Reference materials and resources are the key toward preparing—and winning—a grant. Greg True, a grants specialist, presented a forum on grant resources during a recent conference.
True said a new help for grant seekers is the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Web site’s “Grant Writing Manual” that can be obtained at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/resource/GrantWritingManual.pdf
. The document guides grant seekers through many of the steps involved in preparing and filing a Federal grant application.
The manual is particularly for the DOJ’s formula grants, discretionary grants, earmarks, and reimbursement and payment programs. It is a relatively short guide, but concise enough to be a good starting point, regardless of whether the grant you are seeking is Federal or not. But True points out that, while the guide is a good overview, there is much more to grant writing.
Even your pre-planning is vital to your success. You must begin with a firm idea of what project you want to pursue, why that project is necessary, and, of course, how to fund it. As you begin to research potential grantors, you must find those grantors who “match” your project. Grantors have specific parameters within which they either must work or choose to work. Only if your project matches what your grantor is funding should you apply to that grantor. Because each grantor has specific regulations about how to apply for a grant, you must develop a proposal that meets that grantor’s rules.
Begin your pre-planning by exploring the Internet to match your project to grantors’ priorities in projects, geographic location of those projects and time for the projects. You will find that the parameters will vary widely, especially if you are seeking money from a private (non government) grantor.
Some grantors will talk in broad generalities, discussing projects that will build assets, develop communities and their resources, promote safety, enhance justice, further education, etc. But other grantors will use very specific terms about projects, equipment, services, or what they will fund, and may even add elements about what specific geographic area must be served by the grant.
Get the specific requirements of each potential grantor, log the requirements and deadlines, and keep track of whatever trends or emphases you find in each grantor’s Web site. Grantors sometimes change their focus from time to time so a project favored a few years ago may not now be within the grantor’s preferences. The grantor’s specifications can occasionally serve you as a guide to the way you will formulate your own wording in the grant application.
While you do not want to parrot the grantor’s exact specifications in your wording, you do want to include discussion of the key elements that show that your project matches what the grantor funds. Every word you use will have an effect. Your application’s format, grammar, spelling and syntax will count. Be sure your words are correct and polished. It is best to use language anyone can understand because the reader of your application will not usually be someone in police work. You can insert words or phrases applicable to your specific project or its needs, but define those words if they are law enforcement jargon.
As you write, include the key words that match the grantor’s requirements, but don’t overdo it. Repeating and parroting may result in a negative effect with the application’s reader, and a rejection of your application. Write in the third person (e.g. “the agency” “Joe Smith,” etc.). For help, log on to www.Bartleby.com
for a free version of suggested styles of writing, or consult some books on writing styles such as Strunk’s “Elements of Style.”
Avoid any words that are vague or jargon. Write concisely, using strong verbs. Doing so will lessen the need for adjectives and adverbs. The readers of your grant application do not meet you in person. Instead, your application represents you and your agency. Be sure the application is presenting the impression you want to make. And, even if the grant application does not require great detail, write in specifics, using concise language. Describe exactly what the grantor wants to know.
Remember to follow all of the format requirements such as font type and size, margins, line spacing, number of copies and so on. Even the most worthy proposal for a project will be rejected if the application writer used the wrong format. The process of grants involves trust. You are trusting that the grantor will fund your project, but you must remember that your grantor must trust your organization. Some of that trust appears—or not—right at that first step of the application. If you cannot be trusted to follow the rules about applying, how can you be trusted to administer the grantor’s money properly?
Grantors have defined priorities for what they fund. Your project must match those priorities. If you are not sure whether there is a match, do some further exploring by calling or e-mailing the grantor to ask questions or to get an in-person meeting with the grantor.
If there are informational seminars offered by the grantor, attend them. Make contacts, get your information straight and refine your strategies as needed. Certainly most of the emphasis is going to be on the grant application, but preliminary and preplanning steps such as these may very well enhance your chances at beating the competition and winning a grant.
Formerly, grant applications were done on paper, using mail. While some grants are still handled this way, the trend now is that grant applications are done through an online process. Some of the applications are relatively short, especially if they are for a corporate or foundation (private) grant, while other applications can run 10 pages or more. But just because the process has gone online, that does not mean that applying for a grant has become informal. Be certain you know the grantor’s requirements. Be certain you have met the requirements at each step of the application.
Once your pre-planning is done, progress toward choosing the grantors most likely to fund your project. True advises that grant seekers must begin with an examination of all the elements that go into each individual grant application. No element can be overlooked or glossed over. Grantors want their specifications followed exactly. He reminded that not adhering to all the requirements of a grantor will mean that the grant application will be rejected.
True said that among the points most grant applications must include are the executive summary, problem or statement of need, statement of introduction, project description, work plan, budget, memorandum of agreement, evaluation, plus other points or steps to be described that are required by the specific grantor. Be sure to include every element that is required.
For example, the executive summary is one of the most important documents in your proposal, according to True. It is, in essence, your opportunity to “sell” your idea or project to the grantor. Most grant application rules require that it be short, usually only one or two pages, so it must be concise. You have to include everything in just a few words so that means you will be writing and rewriting to hone everything. Because it is a summary, it is likely to be the first place the grant application reader will go to learn about your project.
In reality, for some reviewers, it is the only item read when considering projects. If the reviewer likes what that summary says, your proposal will move up the ladder for further consideration. If the summary does not “sell” your project, your application will be rejected. The lesson? Your wording is important, even in something as short as a summary.
True adds that, on rare occasions, it may be necessary to seek grants from two or more grantors to fund a project. Matching funds might be obtainable, but be certain that each grantor permits matching, and know the limit, if any, of how much can be matched.
“Research a lot!” said True. If it is appropriate, partner with other agencies so that duplication of project services is avoided and so that a “regional” aspect to your project is evident. Over the past few years, there has been a strong trend that grantors prefer projects that go beyond the original agency to other agencies so that more will benefit from the project.
Grant money is plentiful, but the playing field is competitive. Federal, State and local governments usually give well over $400 billion per year in competitive grants. Private foundations, currently numbering about 72,000, grant about $40 billion a year (by law, they are required to give away 5 percent of their assets per year). Corporations, large and small, give grants of all sizes as a way of returning goodwill to the communities and customers that buy their products and services. The Budget
Grantors do not want you to make money from the grant; they want to fund a project. Grantors are rightfully concerned that their money is being used wisely and prudently. The budget you describe in your grant application is what you will have to use throughout your project.
Remember to include easily overlooked items such as rent, utilities, postage, phone, office, travel, legal fees, auto rental, etc. Designated grants require a work plan and budget, but non-designated grants do not. You may need a grant for your main project, but smaller, non-designated funds from other grantors to pay the miscellaneous costs of your project.
Be sure your agency can actually handle the project as proposed because you will be executing a contract with the grantor. There will be legal obligations in that contract, and your budget will reflect what you are contracting to do in managing and using the money you are receiving. You are legally obligated to use the money as intended, to fulfill the contract’s requirements.
In a collaborative project involving multiple agencies, a grantor usually has all the agencies working under one contract. One agency is the leader. Such collaborative grants are growing in popularity with grantors because smaller agencies can expand their service area, or a project can serve more people, or there may be increased efficiency because there are fewer grants and contracts involved. That stretches the grantor’s money.
Greg True added that some law enforcement agencies set up a 501 (c) (3) entity so that fundraising opportunities can be broadened and enhanced. It might be worth it for your agency to explore the idea.
Budgeting has to be specific, direct and complete, True said. “Know the actual costs,” he said. Total amounts of information must be obtained from anyone involved in the project from vendors and up-fitting, to postage and office supplies, “every aspect of it,” he said.
Open a bank account with the grant money. Follow every fiscal guideline and rule the grantor requires. There will likely be a time lag between beginning the project and receiving money for it. Plan for ways you will cover expenses in the meantime. Your grantor might use electronic funds transfers, specifying that the money must be spent within a certain time so it does not accrue interest.
Be conservative with the grantor’s money, spending only on what you are supposed to fund. Anything else will be disallowed and have to be paid back if spent wrongly. And there may even be criminal penalties for mismanagement. Handle the money with the care and trust it deserves.
Your project may involve a match in which there is something of value, but given at no cost such as the use of a vehicle, volunteers, facilities, or an employee from another agency. To determine the value of volunteer work, log on to www.IndependentSector.org for studies of giving and volunteering, and the value, financially, of such help.
Exploring Grant Sources
The Internet site that is a clearinghouse of information, and the most likely to help you with Federal government grants is www.Grants.gov. It is a free service tool that also offers e-mail alerts applicable to your particular interests. The Web site helps you research grants, apply for them, and keep up to date with what the Federal government has to offer to grantees.
By law, it is supposed to list every Federal grant available, and it is close to achieving that goal. However, you should also log on to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Web site (www.cfda.gov), where on occasion, there is better use of keywords and other features versus www.Grants.gov.
In the private sector, there is not one, main clearinghouse for private grant research, but The Foundation Center’s Web site has a “Grant Maker Statistics” tab to see the top 50 donors in your State. Log on to www.Foundationcenter.org for more information.
Register at a foundation’s or corporation’s grant Web site, or at a clearinghouse’s link to obtain e-mail updates as soon as possible, even if you are not sure the private grantor’s match is one you can meet. The process of registering for the updates sometimes takes up to a month to process. That delay could cause you to miss a grant deadline for money for your project should you find that the grantor is, in fact, a good match for your project.
While most of your work online will be your own, you may find it helpful to network with colleagues at other agencies similar to yours to share knowledge about grants. Such networking might also help you avoid mistakes or the grantors who are not appropriate for your project goals.
Use search engines such as Google or Bing to enter key words such as government grants, equipment grants, private grants, grants clearinghouses, etc. Search engines may yield quicker access to State, local, tribal or private grants that are not yet listed on clearinghouse Web sites.
Determining the projects a grantor funds, and how much they are willing to give can be researched on www.GuideStar.org, a Web site that will also show the tax returns for non-profit organizations. You can study the patterns in the sizes of the grants and the types of agencies receiving them, and determine if there is a match to what you plan to do. You must register on the Web site, but it is a free service.
True added that The Foundation Center is a funding source that can easily be overlooked by those researching only government-funded grants. At the Foundation Center’s Web site, you can click on to the “Find Fundraisers” tab, browse through Requests For Proposals (RFP) and other opportunities outside the traditional government process for law enforcement funds and grants. The Foundation Center is a non-profit organization supported by other organizations across the country. A subscription is not required, but may be desirable, depending on your circumstances.
“Be organized,” True said. In that way, your approach to grant seeking is more efficient—saving time, keeping you on top of deadlines and enhancing your knowledge of grantors and their potential matches to your project. Look at synopses, and link to the Request for Proposals that are presented. You may also want to complete a “Prospect Worksheet” for institutional and private donors. If you find a potential donor for your project, know what your budget needs will be to start the project. If you find that the grantor will fund only, say, half of your needs, do not request a full amount.
“Do research on them and what they typically do,” True recommended. “They look for ways to cull the proposals down.” He said that, typically, only about 10 percent of applications might make it. “A lot has to do with limited resources they have that year,” he said. Show correlations between that and your organization. Remember to comply with any geographic limitations. Support the project in such ways as in-kind donations or products, and factor in such extra sources in your grant application, showing your willingness to supplement what will be needed.
Scan and upload all the necessary pages for your grant application, True said. Type in your information and save it in a lower version of Microsoft Word, such as 2003 Office, not 2007 or above.
True recommended logging on to The Grantsmanship Center at www.tgci.com. It lists sources, by State, with links to Web sites. Check its Frequently Asked Questions section and its About Us section for community foundations or other sources. “Learn to go through this information rapidly, or you’ll spend too much time researching,” True said. Newsletters, such as the Philanthropy News Digest weekly or the RFP Bulletin, may have links to grantors or ideas you can use for your proposal or future project proposals.
Corporate giving programs may also be a source of money for your project. “They do exist, even in this economy,” True said. These direct, discretionary grants usually require at least a letter of request or a formal grant application, but they tend to be quicker than other sources in letting you know whether you have won a grant. True said turnaround time for some corporate giving could be as short as 30 to 60 days for a decision.
Be open to all avenues of grants, including those from private foundations. The non-profit, private sector is diverse and may be a viable source for your grant. Keep in touch with your U.S. Congressional and State representatives, True said, so that you keep aware of funding opportunities.
If your grant needs are small, look for “mini grants.” They usually come from corporate and non-profit sources, but generally have a simple application process. However, as easy as the grant application may seem to be, don’t get complacent, True warns. Even if the grant application is short, be thorough. Send in everything that will build a favorable opinion of your proposal.
Tailoring Your Proposal to Specifics
When you prepare a letter of inquiry, think of it as a letter form of your executive summary. If the grantor does not want unsolicited letters, you should be able to ask if the organization matches your need. Request an invitation to submit your proposal.
“Fundraising is not a fast process,” True said. “It’s a lot of hurry up and wait,” but your inquiries might get the process started for you. Remember, too, that many foundations and private sources of grants run on a “shoestring” staff, True said. Things might not move along simply because there are so few people working on what needs to be done.
True cited the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder at www.factfinder.census.gov as an excellent source for demographic information. Enter a zip code and the Fact Finder will give highlights about people and their communities—information that can be included, as appropriate, in your grant application’s needs statement. Even though a census occurred during 2010, it will take time to post the newest statistics, but the current Fact Finder information can be appropriate to selling your idea to the grantor.
If you need to include crime statistics in your application, log on to State or Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data Web sites to augment your information. Browse by State or region, and bring national issues down to your local level, True said, so that you show “one of the keys to building a successful proposal” for your project in its area.
Check www.bls.gov if your project is one involving community service and jobs in your region. Include the appropriate data or statistics that apply to your grant application. Online grants applications and management systems will require that your agency have a Duns number (www.dnb.com) and Employee Identification Number (www.irs.gov). “Make sure your information is correct and current,” True said.
Even though you do your “homework” and research everything carefully and craft a good grant application, your application might still be rejected. Re-assess whether you have done enough to dialog and network with the grantor. Such dialog early in the process might tell you whether you are wasting your time pursuing a grant from that grantor. Keep in mind that your project must match the grantor’s preferences.
Failing to win a grant is also a time to consider partnering with other programs or agencies for a grant. Some grantors do not want to fund single-agency proposals, and prefer collaborative or regional projects that eliminate duplication.
Grant writing requires knowing your project, and matching it to the grantors’ priorities. Contact grantors, and build professional relations with them. Set your project in a way that forms it to the grantor’s preferences, thus helping your chances for winning the grant. Think “who,” “how much” and “for what” when applying. Quickly get to the point about your organization, its needs, and how the grant money will be spent.
Write in a style that is specific and clear. Emphasize your main points. Ask for a specific amount. Write and edit your grant in a way that makes it clear and logical to the grantor that your project has merit and that it deserves funding from the grantor. Make your points quickly, and support them. Read the grantor’s guidelines and write to match exactly what the grantor wants in projects that it funds.
Because online grant applications usually make the “who,” “how much,” and “for what” easy to write, you need to fill in your steps of the work to be done, the problem to be solved, the goals, how the problem will be addressed by the project, etc. in a way that “sells” your project.
If your application must name specific personnel, do so by their job titles, not their personal names. If your application must describe equipment to be purchased or used, speak in generalities, avoiding brand names, unless the grantor requires otherwise.
The Project Plan
Work plans, goals and objectives are usually written in narrative, rubric (grid-based), or logic models (super charged rubric). Look at your project’s goals and objectives. Goals are broad and non measurable; objectives are specific and measurable.
Objectives can be outcome-based or process-based. Outcome-based objectives tell how conditions will improve. Outcome-based objectives are more difficult to write than process-based objectives that merely say what will be implemented and how the implementations will be controlled.
Outcome-based objectives usually use such verbs as purchase, serve, obtain, publish, develop, assess, raise money, survey, build, hire, implement, create, refurbish, coordinate and provide. Process-based objectives usually set a period within which something will be done.
The methods section of the project plan will detail each objective in a “project at a glance” format. Resources and input will include staff, budget, partners, activities, outputs (delivery of the product or service), outcomes (participants’ benefit in the project) and impact (changes in communities and/or systems).
Objectives must be attainable and realistic, but grantors sometimes expect stretching even further than the set objectives. The rubric form puts the objective into a grid with the task (process-based objective), activities (methods) and completion date and cost.
If your jurisdiction has members projects (also known as politicians’ pork barrels), your project will need an executive summary, meeting with your legislator and seeing if the project meets the priority for funding, but you might be able to use such a members project to fund your agency’s project.
Check www.ExpectMore.gov for rating tools that show performing and non performing Federal (not State) programs. Enter the key words pertaining to your project, see what is being phased out and what is not progressing. The Program Assessment at the Web site shows programs, ratings and any improvement plans to delete or modify programs.
Federal grants emphasize outcome-based performance so provide that information in your data and final report. Good performance with one grant may boost you into additional grants in the future. Evaluations are outcome-based, said True. “Fundraising is all about accountability,” so show how you will spend the money and evaluate the effectiveness of the project, he emphasized.
Your grantor may also want to see sustainability. Can the project continue to grow and function on its own after the grant? Most grants support a project a short while, but your grantor wants to know what will happen after that.
Internet Resources for Grant Research
The trend away from the giving grant money to large, urban areas continues. Instead, more grant money is going toward projects for preparedness and response, regardless of geographical location, and for projects that benefit a wide geographic area that may be a blend of urban, suburban and/or rural. Equipment, exercises, training and planning toward preparedness are favorites of grantors right now. Certainly, some grants specifically target counterterrorism preparedness, but most grant money does not.
Improving overall preparedness across the nation can benefit efforts to eliminate weaknesses and dangers. With that relatively new emphasis in mind, be creative in your thinking when you are seeking a grant. Show your grantor how your project will benefit your area, your agency and other agencies, particularly in preparedness. It might give you the edge over other competitors for that grant money.
The following are Internet starting points for your search for grants. Be aware that grantors do change their likes, dislikes and strategies from time to time so you must keep current with your potential grantors. Explore their Web sites thoroughly, see if your project matches their preferences, and follow their application guidelines concisely.
This is the definitive site for Federal grants and an excellent starting point for grant research because it lists nearly every Federal grant available. About 1,000 grant programs, representing $400 billion in Federal grant money, appear on the Web site. The home page has a place to click to determine your eligibility for grant applications, and there are free downloads of software to use.
The Web site also offers links to other grant-related information, such as foundation resources, funding resources, grant management resources, and links to State, territory and outlying area Web sites for further funding opportunities. You may also register for the quarterly “Succeed” newsletter to keep informed about new grant opportunities and news pertinent to grants and projects.
The Department of Homeland Security has allocated grants and has a focus on preparedness and response. The opening page of the Web site contains a U.S. map on which you can click on your State to learn your homeland security contact and to view grants available for your area. The Homeland Security Grant Program money can be used for preparedness planning, equipment acquisition, training, practice exercises, management and administration.
The five distinct programs are the State Homeland Security Program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, Metropolitan Medical Response System and the Citizen Corps Program. The Web site also links to FEMA-directed projects for port security, critical infrastructure protection, regional/local mass transit system security and equipment and training for first responders.
While much of FEMA’s purpose is disaster-specific grants, it is not exclusively that. FEMA also has grant money available for environmental and historical preservation, hazard-related grants, non disaster programs and repetitive flood claims programs.
The Transportation Security Administration has, as its primary grant focus, projects that will enhance the safety and security of such modes of transportation as intercity buses, transit systems and ferry services.
Updated as frequently as daily, this Web site offers access to a database of Federal grant programs available to State and local governments, recognized tribal governments, domestic public and quasi-public groups, and private profit and non-profit groups and individuals. The home page links to a User’s Guide, Search for Assistance Programs, and other featured links to such Web sites such as FirstGov, www.Grants.gov, FedBizOpps and Federal Asset Sales.
It also describes the types of assistance available, how to apply for assistance, how to write grant proposals, the top 10 percent program list, new programs and a full index. Formula grants, project grants, direct payments for specified use, direct payments with unrestricted use, direct loans, insurance, sale/exchange/donation of property and goods, use of property/facilities/equipment, and training categories are all included on this Web site.
If safe transportation of hazardous material is key to your project, this Web site’s grant program may provide the financial and/or technical assistance you need to enhance State, territorial, tribal or local HazMat emergency planning and training. There are also links to conferences, training seminars and meetings offered by the Department of Transportation.
The USDA’s Rural Development Program funds projects for rural area facilities, equipment, housing, utilities and business. About $16 billion in program loans, loan guarantees and grants is available through the program. The Web site has links to such financial assistance as business loans and grants, cooperative grants, community facilities loans and grants, telecommunications loans and grants and community development programs.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) in the U.S. Department of Justice Web site contains solicitations and application kits for grants for a wide variety of projects including training, crime prevention and emergency management. There is also a set of links to past projects funded by the OJP that may benefit your research into what is being sought, trends and how to prepare a successful project and application.
The Government Printing Office disseminates official information from all three branches of the Federal government, but also offers a comprehensive guide to those branches at its Web site. There is a useful link to a list of official Federal resources when you need information about goals and purposes of the various Federal agencies.
The Web site provides an easy-to-use, alphabetical list of government benefits, grants and financial aid. While primarily citizen-oriented, the Web site can be of value when you are exploring grant opportunities and learning the nature of the assistance that might be available for your project.
The Housing and Urban Development Web site’s grants page contains information about available grants, funding announcements, explanations of HUD’s grant system, and a link for registering with www.Grants.gov.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) agency Web site contains its grant policy statement, current and archived grant opportunities and their details, and a sign-up form for e-mail notification of new grants through the HRSA.
The Library of Congress Web site is about as complete a reference tool as possible on whatever data you might need for completion of your grant application. Not restricted to purely Federal information, this Web site’s resources can be a helpful addition to your research resources.
This federation of organizations seeks to improve public safety and interoperability of communications. Its Web site is an excellent source of information on such topics as broadband, software defined radio, rebanding and technical education.
This is a free resource guide to Federal and other government grants and loans. You can research available grants by name, subject, applicant type, or agency. There are also tips about how to write successful grant applications.
Primarily targeted toward non-profit organizations, this Web site may be helpful if you are partnering with a non-profit on a project. It will help you locate donated and discounted technology products.
The Public Safety Foundation of America provides grants for public safety functions and issues including planning, equipment procurement and training.
This University of California, Los Angeles Web site provides an alphabetical list of links of foundations and organizations. Many, if not most, of them provide grants for projects.
This Web site provides a list of potential private grantors, and information about grant writing courses and seminars.
Here, you can research available grants, learn more about the process of applying for grants and find out where grant seminars are being held.
This is the home of the Justice Information Sharing Practitioners’ Network, a service designed to enhance the education of those in criminal justice fields. The organization lists seminars and workshops, some of which are involved with grant writing.
Funded by Congress, the National White Collar Crime Center focuses on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of high-tech crimes. Its Web site lists seminars and programs, some of which are grants related.
A leader in the field of learning about grant writing, this company provides seminars for both novice and experienced grant writers. The Web site lists upcoming seminars in grant writing and grant management, and also contains information about hosting a grant writing seminar.
The Performance Institute specializes in transforming research and information into useable practices for government agencies. It offers a variety of seminars, including grants management.
Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The Statement of Introduction
The Statement of Introduction in your grant application is where you establish your agency’s vita and credibility including mission, goals, major accomplishments, programs, endorsements, quotations, awards, staff or board members, other grants, partner agencies, etc. Always focus on need, not lack.
A well-composed introduction may be the key to whether your application moves up the ladder for further consideration. Keep it concise and well written. Use 4 or 5 pages to present your proposal, unless, of course, the grant specifications require more.
The Needs Statement
In the Needs Statement, your grantor wants to know about the needs of your community—not the needs of your agency. Describe the basic or fundamental needs, use any applicable statistics and anecdotes that illustrate effectively, localize those statistics, report on a survey of users of your project, demonstrate community needs with quotes from sources and experts other than your own agency, and discuss problems in terms of social, economic, language, geography, or whatever is applicable.
Use logic, emotion and credibility to persuade the reader of your application. Sentences should be around 20 words or less. Your reader is intelligent, but probably not an expert in what you are proposing or discussing.
The Web site www.Fedstats.gov gives census data and other information. Use the most current statistics and add local statistics for comparisons or contrasts. Be sure your project’s description tells how your organization will serve a need. Even if your grant is just for an equipment purchase, “name” your project and tell how the equipment will satisfy a deficiency or need, True recommended.
501 (c) (3) This Internal Revenue Service code section deals with “exempt” organizations (a public charity, private foundation or other non-profit organization benefited by exemption from Federal taxation). These types of organizations set a cause for which they raise money, incorporate as a non-profit group and have tax-exempt status. In turn, they often give money to projects promoting their particular causes.
Donors to a non-profit organization might gain a tax write-off. Government agencies are not 501 (c) (3) organizations, but they can form an affiliated organization that earns tax-exempt status and could, therefore, seek and obtain grants from private foundations. Donors will not get a tax write-off if they give to a government agency (with the exception of a few rare units of government whose purpose is exclusively for the public good). But donors will get a tax write-off if their gift is to a 501 (c) (3) organization.
RFP, SGA, NOFA Respectively, these initials stand for Requests For Proposals, Solicitation for Grant Application and Notice Of Funding Availability. Each describes who can apply for what. The grantor states who is eligible to apply, how the money can be used, deadlines and so on. Mandates in the RFP, SGA or NOFA must be carefully followed because they are specific, even down to the style and size of print font or ink color.
A grant application not complying with the requirements will be rejected and the opportunity for the grant lost. Read everything with attention to detail. Such specific requirements level the playing field by making all the applications similar, and no one applicant has an advantage by making his/her application look better than the others.
Requirements also test whether the applicant is careful about following directions. An inaccurate application tells the grant maker the applicant cannot follow directions, and warns the grant maker that the applicant is not worthy of trust with grant money. The grant application is the preliminary indication of cooperation and responsibility, so first impressions count. Comply with every detail of the requirements in the RFP, SGA or NOFA.
Administrative Costs These are the direct and indirect costs of managing the grant project. They usually have a cap at a certain percentage of the grant.
Allowable Costs These are the expenditures permitted by law or other authority.
Amendment This occurs when a grant application is changed or revised.
Application This is the formal request for grant money. Many grant applications are now done online, using forms provided by the grantor. Any application must contain all the requirements of the grantor and be in the proper format whether online or on paper.
Block Grant This is the formula funding not allocated to a specific category. Most of these grants go to State or local governments.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) This publication and database lists all Federal grants and information about guidelines, application and other grant-related matters.
Challenge Grant This grant requires that the grantee raise additional funds for the project. The grantee is given the challenge, but does not receive the money until the challenge is met. There may be additional parameters such as certain geographic area preferences or deadlines set by the grantor. Meeting a challenge grant can be a prelude to future grants because the applicant has demonstrated the ability to raise money.
Community Foundation This type of foundation targets a specific geographic area because it receives money primarily from local or regional donors, and puts that money into a fund for long-term, charitable management of the money, under the directions of the donors, for local or regional projects. Community foundation grants do not usually yield a great deal of money but they are important sources of smaller amounts of money.
Corporate Foundations and Giving Programs Some corporations put a percentage of their profits into a charitable fund so that the money may be spent within the specific geographic area in which the corporation has a major presence. The corporation’s visibility and donor recognition gained from such an act presents it as a “good corporate citizen” in the community’s eyes. Some of these programs have special requirements or “strings attached” such as advertising space or the corporate name on the vehicles of the grantee as a publicity payback for receiving a grant from the company.
Discretionary Funds While some Federal grant money moves from Federal to State, other grant money moves from Federal directly to local. Most of the Federal grant money channeling from Federal to State to local does so through pass-through grants in which a State sub-awards the grant money through competitive RFPs. States usually have notification lists so grantees know what grants are available and when.
Formula grants are based on a national assessment of what the State needs in relation to the size of its population. Some funds are awarded at the discretion of a particular Federal or State agency, or there may be private discretionary funds in which grants are distributed at the discretion of an organization’s trustees or a full board of directors.
Funding Cycle Grantors set defined cycles for the steps in a grant, including application review, decision-making and notification. Cycles might be annual, or longer, or shorter. RFP deadlines must be met for each of the steps in application, review, award and release of funds.
In-kind Contribution This involves a contribution of equipment, supplies, staff time, office space or other resources. (When tracking the work of volunteers in the agency, and in need of a dollar value for that in-kind contribution, use www.independentsector.org to learn the value of the volunteer’s work.)
Letter of Intent, Letter of Inquiry, Preliminary Proposal It may be appropriate to write a brief letter of intent or inquiry to the grantor indicating interest in later submitting a full proposal. This approach is not opportunistic. Instead, it uses information about where the grantee is today and where it wants to be in the future, stating its intent to the grantor in a letter of inquiry or intent to show the grant maker how its help will move the grantee to the next goal.
Memorandum of Understanding This is an agreement about the roles and timelines of all the project’s partner- participants.
Ongoing Support, General Support This type of funding covers such things as day-to-day expenses, salaries, utilities, office supplies, rent/mortgage payments, insurance, or accounting costs. Although not a very common type of grant, it does exist. The grantor looks at the overall impact and wants to evaluate how a proposed project will serve the greater good.
Set-Aside This is a fund, reserved by the grantor for a specific purpose.
Unallowable Cost This is a cost not allowed because it conflicts with the grant’s cost principles or other conditions.
The Memorandum of Agreement
Subcontracts or short-term contracts stemming from the main contract might be possible with some projects. A Memorandum of Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding explains the work to be done. Comply with the grantor’s specifications about the length of the memo.
Identify any problems that arise during the project. For example, if a partner in the project does not, or cannot, comply with the terms, the grantor might allow an amendment or grant modification to keep things on track. Or, closing out a non performing element may allow replacement with something else more workable, but the grantor must agree to any such changes.
If the grant money is spent despite problems, that money will likely have to be paid back. And even if the grantor does not require paying back, it is probable that future grants will be denied if you are found to be someone who does not detect, divulge and solve problems.
If someone new “inherits” a grant project, that person should check the contract, inform the grantor that he/she is the new administrator, and obtain any guidelines the grantor may require of the new person.
Your legal obligations under the contract are strict. Keep careful records of all activities, audits and documents that pertain to compliance. If they are on a computer, back up the data. Keep copies of the application guidelines, grant application, contract, subcontracts, amendments, reports, objectives met or still to be accomplished, finances, major receipts, procurement specification sheets, bid solicitations, correspondence written or e-mailed that document phone conversations, audits, etc. Remember that it is the grantor’s money, not yours. With careful records, you will not fear automatic or surprise audits.
Evaluation is a major segment of your project because you must show the grantor that you are measuring outcomes and verifying the completion of the objectives. Process is considered “formative,” and outcomes are considered “summative” in design.
You can evaluate in different ways, but your grantor may set certain rules that you must follow. Otherwise, you might consider having an outside, independent consultant evaluate the project, or you might do the evaluation yourself. Describe to your grantor the evaluation activities being done and show what was accomplished.
It may be difficult to show outcomes in process-based grants, so emphasize such tools as the required reports to the grantor, site visits, board of directors’ actions toward completeness and effectiveness, efforts of the project coordinator, client satisfaction surveys, or whatever method is most applicable to your project. In this way, you have not guaranteed outcomes, but you are showing that evaluations are occurring. Your grantor may offer a seminar on how evaluations should be done and that information may prove helpful to you as well.
Be concise and exact all the way through your evaluation process, paying close attention to what the grantor wants and what the project is accomplishing. Follow the guidelines exactly—even those about the number of copies, the color of ink and the signatures required.