You’ll be in hot water if you continue to believe these 3 myths about grants.
If you’re new to the grant-writing field, you’ll soon learn that there are plenty of myths floating around out there about grants. You need to understand the truth about the myths and bust those myths for your coworkers and your board. Your life will be much easier once everyone knows the truth.
Grant money is everywhere and is yours for the taking.
You’ve heard this before: “There are millions of dollars in grant money out there just waiting for you. Get your share of the money THEY don’t want you to know about.“ Of course, nobody else knows about this money and all you have to do is buy the book to locate your share of millions for your organization. Yeh, right. There’s more to this story that THEY don’t want you to know. Let’s bust that myth.
Yes, there is grant money out there. The 2014 edition of Key Facts on U.S. Foundations reported that there were 86,192 foundations in the U.S. However, the trick is to find the best matches among those foundations. Not every foundation is interested in the type of services you provide or the type of clients you serve. Not all give in your geographic area. Not all give millions of dollars – some only give a few thousand, some a few hundred.
Based on these facts alone, that cuts your chances of getting those millions down considerably, doesn’t it? It is doubtful that there are millions of dollars out there just waiting for you to find them. There is a lot of hard work involved in narrowing down the field to the few that really match your needs and your mission. This may be a good conversation to have with the leaders of your organization.
Grant money is free with no strings attached.
All you have to do is apply and they write you a check. It’s simple, right? Just send in a letter or an easy application and the money rolls in. Then all you have to do is spend the money. Well, think again.
There are always strings attached. Many times there are public recognition expectations. You promise the funder a photo op, press release or an article in your newsletter. If it’s a large grant, there may be naming requirements and all the celebration and hoopla that go along with that.
Some funders make site visits to be sure your organization is legitimate and is getting the work done. Be prepared for a visit, and be sure your finances and records are in order.
Sometimes you have committed to meet specific objectives and must report progress to the funder. If you don’t meet the objectives, the funder might withdraw their funding. Failure to meet objectives may jeopardize future grants from that same funder.
At the very least, you will have to make some kind of final report and possibly periodic financial reports. And, don’t forget the thank-you notes and friendly updates needed to cultivate and steward the funder.
Once you get a grant, you can use the money any way you want.
All you have to do is apply, win the grant and you have free money to do with as you please. Once that check comes in from the funder, you are on your own. Believing this myth will get you into trouble faster than almost anything. Again, educating your organization to the truth about grants is essential to keep you and the organization legal.
The truth is that you must spend the money just as you promised you would in your proposal. The funder selected your organization based on those promises. You were selected to extend their reach and help them carry out their mission.
I once worked for a school district that received a large grant for a school to develop and present parenting classes. Unfortunately the school also needed a new roof. Can you guess what happened? One of our school board members asked if we could just use the grant money to work on the roof.
When you accept a grant, you agree to use the money as specified in the application. Any time you accept a grant, you are entering into a contract with the funder to use the money as you promised and as they want it used.
If you want to deviate from the promises you made, you should to get permission from the funder. If your proposed change is in the spirit of the grant, it will probably be approved. But, always ask for permission and get it in writing.
If the change is totally off course from the original proposal, contact the funder. Explain why the initial grant proposal is no longer relevant and how your new direction is still a good fit for their investment.
Never break the trust a funder has put in your organization. Be honest and up-front with them. They want you to succeed. No funder ever wants to take their money back. Taking back their money actually causes problems for the funder. So, be sure you are developing a positive relationship and using their money to further their mission and help your clients.
What to do next:
Want to know more about the grant writing process? Click here for my free “Quick Start Guide to Grant Writing Success.”