The New York State Consolidated Funding 2014 funding announcements were made recently. Months had been spent in the spring of 2014 across the state with nonprofits, for-profits and municipalities working individually and collectively to assemble what they hoped to be the most competitive applications possible for agencies. These agencies range from NYS Council for the Arts (NYSCA) to the NYS Energ
The New York State Consolidated Funding 2014 funding announcements were made recently. Months had been spent in the spring of 2014 across the state with nonprofits, for-profits and municipalities working individually and collectively to assemble what they hoped to be the most competitive applications possible for agencies. These agencies range from NYS Council for the Arts (NYSCA) to the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). New York is a unique state due to its recent shift to a consolidated funding process encompassing many of the state agencies. There is now a large emphasis and level of influence given to regional councils throughout the state that can assign priorities to applications from their region within each annual process.
It has taken time for organizations in the state to adjust to the new process, so whether your state has or is going through a similar funding process consolidation or grant reform, there are some key lessons that will benefit all groups to consider in their grant-seeking work.
1 – Partnership is Almost a Requirement for Success
While not all competitive applications require partnership, there is a significantly increased expectation by funders, ranging from private foundations through state agencies and federal agencies/departments that partnership and collaboration is considered as part of a proposed program or project design. The Department of Education expects that there is public and private partnerships in its innovation funding stream. CMS expects community-based organizations partner with health care systems and other private organizations in its innovation-funding stream. These are not the outliers, but rather the reality, that those seeking increasingly competitive grant funds need to consider.
2 – Commitment, not Simply Support, is Key
The last time you asked for a letter to support a grant application you were submitting, did you ask your collaborator/partner for a letter of support or a letter of commitment? Wondering what the difference is? A letter of support is one written by someone who is supportive of your efforts, but likely has no role in the implementation. On the other hand, a letter of commitment is one written by someone not only supportive of your efforts, but with specific proposed roles to play in the proposed program or project. They are an individual or organization that either has a formal Memorandum of Understanding/Agreement (MOU/MOA) with your organization or another form of a partnership document. Letters of commitment carry significantly more weight than letters of support. Your letters of commitment should be limited only to elected officials in your grant application, if at all possible.
3 – Identify and Engage Your Champions
There are numerous layers of review and approval built into many grant-funding processes. Private foundations often have a grant-making committee or staff group that review and comment on proposals prior to submission to the board of directors. State agencies, especially in the case of New York, have an additional review group in the form of the Regional Economic Development Councils that now provide feedback in addition to agency specific reviews. Federal agencies have peer review groups in addition to staff review. There are numerous points within each of these processes where individuals will have the opportunity to champion your proposal. Identifying those potential champions during the relationship-building phase of any grant application are critical to ensure that your champions understand the context of your proposal, and how the requested funding helps move your organization and goals forward.
4 – Sell Your Strengths but be Honest About Your Weaknesses
If you are requesting grant funds, your organization is working to address a weakness of some kind, whether a weakness in terms of how a community need is being met, or an internal weakness if you are focused on a capacity-building request to add new staff, buy new equipment, or create a new strategic plan. Grant funders want to fund strong organizations they believe will be strong funding partners and create impact with their dollars. However, they also understand that there are real weaknesses within any organization, and need to know what they are prior to making a grant award, and what your plans are to address them. Sell the strength of your current partnerships, or be clear that your interaction and plans with potentials is focused on strengthening and enhancing the work that is done together.
I hope that the next time that you being your pre-planning process for an upcoming grant application, you consider these four points as you begin the application brainstorming and planning process. Focus on the partnership in your work and bring your partners/collaborators to the table with you early during the pre-planning work. You will see the return on that investment and effort back ten-fold.
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