1. Strategic grant research prospecting and vetting helps organizations avoid “mission creep” and other detours from ultimate organizational and programmatic success.
2. Grant research prospecting and vetting requires an extensive investment of time and effort: for every 10 foundations reviewed, typically one is a good fit.
3. Effective and strategic grant prospecting and vetting support two key functions of successful grant pursuit: proposal planning and management.
“Identifying the Pool of Opportunities”
If and when an organization has clarity about their mission and strategic and programmatic goals and objectives, this helps to prepare them for the next step in the grant pursuit process – grant research for potential funding prospects. With clarity on mission and strategic goals, a grant-seeking organization can launch a focused prospect research process. In contrast, without this clarity, a grant-seeking organization can fall prey to “mission creep” pursuing opportunities that take them far away not only from their mission and strategic goals, but also far away from their core competencies and capabilities and eventually stress organizational capacity to implement programs and initiatives.
Grant research or grant prospecting is a process that involves extensive effort and commitment as someone invests hours of searching various online databases and reads various funding opportunity announcements to identify potential funders that are a potential match. While there are several free grant prospecting sources for federal and foundation grant opportunities, e.g., Grants.gov and Philanthropy News Digest (PND), there are also online grant databases available through paid subscription (e.g., Instrumentl ).
Clarity about your organization’s mission and strategic goals for continuation and expansion of existing programs and implementation of new pilot programs and initiatives informs your strategic prospecting efforts. For example, if your organization is seeking to grow opportunities for students to obtain cybersecurity training, you may use key word searches that will help identify potential funding opportunities for example: Workforce Preparation, Job Readiness and
Job Creation. To find opportunities that are most relevant for your organization you may need to add additional key words to refine the search by geography for example if you are seeking funding opportunities especially relevant to your metropolitan service area or state.
The goal of your grant research or prospecting efforts is to obtain or create a master list of funders (private foundations and/or government agencies) and funding opportunities. There are several proprietary grants management databases that you may acquire for this purpose or you may create the list in an Excel spreadsheet. Your Excel spreadsheet might include for example the following information for review: funders’ name(s), name of targeted grant program, notes about funding levels (minimum, average or maximum funding amounts), application deadlines and other relevant information that will facilitate reviewing the “pool of funding opportunities.” A singular list will allow the organization to comparatively evaluate and select those opportunities that may be a good match for their strategic and programmatic goals and objectives.
Before Diving In - Assessing Opportunities to Maximize Success
Once you have defined the potential pool of funders, careful review and vetting of opportunities is essential to determine which opportunities are the best fit and offer the greatest possibilities of grant pursuit success. The goal is to identify those opportunities that enable your organization to create more targeted proposals increasing the likelihood of your being funded. Among grant professionals the following two rules seem to apply:
1. Ten to one rule: For every 10 foundations reviewed, one is usually a good fit.
2. 30-70% rule: 30% of grant writing is grant seeking / vetting.
Examples of considerations that can help guide a strategic vetting process include, but are not limited to: 1) review to assess whether your organization meets all eligibility requirements (e.g., eligibility to apply and capability or willingness to meet all published grantee reporting and deliverable requirements); 2) assessment of probability of success (number of total grant awards, etc.); 3) alignment of funders’ program requirements with your organization’s capabilities and capacity to deliver; 4) alignment of funder’s budget parameters with your organization’s budgeting needs (i.e., allowable indirect cost rate); and, 4) the bandwidth of available staff and/or consultants to support your organization in the development of a compliant and responsive proposal response to the opportunity. To assess “bandwidth,” the organization may want to assess whether there are major organizational priorities that conflict such as organizational audits, grant applications with competing or overlapping deadlines, etc.
Once the organization has identified and prioritized those grant opportunities they intend to pursue, they can develop a grants calendar that clearly identifies prioritized application deadlines and start the development of roadmaps with timelines to develop competitive proposal responses. Proposal planning and management are essential to on time competitive grant proposal submissions. These functions are well supported by an organizational commitment to strategic, not reactive, grant prospecting and vetting.
Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar training where Dr. Bev Browning and I will provide even more information, and tools, to support Thrive DX partner organizations in their grant pursuits.
Cheryl Townsel, S.M., President, Townsel Consulting, LLC
Dr. Bev Browning, CSPF, Director, Grant Writing Training Foundation