Long ago I was working with an organization that had a grant proposal turned down by a foundation. My friends were somewhat incensed. It was a good proposal. It met a real need. And a grant would have been beneficial to its cause. But the foundation saw what they believed to be some glaring organizational weaknesses. Fix the organization. Overcome the weaknesses. And then ask us for a grant. That is what the foundation executive director was saying. And I believe he was correct.
That’s the way it is. Foundations look not only at your proposal, but they also look at your organization. They want to know if your organization is currently healthy enough to take on the project for which you are seeking funding. They want to know if you can sustain it. They want to know if the project will be more of a help than a hindrance to you. Sometimes a foundation will take a view that giving you a grant would be the worst thing they could possibility do for you. When at the Murdock Trust, I had several nonprofit leaders tell me that they were glad Murdock had turned them down. The timing was off, and while they could not see their own weaknesses at the time, a grant maker could.
So begin with the health of your organization. Get your ducks in a row – a strong mission, people who can lead and produce, programs that effectively carry out the mission, good marketing, a strong board, efficient office systems, strong funding from multiple sources, solid financials with unrestricted cash reserves, and a strategic plan for the future. All add to the strength of your organization.
Then move on to the project. If your organization is healthy, the chances of pulling off an effective project are increased. And with that, so is the likelihood of your garnering a grant.
If you would like to get a better handle on governance, I simply offer a shameless plug for my book, Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Board Governance. A friend who chairs both a corporate and a nonprofit board suggests it as a great primer.
And for more information visit www.boardtrekconsulting.com