Beware the Rogue Grant Proposal

November 1, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

If your organization doesn’t have strict protocols in place for the development and submission of grant proposals, you risk the possibility of rogue funding requests flying out the door. Unless there are well established guidelines for the process, enthusiastic staff members can unintentionally stir up a hornet’s nest of complications by unilaterally applying for grants.

It happens all the time and the consequences can be dire, according to Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, author of Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing. Some of the reasons she cited include:

  • The proposal may contain inaccurate information that places the organization at risk for claims of fraud;
  • The budget may be poorly constructed. It may be too low to cover the promised activities. Salary and fringe benefit levels may be out of whack with the organizational reality. Overhead costs may be overlooked. Lavish matching resources may be promised that haven’t been secured;
  • If a sanctioned grant proposal is already in play with the same funder, the rogue proposal may undermine organizational credibility and suggest internal chaos; and,
  • The proposed program may not fall in line with the priorities of the organization’s strategic plan.

Having a rogue, poorly considered grant proposal in play is scary, according Floersch. But what’s worse is that some will actually get funded leaving your organization with a number of unattractive alternatives. It can accept the grant award and absorb the punches it will take to make the program work, she said. It can negotiate with the funder in an attempt to correct the most egregious mistakes. Or it can reject the award and attempt to explain the situation to the funder.

About two thirds of the organizations represented in grants management classes have policies and procedures in place to guide the grant development and submission process, said Floersch. Of those, at least one-third report not using them.

If your organization doesn’t have policies and procedures in place to guide the grant development and submission process, considering the side effects of rogue proposals should shock you into action. If your organization does have policies and procedures in place, be sure all staff members are aware of them and be sure to enforce them. © Copyright 2016 The Grantsmanship Center. All rights reserved.