When Do You Need a Planning Grant?

November 14, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Organizations constantly engage in program planning, and most of the time that work folds readily into the ongoing work of administrators and program managers. In effective organizations, staff members have a finger on the pulse of community problems and regularly form working groups, join community networks, and pull together colleagues to lay out a way forward.

But to figure out how to address a very complex community problem, it’s sometimes necessary for managers to complete elaborate, large-scale planning processes. And, in some situations, funders won’t provide a program implementation grant until a high-quality planning process has been completed and a blueprint for action is in hand.

“Planning grants are for big, multi-faceted processes that require considerable time and resources,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “They’re for situations in which you can’t suggest an effective response to a problem without engaging the community in a deep, strategic exploration of what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how it can be improved.”

    Although every solid grant proposal is based on a good program plan, only some planning processes are appropriate candidates for planning grants. Your planning process might be a good contender for a planning grant if many of the following apply:

  • The project needs extensive input from a broad cross-section of the community.
  • The problem you’re addressing is contentious and community groups have differing and strongly-held opinions on what to do.
  • Surveys will need to be administered to a large number of people; survey findings will require interpretation and reporting.
  • Experts will need to present the community with various options for addressing the problem, discussing the pros and cons of different approaches. Active community participation in the planning process will require large meeting rooms, equipment, supplies, and trained facilitators for parts of the process.
  • The planning process will take between six months and a year to complete.
  • Significant staff and volunteer time will be consumed by the tasks and logistics of completing the planning process.
  • A formal, well-documented plan will result from your work and will be used to guide programs and activities aimed at addressing the problem. Preparation, presentation, and distribution of the plan will require considerable time and resources.

“The kinds of processes that would be supported by a planning grant extend far beyond the regular planning that is the bedrock of every good proposal. When the planning processes preceding a project are themselves so complex that they require considerable amounts of time, staffing, expertise and choreography, then a planning grant is a logical source for funding,” said Floersch. © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.