How Much Should You Request in Your Grant Proposal? How Much Do You Need?!

August 24, 2009

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “How do you know how much to request when drafting a foundation grant proposal?”

Well, how much do you need?

Folks, this isn’t rocket science and I refer, once again, to my constant mantra of “systems, systems, and systems.”

Have you been researching foundation funders on a weekly basis?

If you have, then you should have a solid listing of prospective funders as well as their grant application guidelines. You should know a) that their funding interests provide a match with your organizational mission, b) that they have funded organizations similar to yours in the past, c) whether they fund general operating costs, d) their fiscal year, and e) whether your organization has applied to them in the past.

Now, take a look at your organizational budget and join me as we determine two separate grant request amounts …

First off, we have the ABC Foundation. They’re a fairly “new kid on the block” to grant making, having opened their doors a scant three years ago after the founder sold his company (according to your Google research). They’ve funded an organization on the opposite end of the city providing the same services as your organization, and their giving history shows general operating grants in the $1,000-25,000 range. Your routine surveying of your board members has also revealed that one of your board members also sits on the board of the local art center – and has a friendly acquaintance with the ABC Foundation’s founder’s wife, who also sits on the board of the local art center.

Your first proposal to the ABC Foundation will be a small one. You feel rather safe in seeking a grant in the amount of $2,500 towards general operating expenses (and your board member has agreed to mention the proposal to Mrs. ABC). Without the connection, your first proposal would have come in at the very lowest end of $1,000.

The XYZ Foundation, on the other hand, has been in existence since 1962. Your organization has been fortunate to receive three nice-sized program grants over a period of ten years in the amounts of $15,000, $25,000, as well as one two-year grant in the amount of $60,000 that ended two years ago.

You are launching a new mentoring program this year and, based on the site visit XYZ paid your organization following the $60,000 grant, you know that they would be as excited about this new program as you are. On the other hand, you also know that XYZ’s assets have taken a bit of a tumble.

Your sixth grant proposal to the XYZ Foundation will seek $10,000 in support of your new mentoring program.

What??!! Sixth proposal??

Didn’t I say that the XYZ Foundation had funded your organization three times?

That’s right. Your first two proposals were declined.

After all, development is all about systems and relationships.

Keep building.

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