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Dispelling five common grant-seeking myths

Myth: Grant deadlines are negotiable. In plain and simple terms, no, they are not!

As I’ve talked with a variety of people recently who are looking for funding for their education projects, I’ve come to realize there are a few grant-seeking “myths” that need to be dispelled. Here are the most common ones that I have heard.

  1. Grants are the answer to every financial crisis. I understand that many people are now looking at grants as a solution to their budget difficulties, such as losing staff, ending programs, and simply buying day-to-day items. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of grants are intended to fund new projects, not supply new sources of dollars to cover existing expenses. There are a few funders who have made a decision within the last two years or so to change their focus and help organizations with their basic needs; however, for the most part, this is the exception rather than the rule. What’s more, receiving a grant award isn’t a quick process that occurs within a week or two. In the case of federal grants, six to nine months can pass before you receive notice of funding. Finally, grantors tend to fund grantees who have a strong record of being able to manage grants and who can show relative financial stability. Applicants who are facing a budgetary crisis are likely to find that grantors will see them as too risky an investment.
  2. Grants are easy to get. In today’s world, the competition for grants has become even more severe. Why? Because a larger number of schools and other organizations are applying for grants than ever before. (For example, a recent new grant competition in the healthcare field received 10,000 letters of intent and more than 3,000 applications.) Although some proposals are poorly written and are not very competitive in the eyes of reviewers, many of the proposals are high-quality and worthy of consideration for funding.  I would never say that getting grants is “easy,” and I’ve been pursuing them for a long time! If you have a good relationship with a funder, combined with a positive track record of carrying out projects successfully, you might find continuation funding is easier to achieve.
  3. Grant proposals take just a few hours to complete. Grant applications come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from online applications that contain three questions to 80-page proposal packages and everything in between. What I would say is that some applications do take a few hours to complete, while for other programs it might take weeks or months to put the entire proposal package together. It’s important to plan ahead and calculate how much time it will require to apply for a particular grant program, taking the following factors into consideration: How complex is the narrative? How much data do you need to support the need for the project? How many attachments are needed?
  4. Grant deadlines are negotiable. In plain and simple terms, no, they are not! If you cannot meet a funder’s deadline, your recourse is to wait until the next deadline. Contacting a funder to explain why you cannot meet the deadline is fruitless. Stop and think about it in these terms: If everyone asked for a deadline extension and it was granted, there would be no need for any funder to have set deadlines. Funders could simply state in their guidelines that potential applicants should contact them to negotiate a deadline that would be most convenient to the applicant. Yes, there are some funders who have “rolling deadlines,” meaning you can submit an application at any time—but if you see published deadlines for submission, take them seriously.
  5. There is a grant to fund everything. This one is somewhat related to myth No. 1. Although there are a plethora of grant programs and grantors, there really are not potential funders for every project—and the related expenses that accompany it. Remember, if you need equipment, nine times out of 10 it must be related to the successful execution of some type of project, rather than simply a “wish list” of what you want to buy.
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