How do you evaluate the performance and effectiveness of your district’s grants office? For many districts, success is determined solely on the amount of grant dollars that come in during the school year. This presents neither a fair and accurate, nor comprehensive, picture of the effectiveness of your grants office. Although the amount of grant money you receive is important, it should not be the only factor used to gauge the effectiveness of your district’s pursuit of grant funding.
An annual review of your grants office should contain a number of both quantitative and qualitative factors that provide information to strengthen the grants office, and that–when measured–can determine your degree of success. Here are a few of the factors you might want to include in your annual review:
(1) The variety of funders pursued.
Does your grants office approach a wide mix of public and private funders? Or, are a small number of the same funders approached over and over again? If so, this can become a trap.
Eventually, some grant programs offered by these funders could fall by the wayside. Funders also might decide to change the focus of their grant making. In addition, many funders limit the number of times you can receive funding from them, or they might ask current grantees to wait a year before submitting another proposal for funding.
Approaching a number of diverse funders will lessen the risk of running out of dollars and funding sources.
(2) The number of proposals submitted–even if they are not all funded.
If you’re only submitting a small number of proposals each year (say, less than 10), your chances of being funded are similarly reduced. However, I am not suggesting that you use the “shotgun” approach and start sending proposals merely for the sake of coming up with a big number!
Savvy grant seekers know the best chance for success is to research and locate the most viable funding sources. In other words, match the funder’s interests to your project’s goals. Apply only to those funders whose eligibility requirements you meet, and make sure you do comprehensive research to locate all of them.
(3) The establishment of relationships that could lead to future funding.
Sometimes getting funding takes time. It’s important to build relationships with funders and with potential partners, while understanding that the funding that results from these relationships might not appear for a year or two.
(4) The timely dissemination of grant information.
Does your grants office do a good job of letting teachers and administrators know about upcoming grant opportunities in a timely manner? Giving people as much notice as possible is one of the keys to developing high-quality projects and writing successful proposals.
One of the goals of your grants office should be to develop an annual grants calendar that is distributed at the beginning of the school year. In addition, your grants office should be sending timely reminders of upcoming deadlines for proposal submissions on a regular basis to all parties involved, as well as reminders about programmatic and fiscal records that must be submitted to funders and the dates by which this needs to be done.
If you’d like to schedule an outside evaluation of your current grant-seeking efforts, send me an eMail message at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help.
Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.