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My Favorite Grant Seeking Myths


I receive tons of calls and emails from people who are under many impressions that are simply not true when it comes to grant seeking. All of those people are working hard to change the world, and it breaks my heart to tell an organization that the "insider information" they heard from a friend isn't true. So I decided to debunk my five favorite (most heard) myths when it comes to grant seeking.


Myth: Foundations are just waiting to give me money!

The truth: Most foundations have far more grant requests than they can possibly fund.


Even with an excellent proposal, the competition for those dollars is stiff. There are more than a million other nonprofit agencies in the nation. Each believes that their funding priority is more important than yours.


Myth: Grants are the answer to all the organization’s financial needs.

The truth: Grants should be part of the “funding mix” for your organization.


Research indicates that private gifts (including foundation grants) provide 12-22% of total nonprofit funding. Therefore, it is unlikely that grant seeking will become your organization’s first (or even second or third) largest source of income. However, 12-22% of your total bottom line is still a lot of money!


Myth: Grants are “free money!”

The truth: Grants are actually pretty expensive money.


One researcher estimates it takes one dollar to earn $10 in grants. Why so expensive? There is a cost associated with preparing to write a grant proposal, communicating with potential funders, writing and editing the actual proposal, and providing follow-up and required reports. When considering a funding source, measuring the amount of effort required for the grant is always important – sometimes a grant is just too expensive to consider.


Myth: If I hire a grant seeker, I won’t have to think about grants any more.

The truth: To be effective, you must be involved on a regular basis.


Even with a professional grant seeker helping, a member of the organization’s staff needs to invest at least one hour per grant proposal submitted. This time commitment includes contacting the funder, providing the grant seeker with information, reviewing and editing the grant, securing letters of support if needed, and even signing and mailing the actual proposal to the funder. Without your regular involvement, the process will not be effective.


Myth: Everyone knows we do great work – foundations will see that.

The truth: More than ever, foundations are demanding that you measure and communicate the short- and long-term outcomes of your programming in statistically viable ways.


If you tell a funder that you will feed and shelter 650 children this year, they are likely to respond with, “So what?” The number of programs you manage and the number of people you touch are NOT outcomes – they are simply activities.

Funders have become very savvy – they want to know what kind of short- and long-term impact your activities have on those you serve and the community in general.

If you are not effectively identifying and measuring your outcomes, your grant seeking results will suffer.

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