You’re reviewing a local grant application for your non-profit organization. You find the questions fairly straightforward until you read: “How will you fund this program after the grant?” You slide your hands off the keyboard and think, “How can I answer this? This is the perfect grant funder. Their goals match ours. We definitely need the money for this project.” You have a number of ways you might develop a plan for after-the-grant. Consider creating your response around one of the following concepts to increase your chances of a successful application.
Answer: We do not expect to need future grant funding.
- Determine if your application for grant funds can pay for one-time expenses. This works for computer equipment, furniture for new additions, new roofs, unique staff training experiences, office set-up, the writing of a curriculum and the like.
- Request funding for a program that will produce income to offset the grant funding. For example, if you work with a dance company, propose funds for a new event that will produce ticket sales.
- Develop a pilot program. This works when you have an experimental idea. It’s even better when a funder expresses interest in your providing a service. Your project may be so experimental that new grant funding will only be needed if the activity is very successful, something no one can predict now.
- If the grant pays for startup costs plus a large number of cases during the requested grant cycle, you may plan for your staff to provide the activity long-term,. For instance, staff at Easter Seals found that developmentally disabled adults relied on expensive door-to-door transportation. With grant funding, the nonprofit hired temporary staff to teach individuals to use the mass transit system. After the grant, as needed, existing staff offered occasional classes for newcomers.
- Check if the grant funding will reduce other expenses. One circus organization needed a set of stage lights. In their grant, they documented that the grant allowed them to purchase new lights, eliminate rental expenses and cover the maintenance costs of the new lights.
Answer: Yes, we will need additional funds, but you can take our plan seriously
- Some funders support organizations over several years. Can your request take this form? For example, if your activity costs $30,000 a year, your grant request might be for $59,700, over three years. That is $30,000 or 100 percent year one, $19,800 or 66 percent for year two and $9,900 for year three. Your non-profit organization still needs a plan to raise new funds, but over three years instead of twelve months. Multiple year funding offers time for other development efforts to be productive. It also benefits your organization by establishing a long-term relationship with the funder, provides greater stability for the program and saves time. Instead of writing three or more requests, you write one.
- Will other new funding be available? Local grant donors are often help nonprofit groups by providing match money when their funds bring additional dollars to a community. In your application, you will need to identify the source of this funding and your request’s timeline. Grant donors generally express less concern with continuation plans when their money will be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.
- Does this request build on a new idea in your field? If you can foresee the possibility of federal or competitive funding within eighteen months–you often can show that funding now will help increase your chances of getting funding on a national level later. This is similar to the above match, but it takes place in front of the match availability. One economic development nonprofit created a school-to-work program with a local grant for $100,000. With the group’s early start and the boost of local commitment, the organization leveraged this funding to secure a federal grant in excess of a million dollars to continue the program.
Answer: We will increase our fundraising efforts
This is probably the most common answer grant readers read. If your grant is funded, the grant donor will expect you to follow-through on this promise. If your organization fails here, your reputation and future requests to this and other funders may suffer.
- If you have access to operating grant sources, you may wish to discuss your plan to submit requests to these sources. In your application, identify the grant programs, your submittal plans and an estimated request amount.
- Do you plan to seek funds from individual donors? If you never raised funding from individuals, you will also need an internal action plan. Perhaps you can request a challenge grant. In this case, matching funds from individuals must be obtained before the grant funds are available. If you focus on individual donors, consider including budget items in this grant for expenses associated with developing or doing individual fund raising. For example, one faith-based group obtained funds for the staffing, mailings and setting-up a development office
Answer: We don’t have plans to fund this program beyond the grant period.
- Will you do this program one time? Although this often difficult, some donors, particularly near the holidays, grant these requests. A Salvation Army received a homeless grant to offer assistance to homeless families for sixty-days. The families served, the donor and the nonprofit all thought the grant had been worthwhile at its completion.
Long-haul thinking: Develop a plan upfront for what will be done after the grant, even if a grant donor does not request it. If you can’t figure one out, choose a less ambitious start or forgo the grant and seek another way to implement your activities. In any case, plan to follow-through on any activities described in your application.
Creating a strong answer to the future funding question can help your organization obtain grant funding. “I rarely see a very effective answer,” writes Wendy Hopkins of the Sarasota Community Foundation. “The standard answer is of course increased fundraising. Rarely – do I see a bona fide plan” shares Marilyn Howard of the Manatee Community Foundation. These grant donors are not alone; grant donors report that they receive poor answer to this question. Your strong answer will help you stand out from other applicants. Also, this planning will also help ensure that your non-profit organization has a plan for after the grant. In any case, investing effort on this question can bring you organization closer to fulfilling its mission with those you seek to serve by obtaining the funding you seek.
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For other sources of nonprofit income to augment your grant opportunities, read this article, Can Your Organization Obtain More Income?