Finding funding for a community service organization is critically important, and highly competitive. Anyone can submit grant applications, but few will be successful, because even though their hearts are in the right place, their minds aren’t. Most often grant application writing is done by an organization’s executive director or manager, folks whose time for any one task is limited, and who wear a terrific number of hats already. Sometimes the grant application is delegated to a staff member, but regardless of who fills them in, applications are usually ‘thrown together’ at the last minute. This is a great recipe for unsuccessful grant applications.
Given the importance of applying for grants and funding, it’s ironic that so little forethought and planning are put into them, but honestly, there’s only so much a person can do in a day. Fortunately there’s a wealth of free grant application help and advice that’s now available online. However, while the internet’s a great resource for information, unfortunately it can take a lot of time to learn and apply that information. And time’s the one thing that most organizations simply have the least of to spare.
Luckily, there’s now grant application software programs to automate much of the application process. However, the programs are only as good as the information that’s entered, and they cannot convey the passion that’s behind the application. Nor can they truly convey the value that the funding will provide. Therefore, to ensure greater grant application success, some of the larger organizations employ professional grant writers. And, for very good reason.
Grant writing pros have years of experience and insider insights to the application process that the average person will likely never know. They’re a great asset for organizations who can afford them, but the majority of smaller organizations don’t have the funds to shell out $40,000+ a year to keep one on staff. And that’s just the cost for a mediocre one! Really great grant writers will cost significantly more, but are well worth every cent. A less expensive alternative to putting a grant writer on the payroll, is to hire a professional grant writing service to research and manage the whole grant application process from beginning to end.
However, less expensive can still be quite expensive for those without deep pockets, because fees can range into many thousands of dollars. So, a great (and far less expensive) alternative is for someone in the organization to complete the application, then hire a professional grant reviewer to proofread, edit, and make recommendations for improvement. For many, this application assistance option often turns out to be the best alternative, as it improves the success rate of applications, and as a bonus, provides professional grant application training to staff in the process. One such service in Canada is Grant Assistance Services.
A few words of caution: Be aware that most funders will not consider your organization for funding until you can produce two full years of financial records. So, if you don’t have at least that, please check with the funder before applying to see if they’ll still consider your application. Don’t be discouraged by those who won’t though, because there is funding available for start-ups, you’ll just need to target your efforts finding funding sources who specifically encourage them. Remember, the more open and honest you are with potential funders, the more open they’ll be to helping you.
And last but not least, before hiring anyone to assist you with grant applications, make real sure that whoever it is has the qualifications, proven success record, and legitimate references to back up their claims. Grants aren’t ‘free money’, they’re provided to accomplish very specific goals for the betterment of others, and great grant applications focus on that fact. So if you know of a struggling charity, perhaps suggest that they look into hiring a service to help them to raise funds. I say this because the right grant assistance can make a whole world of difference to the people who are trying to make a difference in the world.