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Know Thyself, Says Evan Jones to Grant Writers

June 20, 2013

Yes, we did have a little fun at the grant writing session. From left: Patricia Martin, Susie Bowie, Evan Jones, John Annis, Earl Young

Yes, we did have a little fun at the grant writing session. From left: Patricia Martin, Susie Bowie, Evan Jones, John Annis, Earl Young

It was nearly a full house at this morning’s grant writing workshop at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Thanks to Evan Jones, grants manager at the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, about 70 nonprofits learned a lot about what to do–and what not to do–when approaching a foundation.

(Before I continue, I will harp on the fact that your fundraising plan–yes, that lovely document we ask you about in the management section of your Giving Partner profile–should consider diverse sources of revenue. Only 15% of the overall contributions to charitable organizations comes from foundations, according to the new Giving USA report.)

So here is a little Evan-advice about knowing thyself when it comes to grant proposals:

  • If you are one of those people who hates getting rejected, do some positive self-talk before getting too immersed in grant writing. Only 1 in 5 grant proposals gets accepted. Just because you get a “no” doesn’t mean you are not a fabulous grant writer. Do not judge your personal skills based on several denials.

  • Take the time to master all the facts about your organization before you go forth and solicit money–whether it’s from donors or institutional funders. What is the history of your organization? The history of the program you are trying to fund? The total grant dollars you have received from that funder over the years? There is a lot of history in our community, and you do not want the funder or board/committee members reviewing your proposal to know more about your organization than you do.

  • Understand mere eligibility for the grant versus being a good fit for the grant. If you really understand what you are asking for and know your organization’s own capacity, you can differentiate between the two.  This will keep you from wasting your time with proposals that may be delivered to the desk-side retirement bin.

  • Differentiate yourself from others. Yes, yes, yes. Believe it or not, there are organizations in our community just like yours…or very similar to yours. Don’t believe us? Check out www.thegivingpartner.org. You may have heard about it. How are you different? Why is an investment in your organization going to maximize the impact?

  • If you know you are not the best with deadlines, set an extra early deadline in your own personal time zone. According to Evan’s research, grants that are submitted at least 72 hours before the deadline are three times more likely to get approved. Why? He thinks it has a lot to do with the culture of excellence that an early preparer adheres to…plus, he mentioned, when it is there good and early, he may even take a look and let you know if you’re missing a key ingredient.

So there you have it. What kind of grant writer are you?

Want a copy of Evan’s presentation? E-mail Susie@CFSarasota.org.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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