Grant funding can sometimes seem like an impersonal process. You find the grant funding you’re interested in, read the guidelines, submit your proposal, then receive notification of whether you’ve gotten the grant funding.
After you get the grant funding, you will possibly submit periodic reports on how you’re using the money. It’s entirely possible to do this on an impersonal, faceless basis, but not necessarily desirable. It may be possible to re-humanize the process.
First, when you write your proposal for grant funding, keep in mind the real people behind the scenes. For government grants, this is a little more difficult. However, when you are seeking grant funding from a foundation or a corporate funder, you can identify a particular personality that the organization has, which is likely reflected among the individuals who work there. These are real people with viewpoints and feelings, and if you try to speak to that with your proposal, that will succeed better than if you take a cookie-cutter approach to grant funding.
Next, if you have a way to get to know some of the people associated with the grant funding, make every effort to do so. You can request an appointment to talk to the grant reviewer, the grant reviewer’s supervisor, the program officer, or anyone who can give you insight into the organization and their specific grant funding procedures. Ask questions, find out their opinions, seek their advice, find out what excites them in terms of how their grant funding can create positive change.
Any contact you have with the grant funder should be courteous and respectful, whether you’re communicating with the president, or with the receptionist. If you do receive grant funding, be sure to give a nice thanks. Or even if you don’t, you can still thank them for the opportunity to compete for the grant funding. Politeness is always nice anyway, but you can help make a good name for yourself if the grant funder finds that you’re pleasant to work with.
An additional strategy that will benefit you greatly with grant funding is to get involved with the professional groups that grant funders are a part of. This will put you on their radar. A variation of this is to explore your social circles and business associates to find out who knows whom. You’re likely no more than a couple of degrees of separation from some influential decision makers.
The reasons for this are two-fold. First, grant funding efforts are more successful when the funder is able to put a face on the project. Second, some grant funding is not open to anyone who wants to submit a proposal. Instead, in some cases, grant funders will identify the organizations they know of, which would be good fits for their proposed grant funding. They then invite them to apply, and others who may hear about the grant funding and want in, aren’t eligible. It used to be that grant funders would announce a grant and then sit back while the proposals rolled in. Increasingly, though, they’re going to this new model of limiting the grant funding to those they already know.
What this means is that, even if you’re not yet ready for grant funding, it’s not a bad idea to start cultivating resources and contacts. This is just a matter of networking and meeting people, and it’s made easier by the fact that you and the funder have the common goal of wanting to see the grant funding used to make good things happen.