Why Coordination Is a Crucial Component of Your Funding Strategy
Organizations require consistent, diverse funding streams to keep vital programming alive. However, many organizations lack comprehensive strategic plans that integrate philanthropic giving and grant seeking as an active component of resource development.
Grants and philanthropy are often housed in separate offices, disconnecting fundraising vision from execution. What does this mean for your organization? The lack of coordination leads viable funding opportunities to slip through the cracks.
The development team might not know what funding investments the grant department is striving to, or has, secured with federal and foundational donors. Conversely, the grants team might not know what new relationships exist from individual giving or corporate sponsorship initiatives that could be utilized for prospecting new grant makers.
Many organizations have the common goal of positively impacting the communities they serve, yet developing a centralized grant funding strategy and communicating return on investment to potential funders can be a complex endeavor. As funders and individuals place an increasing emphasis on outcomes to validate donation decisions and ensure their contributions have made a positive impact on the organization, the need for a coordinated funding strategy is increasingly apparent. However, this need must be balanced with a grant strategy that is flexible and evolving to account for changing social and legislative priorities.
“Strong grant efforts beget philanthropy, and vice versa. Individual donors are becoming increasingly savvy, looking for institutional giving as a sign of ‘moving the needle’ on a cause,” says Josh Jacobson, managing director of NextStage Consulting. “Grantmakers are similarly looking at the percentage of individual giving as an indicator of vitality and sustainability. These two offices should work together on messaging and strategy, finding opportunities to positively impact both efforts.”
The relationship between grant development and other fundraising strategies is crucial. Organizations need to consider the following when making a comprehensive strategic plan that integrates grant seeking with programmatic outcomes.
What is a grant?
Grant proposals are business plans that provide the justification for funds needed for projects. Commonly funding program growth, grants often provide a portion of the funds needed for a project. To ensure that the project or program will be successful and sustainable after the life of the grant, this funding pursuit needs to be a coordinated effort between both your operations department and philanthropy efforts.
Grants rarely provide unrestricted funds; instead, grants typically fund specific projects or initiatives. In addition to the time invested during the proposal production process, the organization must have the capacity, structure and resources to administer the funds and carry out the project. Organizations must be very careful in the selection and pursuit of grant opportunities, and a systematic, coordinated, strategic approach is needed when approaching these worthwhile and beneficial opportunities.
How are grants related to funding strategy?
“Grant seeking is an imperative component of any balanced fundraising strategy,” says Susan Perri, grants consultant at Hanover Research. “Grants are a competitive yet viable option that enables agencies to diversify their funding streams and maximize their missions, whether for dedicated programs or general operational support.
"The relationship between grant seeker and grant maker is an excellent opportunity for the strategic collaboration and innovation known as disruptive philanthropy," she adds. "Both sides are uniquely poised to understand the needs and challenges in their service areas, and to collectively develop meaningful metrics to gauge impact.”
We have witnessed the shift away from segmented funding strategy in our clients’ approach to grant seeking. When facilitating grant development, this means emphasizing the importance of grants as not just a means for funding dollars, but as the vehicle for outcomes-based program validation and a tool for developing long-term sustainability.
How can your organization 'move the needle' to fund your goals?
“Working together, philanthropy via grants supports service organizations in testing ideas and approaches to affect change towards a shared vision,” Perri says. “Ideally, this funding relationship is long-term, cooperative and mutually supportive in terms of truly ‘moving the needle’ on their specific cause.”
Does your office administration have the appropriate infrastructure in place to seize grant funding while advancing your philanthropic strategy? Do you adequately differentiate between a “grant” and a “gift” to maximize funder and donor relations? Putting this infrastructure in place now will help to ensure the sustainability and success of your future efforts.
Develop a funding strategy that supports the long-term, cooperative and mutually supportive coordination of grants and gifts. Hanover Research breaks down the nuances between grant development and traditional philanthropy functions, providing a comparative guide and insight for organizations considering enhancing their grant services as a proactive strategy to seize funding in today’s competitive marketplace.
Chad Ross is managing content director at Hanover Research.