• Neva Bryan

Four Reasons You Shouldn’t Apply for That Grant

It happens time and again. A colleague in your organization receives a tip about a grant. Or perhaps you discover it in an e-newsletter. Suddenly there’s a chaotic exchange of emails and a rush of last-minute meetings because someone thought it was a good idea to apply for the funding. It’s an all-hands-on-deck affair. You squeak by the deadline, and now you have your fingers crossed that the application will be approved.

So, what’s wrong with applying for funding? In theory, nothing. In reality, chasing the money without a plan may cause some unintended negative consequences for your organization. Here are four reasons why:

1. You disrupt your organizational operations by applying for grants at the last minute. If employees must drop what they’re doing to help pull together the application, their other important work will fall through the cracks. The productivity pipeline will get clogged.

2. You are setting up employees for an adrenaline rush they don’t need or want. The chaos may cause stress, while the extra work may give birth to resentment. By the time employees return to their regular job responsibilities, they are mentally and emotionally tired. Morale starts circling the drain.

3. A by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to grant-seeking may not serve your organizational strategy and mission. If you win the funding, will your organization have the capacity to fulfill the deliverables? Will the new grant help the institution reach its goals, or will it send you down a rabbit hole? You don’t need another pot of money just for the sake of having it.

4. Putting together a grant application on a whim does a disservice to your organization. You might need letters of recommendation from partners. How will they feel about being asked to submit a letter without enough time to write a thoughtful one, especially if you regularly subject them to this kind of request? What will funders think if you submit an incomplete or less-than-stellar application? You run the risk of damaging your reputation with partners and funders.

I suggest three solutions to prevent some of these problems.

Develop a strategy and a timeline for finding funding. Research funders and grants thoroughly so that you know what offerings fit your organization’s mission. I recommend blocking time on your schedule each month to do your research. Plan 1-2 years out and add deadlines to a fund-seeking calendar. Be sure to include hard dates for reaching out to partners, putting together your budget, and writing the proposal.

Keep an updated directory of qualified for-hire grant writers. Let one or two of these writers do the heavy lifting while your employees continue their daily work activities.

Finally, learn to say no. You don’t have to apply for funding just because it’s there. Not applying for a grant may give you FOMO (fear of missing out), but there will be other opportunities. According to the Foundation Directory Online, there are tens of millions of grants available.

So the next time that exciting opportunity casts dollar signs in your eyes, take a deep breath and think. Consider if it fits within your organization’s strategic plan. Will another application overload your employees or damage the goodwill of your partner organizations? It may be more beneficial for you to sit this one out.

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