That’s understandable, really, since federal grants are huge, complicated, life-consuming dinosaurs that require entirely too much time and paper – and that’s just the application. Reporting out on these grants is far more cumbersome, tedious and exhaustive.
So…why do we apply for federal grants? Are non-profiteers masochistic?
No. We just know that federal grants are often large and are key in jumpstarting and maintaining important programs and projects.
But we have to think more broadly about federal grants. They are financial tools for organizations to facilitate programming, however, they are also advocacy opportunities; platforms from which to share the mission, vision and utter importance of organization programming.
The pool of federal funds is waning as the need for services grows. And there are certain practices that are more favorable now in the eyes of the federal government than ever before – namely, collaboration.
As we recently experienced, far too many federally supported programs were eliminated or drastically cut. Gone are the days when organizations can just count on federal money to roll in year after year. Similar to foundation and corporate grants, competition for federal funds is fierce as resources become more limited.
But, united community forces tackling a particular issue translates as more efficient investment for the feds and they are more likely to fund multi-discipline and cross-organization efforts. More than likely, yours is not the only organization in your area addressing a particular issue and community issues are not one-dimensional. Collaboration serves not just to provide greater access to federal funds, but provides the community a multi-faceted solution.
Federal reports are often statistics heavy, which makes sense as stats paint a picture of the need and the solution. The statistics you are reporting may not tell the entire story about what is happening within your program, though, and this is where the narrative becomes crucial.
As cumbersome as it may be, the narrative is your friend, even if you are not the best writer. This is your best opportunity to make an impactful statement about your collaborations, the population you are serving, how you are serving them, why you are serving so many/so few, etc. This is your shot to make sure the feds absolutely understand what is happening on the ground so write with passion and conviction – engage the reader and describe the importance of your existence and the needs of those whom you serve.
As you embrace this paradigm shift and consider collaboration as a means to serve more and garner federal support while simultaneously gearing up to write, edit, face palm and possibly hide under your desk, remember the purpose and the broader mission. And saving the funds that make your mission possible.