What is a Grant?
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According to the Oxford Dictionary a grant is many things. As a noun, it is
“A sum of money given by a government or other organization for a particular purpose.”
As a formal mass noun, whatever that means, it is,
“The action of granting something,” and as a law noun it is, “A legal conveyance or formal conferment.”
Most true is the regular noun description, yet all definitions could be inferred for what we know of grants in the grant writing world. A grant is money given for a purpose, is granted to something (either individual, organization, county, government, etc.), and is considered a formal agreement usually marked with a contract of some sort.
To find grants, it is first important to understand what they are and what they are not. Let’s start with what they are not. Let me say this very clearly.
What a Grant is NOT
1) Grants are NOT free money. I mean, sure if you handle them correctly it is money given to you that you do not have to pay back. Holly, how is that not free money? Well, because you have to spend the money on what you said you were going to spend it on, reach the objectives you stated you were going to reach, and send a report to the funding source on how you will achieve all of this.
2) Grants do not pay back personal choices: Many times, people will ask me if there are tons of money out there to pay back student loans, pay off a house, or a car. Er, no. Sure, sometimes an individual may get a certain degree paid for by a company if they commit a certain number of years to work for the company. Yes, that happens because that company has a vested interest. If the company hires you to do landscaping and your education degree is in art history, they probably would not be inclined to pay your student loans. If you bought a BMW and then realized the loan was just too much (you thought the monthly payment was $400 per month, not $400 per paycheck!) and thought to go look for a grant to offset your payments, then you are mistaken. Personal choices that you make and that make an impact on your personal lifestyle other people, specifically funding sources, don’t really care about. That might sound harsh, but it is true. People might start caring about you if you have no money to even take the public bus to get to a job, so you can pay your bills. Then you might get a grant through a nonprofit that helps the impoverished, but chances are they would just give you bus passes. No moola.
“We live in a culture that quit asking, ‘How much?’ and instead asks, ‘How much down, and how much a month?’”~ DAVE RAMSEY
3) Grants are so easy to get and there are so many out there. If you have been listening to this podcast, you know this is a myth. Grants are very competitive and there may be many out there for what you do, but chances are there are not. That is where this entire podcast series comes into play: How to Find Grants. You may be listening to this because you know that grants are hard to get, and it is hard to find the best matching ones for your organization. Don’t worry. We will get to that.
What a Grant Is
1) Grants are an agreement. Grants must be used for what they said they were going to be used for…and that is usually very clear as you must fill out an application or proposal that the funding source will make available. As each funding source creates these applications and announcements they are all different. So, if you are applying for a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services it will look very differently than an application from The Kellogg Foundation. Heck, even grants under the different offices of the Department of Health and Human Services vary greatly from one another, as well as foundation applications.
One foundation application may have an online five question quiz that you must fill out to even approve if you are eligible, whereas another foundation may request a two-page letter of inquiry only during July. But in any grant once they approve funding for your organization then you have agreed to follow out the terms of the grant. If you do not follow out those terms, you may not get the money, or you may have to pay money back. So, to go into a grant with the perception it is free money is not really a good move. This will only cause all great heartache and may ruin your nonprofits reputation.
2) Grants fund certain objectives. Most grants fund projects. Some grants do fund operational costs or construction, but usually the operations are for certain projects and the construction will lead to projects for your target demographic. This means that grant monies usually must provide a positive change and the funding sources would like a way to measure this change. Sound complicated? Well, usually grants don’t fund all operations for a nonprofit as that would be hard to measure impact and would require long-term support.
Think of grants sort of like a loan. They are more certain projects, are bound by time, and will have a certain outcome. A grant could fund a summer camp. Your objective may be, “Super Cool Project Camp will serve 100 youth, ages 10-years-old to 15-years-old from May 1st to July 31st, 2018 and will increase their Super Skills by 50%.” You would put down your budget of personnel, fringe benefits, equipment, supplies, travel, other, and indirect cost rate into a budget. You would also have to outline how skills would be increased and what Super Skills are, what your recruitment for staff and youth would be and how you would select staff and youth.
If the costs total $50,000, but at the end of the grant you only served 50 kids and you employed half the staff you were going to, then the funding source may ask for some money back. Where else would it have gone? You may need to turn in receipts will all purchases. It is important to know how to track grant funding. More on that on a later podcast.
3) Grants are competitive and there may only be a handful, if that, available for your project. Grants are competitive. The internet has made it easier to find grants, while at the same time accessing a surmountable more number of grants and funding sources on the planet. It’s a catch 22. While you can find more grants, so is everybody else. As funding sources only have a certain amount of funding allocated for grant projects every year they need to make selections based on the best fit grant applications. Some funding sources do not even accept solicitations for grants as they ear-mark different organizations that they want to give to. Most funding sources only open their funding cycles at certain times throughout the year. Furthermore, every funding source will only give grants to what they think is important. If you write a proposal for sheep shearing and they only fund projects to do with water conversation, it will be a very difficult connection. They probably won’t give you funding as they do not indicate any sort of passion or purpose with sheep shearing. But they might fund a project that helps reduce water usage in a community by 25%.
Different Types of Grants
There are also different types of grants. For a full podcast that really breaks this down you can listen to episode number 002. For the cliff notes on this, there are namely federal grants and foundation grants.
For federal grants, there three categories: project grants, formula grants, and earmark grants. Earmark grants are earmarked and set-aside for certain governments or organizations. If you have an earmark grant, good for you! You are in a minority. If you do not have earmarked funding you cannot compete for it. Block grants are given to the state or local governments for certain purposes, such as Medicaid and Food stamps. Project grants are the federal grants you want to go after. Under project grants there are different types of grants. It’s like those Russian dolls where every time you take one apart there is another one underneath.
Regular Grants and Cooperative Agreements
Next, we get to regular grants and cooperative agreements. Regular grants are, well, regular. Cooperative Agreements are a little more detailed than regular grants where the federal government is much more involved, approves your staff, and delivers technical assistance of some sort. That’s as detailed as I will go with federal grants today as there are more layers, but basically what many nonprofits should pay attention to for federal grants are the project grants that are either regular grants or cooperative agreements.
Foundation grants have different layers, as well, but are much simpler. For example, there are two types of foundations: Public charity or Private Foundation. A public charity is a foundation that asks the public for money to funds its own project. This could be like PBS asking for money during a telethon. A Private Foundation is a foundation is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization having a principal fund managed by its own trustees or directors and awards monies to charitable, educational, religious, or other activities serving the public good, primarily through the making of grants to other nonprofit organizations. These foundations all have their own way of giving grants, separate funding cycles, and their own priorities. Your best bet is to find a foundation that aligns its mission and vision with your nonprofits and gives to projects like yours.
Grant Opportunities of the week:
Federal GrantName: Adaptive Sports Programs for Disabled Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces program
Funding Priority: The ASG Program’s purpose is to provide grants to eligible adaptive sports entities to plan, develop, manage, and implement programs to provide adaptive sports activities for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.
Due Date: May 2, 2018
Amount: $500,000 Average award
Number of Anticipated Awards: 95
Cost Sharing: 0
Foundation GrantName: The Brookdale Foundation
Funding Priority: A 2018 Request for Proposals (RFP) is Now Available for Agencies Interested in: 1) Creating or Expanding Supportive Services for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children (RAPP), or 2) Establishing a Group Respite or Early Memory Loss Program for Elders with Dementia.
Due Date: June 27, 2018
Amount: Average amount of $15,000
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As always, send me an email if you have any grant writing and/or funding questions!Warmly,