Getting Started / Part 2

Getting Started / Part Two:
How to Spend the Money

Now that you have found one or more sources of possible funding for your proposal, it's time to get nosey. Your next job is to find out everything you can about the agency. Here are just a few of the things you want to know:

There are two types of sources for grants: public and private. And there are pluses and minuses to working with each of them. When it comes to finding information to answer the critical questions, you'll have an easier time of it with the public sources. They're required to make their information public. But that also poses a problem, because they're usually required to "keep the playing field level." (That's a metaphor for giving everyone an equal chance.) So even though you can get more "poop" on them, you can't do as much with it.

A more polite term for what we're talking about here is "gathering intelligence." People in the business world have adopted the phrase from the military who used it as a euphemism for "spying." The value of this activity may not be clear to you now, but you will see as we progress that it's essential for producing a winning proposal. But before we begin to look into how to get information about the funding source we need to break down the way you will use the information.

Picture this: A family walks onto a car lot--Mom, Dad, the teenage son, the teenage daughter, and the eight year old son. The smart salesperson is one who will size up the situation and figure out what's going on. Each of the people in that family has some influence over the decision of whether or not to buy the car. Dad is probably concerned about the cost, what the payments are going to be. Mom may be concerned about its reliability. She doesn't want to be going somewhere and have it break down. The teenage boy may want to know how fast it can go, the zero to 60 time. The teenage girl may be more interested in the looks, the color, the interior. And the younger son may simply want a car that his friends will think is cool.

(I know I'm stereotyping, but it's the metaphor I'm after here, so please bear with me.) The smart salesperson recognizes that in this situation there's more than one influence on the purchase and that some of those influences have a greater effect on the decision than the others. Mom's interest, for example, may carry more weight than the eight year old's.

The same holds true for your proposal. That's car you're selling. And to increase your odds of selling it, you've got to find out as much as you can about the people you're selling it to. For example, I've had salespeople ask me early on "What kind of payments are you looking to make?" He asked this because he couldn't get that information by looking at me or listening to what I had to say. But that kind of information is critical to making the sale. If he knows that I can't pay $500 a month he's not going to steer me toward a Lexus.

So you've got to try and find out everything you can about the influences at the funding source--who they are, what their priorities are, and so forth.

Influences are of three types: financial, technical, and altruistic.

The Financial Influence This is the person whose focus is on cost. When the salesman brings up the question of payments, this person's eyes light up. He or she wants to know "What's it going to cost me?" Nearly every funding source has one or more of these people. They are usually more concerned with how much THEY are going to get for the money that YOU are going to get.

The Technical Influence
The technical influence is the person (or persons) who want to be sure that you have crossed your T's and dotted your I's. You've heard it said that something was disqualified on a technicality; the technical influence is the one who made that decision. He or she makes sure that your proposal meets the grantor's specifications. In most cases, they cannot approve your grant, but they almost always can make sure that it is disapproved.

The Altruistic Influence
Some agencies are concerned with achieving lofty goals, like world peace, cooperation between different ethnic groups, improvements in environmental awareness. Others have less lofty, but still admirable objectives, like improving communication between diverse cultural groups. The altruistic influence wants to see clearly stated results which tie directly to the agency's purpose. They want to feel good about the degree to which your efforts, if funded, will meet the agency's goals. Unlike the others, the third type of influence is not affected by things like cost or details. Instead, he or she is more motivated by the results of your "work."

As I said earlier, there are two basic types of funding sources, public and private. The influences defined above exist at both types of sources, but they exist in different types of environments. individuals who influence the decisions for each of these are very different.

Public Sources
As you may have heard, many of the sources for public funds have "dried up" over the past few years. This not only means that the competition for funds from these sources is much stiffer, but the amount of funding available from those that remain is less

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the public sources are affected by politics. So it behooves you to find out all you can about the political ties of the agency and its employees. You probably recall the hoopla surrounding efforts to cut funding for the arts during the last couple of years. Much of that centered on the fact that funds were used to support the display of work which some considered pornographic. So, whereas an agency may be open to one type of funding one year, they may do an about face the next. If you're not up on "what's in and what's out" you may waste a lot of time.

Guidelines for Finding Out Answers to the Critical Questions

Private Sources
Unlike the public sources, private foundations and other kinds of private donors don't have to worry about being regulated. Usually, they are free of government intervention which, as we said earlier, is both a blessing and a curse for the grant writer.

There are two kinds of foundations: those whose funds are from the business world (most major corporations have a charitable foundation associated with them) and those whose funds come from a trust or other financial setup for disbursing the monies left by a philanthropists or philanthropic group. The distinction can be important when it comes to addressing the critical questions.

Guidelines for Finding Out Answers to the Critical Questions

Once you've identified a potential funding source (or sources), use these guidelines to begin your investigation. You'll find out how to apply the results of your investigation to your proposal in the next lecture (Benefits) and you can read about the relationship of these critical questions to your proposal on pages 63 through 74 in your textbooks. (If your version of the book differs from mine,these are the seconds titled "Discriminators" and "Proposal Theme."

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