Top Ten Rules of Fundable Grants

Fundable rulesTop Ten Rules of Fundable Grants

by Danny Blitch, MPA, GPC

The issue of whether a grant proposal is fundable is a complicated one. Narrowing the issue down to only ten steps has been a challenge too. Rules, like grant proposals, should be clear, concise, and comprehensive. Grant rules, however, are complicated by politics, and deadlines.

Rule #1: Project or Program: To be or not to be!

In general, projects are short-term and programs are long-term. Obviously, there are exceptions. An important consideration is whether you’re seeking short or long-term funds. Your program proposal isn’t fundable if you need 3-years but the funder only awards 12-month projects.

Rule #2: Eligibility: Who are you?

This is very important. Spend as long as you need on this one. Decide whether or not the funding source considers you eligible. Most grants are awarded to institutions and nonprofits, however, some grants are made to individuals and businesses. Who does your paperwork say you are?

Rule #3: Organization Serves Beneficiaries: What are we doing here?

A track record of success is vital, and more importantly who your organization serves is critical. How did you get into the serving people business? Best practice is to ask the beneficiaries about their needs and find the solution that fits. Designing a grant project in a vacuum is doomed before it starts. How did we get here and where are we?

Rule #4: Good Idea: If no one wants it, no one will fund it.

Not all grant ideas are good. An important consideration is whether to not the grant project/program will make an impact a funder will support. If the funder doesn’t want your project, it is not fundable.

Rule #5: Innovation versus Tradition: Good to Great or too Good to Fail?

Just because this is the way we have always done it doesn’t make it a bad idea. Conversely, just because you have never tried a different way doesn’t mean it will work. The truth is, not all grant programs are successful. Some grant projects are beautiful catastrophic failures. Some are slow and messy winners. As a grant strategy, you can be innovative in your approach or traditional, successful awards depend on the funder’s mentality.

Rule #6: Solution to Need: We ain’t got no money, so we need it.

Proof of previous success is a good indicator of future success, usually. What steps have you taken to ensure the funder the solution you are proposing will address the need? Just because your financial resources are low, does not automatically mean you will be funded. Is there a competitor in the same area/space. Can you partner with another organization serving the same population?  Needs assessments, strategic plans, and sustainable methods are paramount to success.

Rule #7: Proposal Conforms to Grant Purpose: Where’s the funding authorization?

Occasionally the purpose of the proposed project gets lost during the writing of a proposal. A third-party objective reviewer or editor can help you determine if the written narrative conforms to the purpose of the grant. The purpose or purposes are outlined in the grant guidelines. For example, government grants will always have a budget authorization. What does the donor want us to spend the money doing? Can you conform?

Rule #8: Money. Money. Money: If the money fits, submit!

How much you need does matter. Cost estimates prepared by professionals are important and the funder’s funding priorities are equally as important. You won’t be successful if you’re seeking $2.5M and the maximum award is $25,000. Grant reviewers are usually very experienced professionals and know the value of a widget and the cost to purchase a thing-a-ma-jig.

Rule #9: SMART Goals/Objectives: No. No. Race Tracking

A race track starts and usually stops at the same place. Instead, you must create strong goals and measurable objectives. Every grant proposal should include the project milestones for tracking the outcomes and outputs. Goals and objectives keep your project moving forward, not going in circles nowhere.

Rule #10: Expected Outcomes: No, way? Yes, way!

Every funder wants to know what you think the impacts will be on the target group. The outcomes should be reasonable and practical for the time period proposed. This is not a consideration you leave up to the reviewer’s imagination. Confidence goes a long way. If you aren’t sure where you have been, you won’t know when you get to where you want to be either.

FINAL Rule: Future Deadline: Drop dead!

None of the other 10-rules apply if the deadline has past.


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Danny Blitch, MPA, GPC – Danny’s career in grants spans more than 20-years and includes experience at a municipality, county board of education, a Regional Development Center, a state university’s development office and as a grant consultant. He received his GPC credential in 2008. Danny is a frequent speaker, workshop presenter, and author. He chaired of the Grant Professionals Foundation (2008-2011) and currently serves on the Grant Professionals Association Board of Directors.

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