Effective Practices : Development

Development Section 6

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1. Who is responsible for researching and writing grant applications?
2. What process is used to identify and apply for grants?
3. Who writes the actual grant proposal?
4. How often does the grants committee meet?
5. What are some of the key considerations when creating a grants program in a school?
6. What are the key thoughts or philosophies that experienced schools would like to share with others starting a grants program?

DEV 6-1

Who is responsible for researching and writing grant applications?
Typically the Development Director in partnership with the Grants Committee is responsible for researching and writing grant applications. The Grants Committee is a task group of the Development Fundraising Committee.

DEV 6-2

What process is used to identify and apply for grants?
Schools with grant programs do an assessment of needs at the school, looking both at programs that currently exist and those that are imagined or hoped for in the future. These assessments can take a variety of forms, including conversations and written surveys.

Research is then done on potential funders. This research includes a review of the Funders Guide, web-based research, foundation directories, and through conversation with people in the field. Once a possible source of funding is identified, a telephone call is made to determine if there is a real match. If it appears that the school’s needs and the funder’s interests are aligned then a proposal is prepared and submitted along with any required reporting.

DEV 6-3

Who writes the actual grant proposal?
In one school with a strong grants program it is the Development Director who writes the proposals. This is due to the strength of experience of the Development Director in this area. Committee members are primarily involved in research work, but they are learning more about the process of preparing proposals as they gain experience.

DEV 6-4

How often does the grants committee meet?
The grants committee can make a good impact by meeting about once a month. This allows individuals to do research work between meetings, and provides enough constancy of conversation that members stay involved and up to date. It does require the Development Director, in conversation with the Grant Committee chair, to take responsibility for decisions that come up between meetings. It is important to have an explicit agreement among other members of the grants committee that this is appropriate.

DEV 6-5

What are some of the key considerations when creating a grants program in a school?

  • The development office and the school business office need to have good communication between them for grants programs to be effective. Business office personnel must know that a grant proposal has been submitted, and must be active partners with the development office if the grant request is approved. The business office is charged with monitoring the use of the funds and ensuring it complies with the terms of the grant, and for making sure that the school doesn’t overspend.
  • Another important guideline is to invest in quality research tools. These directories make it possible to find appropriate funders, and a quality directory makes the best use of valuable volunteer research time. The ability to find possible funders quickly and easily and to target them appropriately is vital for a strong grants program.
  • There are many excellent training programs offered on an ongoing basis in the area of grants for non-profit institutions. It is very helpful for both the Development Director and the enthusiastic members of the grants committee to attend these training sessions. Not only do they gain valuable expertise, but they also have the ability to build a good network with other professionals in this area.
  • As the Grants Committee grows in its depth of experience it can build a network of advisors. It can be very helpful to have someone from a different foundation read a draft grant proposal and give feedback on how it might be strengthened. Experience, among committee members and outside advisors, allows the school to gain an understanding of the local philanthropic community, the funders and the types of projects they like to fund.
  • It is helpful for the school to look at a broad range of funders, not just those that give money to educational institutions. It increases the pool of funders to look at all aspects of the school and then to search for funders who support music, youth, and other similarly related ventures.
  • Each funder, whether a city or state, or a large or small private foundation, is unique and requires a different style of writing and presentation in the grant request. It’s important that grant requests be of high quality and reflect an understanding of the particular preferences of the funder.
  • Either the chair or another member of the grants committee should have a strong financial background and understand budget preparation. This kind of expertise is important, as grant applications often require the inclusion of a budget that illustrates how expenses will be spent or allocated.
  • Strong fiscal management at the school is important. It’s important that the school have good documentation on how funds are spent.

DEV 6-6

What are the key thoughts or philosophies that experienced schools would like to share with others starting a grants program?

  • Address current needs and programs at the school. Don’t create projects as a means of securing funding.
  • Following through on reporting requirements is essential. Most grants require certain follow up as a condition of the grant. These can include forwarding copies of annual reports, financial statements and status reports, items that are often produced long after the grant is received. Keeping a good calendar that schedules items well into the future is a must so these commitments can be met. It is also important that there is positive communication with other relevant school personnel so that the proper record keeping is done and other requirements are met.
  • Quality fund management in the business office is a requirement for effective and ethical grant programs. Clear and strong procedures are mandatory.
  • Grant proposals should never be submitted without the approval of the Development Director. The school does not want to squash initiatives, but it is necessary to ensure that all applications meet the quality standards set for the school and that multiple messages are not going to the same foundation.

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