaborative efforts. Organizations need to work together and can make a greater impact because those government funding dollars tend to be higher and more competitive.

What do you think about the rise of “social impact organizations”?

I think it’s wonderful. It allows more opportunities to help people. There are greater needs in the world and globally we’re able to do more through organizations like Toms Shoes and others, especially women-owned businesses in countries that don’t have a lot of opportunities or resources.

For example, I know of one organization that was helping in the sub-Saharan region of Africa to provide microloans so that program participants could create jewelry that is exported to Western countries. That’s an example of how the economy is globalized and how social enterprises work locally and can impact multiple regions and more diverse people and groups.

Source : allbusiness

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