It’s a typical dilemma — the project is crucial, but the price tag exceeds the maximum request the funder allows. None of the options for dealing with this quandary offer a smooth, all-air solution. Trying to piece the budget together through various grant proposals is a logistical nightmare.
Scaling back the project’s scope will erode your ability to meet the defined community need. There’s tough competition for your organization’s discretionary funds and you’re unlikely to convince administrators to spend down the hard-earned nest egg on a new endeavor.
Since personnel costs are the lion’s share of most grant budgets, including a volunteer component in the program plan is a common response to the low-cap scenario.
“Engaging community volunteers can bring a host of benefits and add substantial in-kind value to the budget,” said Barbara Floersch, grant expert and author of the new book You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change. “But a robust volunteer program is not budget neutral. It costs money.” Floersch encourages nonprofits to weigh the demands and benefits of a volunteer program carefully before going all-in.
In the right circumstances and with solid planning, a volunteer program can deliver a big payload of service at a fraction of what professional staffing would cost. Working side by side with volunteers can also help nonprofits refine their alignment with the communities they serve. “Tap into the power of volunteers when the situation is right,” said Floersch. “A well-managed volunteer program is a powerful tool.” © Barbara Floersch 2021
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