“Grants & Funding” column, February 2012 edition of eSchool News—You might have noticed that some funders require you to address the “Capacity of Your Organization” to carry out the project you’re describing in your grant proposal. If you come across this requirement, how can you demonstrate the sustainability of your organization to potential funders? To put it another way, what types of information can you provide that will convince a funder that you’re a credible applicant who will not carry substantial risk if you are chosen for a grant award?
Keep in mind that your entire proposal should send a strong, “unspoken” message that you are credible and reliable. But here are some suggestions for what you can include in the Capacity section of your proposal to make this message even stronger:
1. Describe your experience receiving and managing other grants, especially noting those for significant amounts of money (say, more than $25,000) and those that were funded by a federal agency. (I suggest mentioning any federal grants because most funders will recognize that these tend to be larger, more complex grants that are extremely competitive and can be hard to receive.) Talk about the scope of the project(s) and the dollar amounts you received. When addressing grants management, you can discuss how your staff track their time on grant-funded projects and who has responsibility for making sure that programmatic and fiscal reports are submitted on a timely basis.
2. Describe your business office capabilities. Include information about the number of staff you have in your business office and how they carry out cost and budget controls. For example, you can discuss your internal invoicing system, noting the frequency of invoices and the review process for these. Who monitors the expenses related to grant-funded projects to make sure that only allowable ones are made?
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3. Describe your past audit experiences, if any, noting whether you have had audits that contained no findings. If there were any findings, you can discuss how you responded to them to rectify the situation. (If you decide to use this type of information, I would suggest consulting with your business office and auditor. You want to make sure that what you include does not make you sound as if audits are a serious problem for your organization!)
4. If your school, district, or university has received any exemplary awards, especially as related to the project outlined in your proposal, be sure to mention them and whom they came from. If you have been recognized for prior “best practices” or for using innovative approaches to solving problems, this also would be excellent information to include.