Submitting a grant proposal is a complex endeavor that requires both programmatic and financial planning. Even after identifying a promising grant opportunity, completing a grant proposal may take several weeks or months. Once the proposal is submitted it may take three to six months to receive a response, and additional time before the funding is received.
Begin conversations about funding opportunities early so there is sufficient time to prepare grant applications. In early collaborative decision making meetings, organizations, staff and volunteers must clearly define their roles. Accounting, finance and administrative staff should participate in these meetings to assess grant opportunities and funder requirements.
When do you need the funds? Most foundation Boards meet quarterly, twice a year, or annually. Some meet on their own schedules. If you have just missed a deadline you will need to wait until the next grant cycle to submit a request for funding.
You will also need to factor in the time it takes to write a grant proposal, which will depending on the inquiries below. When considering individual funding opportunities with your staff and Board members, consider the following considerations:
What are the funders program requirements? Will your staff have the time and capacity to fulfill these requirements? This includes delivery of programs, collaborations, volunteer capacity, staff expertise, and outcome measurement. If a funder requires external outcome measurements, does your staff have the time and technology to manage these additional responsibilities?
What are the organizational requirements of the grant - matching funds, equipment and facilities, program partnerships, leadership involvement? What are the accounting requirements of this grant? Do the program leaders have a realistic expectation of their their involvement and the time required? How will this grant affect existing infrastructure, space, equipment, and technology?
What is the financial cost of this grant versus the opportunity cost of not applying? Financial costs include hiring additional staff, investing in technology and grants management. Make a note of allowable and unallowable costs prior to creating a budget for a grant. Be sure to discuss these items with your organizations accountant.
Are there potential conflicts of interest? How does this affect organizational policies? Consider ethical issues, involvement of Board members, and the overall values, goals and philosophies of the organization.