I’m in the process of writing an e-book for publication this summer called A Bold Approach to Grants Research. This book encourages grantseekers to challenge their thinking when it comes to identifying funders for a particular program or project.
I am writing this book because I think we often get stuck in a rut when it comes to seeking support. We tend to drift toward those grantmakers who have supported us in the past, or grantmakers we think should have supported us! We rely on the regional community foundation, or the family fund that is most active in our area. We turn to those two or three businesses that seem to support everything (even if it is a small amount). It is hard to break out of this mold not only because we are familiar with these grantmakers, so approaching them seems easier, but also because we really don’t know where else to look or how to think about funding in a different way.
I have a mantra I use when someone asks me about seeking grant support for an organization:
If the concept is bold and the research is solid, then funding will follow.
It’s not the most insightful comment, but it is one that I really believe is true. And if I feel strongly that the concept has to be bold, I believe even more strongly that the research has to reflect that same courageous approach.
So what does a “courageous approach” look like?
This type of approach means thinking outside the box. Considering a completely different way to fund a program or project. Just as an experiment, try setting aside all of the traditional sources you would consider asking for support. Take them completely out of the mix.
Then ask yourself: who will benefit from the proposed program or project that requires funding?
For example, let’s say you are asked to help find the funds to build a new fire station. The land has been donated, but there are no funds for construction and equipment for the new station. As you can imagine, trying to identify government or private grantmakers that might fund this project would be tough.
Putting on the “bold researcher hat,” you ask yourself: who benefits from this new fire station? You’ll probably come up with a list, but one of those answers will be the businesses that are now located within a mile of the new station. Their fire insurance rates will go down because they are now close to a fire station, whereas before they might have been a fair distance away. So you do a little research, talk to a few businesses and insurance companies, and realize that if you approach the businesses in this area you can ask them each for the amount they will save on their fire insurance for the next several years if this new station is built.
Coming up with this idea doesn’t preclude considering the normal grantmakers one might approach to fund a new fire station. You would certainly still include sources such as the U.S.D.A. Community Facilities Grants, and probably support from the local government, but as part of the overall strategy you would include this unorthodox approach.
That is thinking boldly. That is thinking outside the box. Your overall approach is creative and somewhat courageous. This sort of bold thinking has the power to excite, motivate, and align stakeholders. It is an interesting approach that will help generate the funds you need to build and equip the new fire station.
So next time you have to research and identify potential grantmakers for a program or project, try this approach and see if it works for you. (And be sure to let me know what bold approach you’ve developed!)
A GrantStation Membership can help you research new funder opportunities to support your bold approach. On sale now for $149.
The preceding is a guest post by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.