Imagine for a moment that your organization is a house and you are getting ready to put it on the market for sale. Think of funders as the potential buyers of your house. What's rule number one for readying a property for sale and positioning it for maximum revenue potential? Getting your house in order, of course.
Using this analogy, a grant proposal could be compared to interior decorating, or what is known in real estate as “staging.” Staging a house might mean adding a fresh coat of paint, de-cluttering a room, or rearranging the furniture - all aimed at making an impeccable first impression on a buyer. Just like staging, your grant proposal allows you to put your organization’s best foot forward. You can organize it to flow logically, use clear and concise language and proper grammar, and describe your organization in the most positive light possible.
While potential home buyers appreciate these staging efforts, truly savvy buyers will look beyond this to what truly matters. They may bring in a specialist to check things like the foundation, the roof, and whether the basement has ever flooded. Applying the analogy to your organization, it is vital that before you even start a grant proposal, you make sure your “grant house is in order.” Consider the following:
A solid foundation: Does your board of directors function well as the governing body of the organization? Does it have sound policies and procedures in place? Does it support the organization financially and participate in fundraising? Does the organization have a current strategic plan on which all key decisions are based?
Adequate and up-to-date plumbing and electrical wiring: How well is your organization embedded in the community? Does it function at capacity or are programs/services going unused? How does the organization stay aware of and meet the needs of the community it serves?
A stable roof: How financially sound is the organization? Does it consistently cover its operating expenses or has it run at a deficit for a number of years? Does it have an endowment? Does it conduct and independent financial audit each year? Does it have diverse funding streams?
A basement free from water damage: Has the organization endured a crisis of some form in the recent past and how was it handled? Is that crisis completely resolved? What, if any, perceptions still exist in the community with respect to that event?
Many times, no matter how pretty and organized your proposal is, funders are looking much deeper and basing their decisions on other factors, including the structural issues of your organization listed above. If your organization is lacking in one of the above key structural issues, addressing it should become your first priority before you attempt to seek a grant.
Because a house is one of the biggest investments people will make in their lives, it makes sense that buyers do their homework before making that investment. Funders, like home buyers, are also making an investment when they make a grant to your organization. If your organization has spent time caring for and maintaining important organizational issues, it will be more likely to succeed in grantseeking than an organization that has neglected these critical facets.
What steps have you taken to get your grants house in order? Leave a comment.