The Right Grant for the Right Reason

When your nonprofit is in dire need of general operating funds, a program-specific grant won’t ease the pain. “Just because you need money doesn’t mean you need a grant,” said Barbara Floersch, chief of training and curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “And just because you need a grant, doesn’t mean you need any grant you can lay your hands on.”

Capturing a highly-desired, but often illusive unrestricted, general operating grant can help pay the bills for a short time, while you’re putting more robust, sustainable funding streams in place. But landing a new program-specific grant just to bring in cash won’t solve the problem. The small amount of administrative overhead that grant supports will be more than gobbled up by the demands of managing the new effort.

And, rather than thinking and working strategically to build and grow income streams to support your priorities, you’ll be off at a gallop in whatever direction the new grant requirements send you.

“It’s about fit and purpose,” said Floersch. “A program-specific grant is not intended to solve problems with your general operating budget.” Program grants should pay their way administratively, covering the staff hours and organizational resources the program consumes. But expecting a program-specific grant to be a lifejacket for general agency operations is a misdirected grab at a nonexistent life-line.

If your organization needs general operating support, reach out to grantmakers with whom you’ve got a strong relationship and ask for that specifically. Be clear about your need, but also be clear about your plan for moving forward. The general operating grant should provide support as you transition into a stronger, more sustainable position. Otherwise, is it really a good investment for the funder? © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.