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The Chaotic Nature of Grant Seeking


I have been thinking a lot about chaos, especially after completing a chaotic month. When you are a professional fund raiser, every month is a chaotic month. So I always try to assure my clients that the nature of grant seeking is chaotic, and there are ways to manage it.


Chaos is defined as behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.

We see this all the time. Funders change deadlines; change requirements; reorganize processes, priorities or people; and/or add documentation beyond the scope of funding. Just this past week, I was working on a grant for a client that has been awarded by a particular funder for years. When I went back to the website to double check the requirements, they added a new provision that made the client ineligible. No notice. No explanation.


Chaos is not exclusive to funders either. Organizations change staff, programs, measurements and data systems; change funding priorities; and are always competing for time.


So what do we do? If there are uncontrollable factors at play (there are), what can we do?


If you can't prevent, circumvent. If you know that the person in your organization needs multiple nudges to get the work done, start earlier. Most people cannot drop everything to assist on a grant that's due today at 5pm. So a great way to get ahead is utilizing a timeline. What that does is add order to the chaos. As an example, this is a timeline that we tend to use:


Proposal Guide:

60-90 days: Preliminary Research (Check deadlines, website, status of previous giving, etc.)

30-60 days: Preparation (Contact funder, create google doc, research, collect info)

0-30 days: Working (Writing, reviewing, editing, last-minute items)


Our goal is to submit grants 7-14 days in advance. That is a condensed way we've discovered to manage the chaos (while still giving us plenty of time for it). But this is just that, condensed. There are reports, thank you letters, tracking and gathering of additional documents all while maintaining a relationship with a funder nonprofits have to manage. In an already chaotic field, it can easily become overwhelming.


There are so many other strategies to manage the chaos that are specific to you and your organization. That's what we do. We are able to identify the best ways to help you not only manage the chaos but thrive. The best creativity can come from chaos, and we will show you how.

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