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Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Anatomy of Grant Seeking in Challenging Times
Karen Eber Davis

November, 2008

While many grant donors are sharing that they are inundated with requests — opportunities to win grants still exist. For example, in the last month, I’ve helped groups to renew state funds, seek new federal, corporate, and foundations funds plus grants from the proceeds of a community event. 

Seeking funds and making plans is a sign of hope and commitment to your future. At the same time, it is realistic to acknowledge the competition and approach each request with care. How can you write a strong application to make your case? Which requests stand the best chance of funding? Consider the following: 

Aim For the Bull’s Eye.  Request help where help is needed the most. If you face new requests for help from your customers, this is an obvious area to seek funding. What about requesting funds for a short-time position to help people for the next year, especially if you can make the case that you will have less demand at the end of the grant cycle? 

Back to Basics.  Request essential items that will save staff, energy or other costs. Seek funds for program basics that allow you to continue to provide essential services, streamline operations and become more self-sufficient. For example, seek funds to replace a worn, high-mileage vehicle with a low-mileage model to transport seniors to medical appointments. Install a telephone system that allows you to reduce staff. Replace the daycare center’s roof. Request help for an entrepreneurial effort to provide new income. 

Modest Work Best.  Make your request at the average or less than the historical amounts given by the donor. When the market is growing, nonprofits often request more than the historical average. When the market shrinks, it is time to seek less. 

True Commitment.  When they must make choices, donors prefer to go with those whom they have the longest successful relationship--- don’t forget to ask you tried and true friends for help. And when you reach out to new people, even if you are not funded now, remember your efforts are establishing the groundwork for future relationships. 

Buddy Up.  Collaborations have always helped grant donors to help multiple organizations with one gift. Also, donors recognize that collaborations spur new interactions and possibilities. Because of these and other reasons, collaborative applications hold special attraction now. Contact the person on your list from that other organization. This is the time to explore all the ideas of how you might work together. . .and receive grant support to do so. 

Karen Eber Davis is a consultant, strategist, group facilitator and writer. As president of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, she draws on her full set of skills to help organizations plan and fund their way to excellence. Her firm has attracted such clients as the Red Cross, Circus Sarasota, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Suncoast Workforce Development Board, the Englewood Water District, Dreams are Free and more than 100 local, regional and national organizations. Her consulting work is respected for its innovation, enthusiasm and energy as well as its practical understanding of the spirit and psychology of nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit her website at


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