A Vital Link: Board Giving and Grant Success

by Jule' Colvin on July 18, 2014


  Thirty years ago I wrote and won my first grant for a small nonprofit. It was a federal grant for $90,000 for a rural runaway youth shelter. I was hooked! I realized the power of my writing and my attention to detail could make a big impact in the world. Of course, this was in the day when we still received the Federal Register in the mail. There was no internet. If we wanted to research a foundation, we made our way to the nearest library with a foundation section. We spent hours going through gigantic books and making copies of prospect information.

As you can imagine, I have witnessed much change in the grant-writing world over the past 30 years. Funders ask many different questions now than they did then. They require a lot more documentation. Their funding processes are often vastly different also.

One of the key changes I have seen over the past several years is a growing number of funders who want to know what percentage of your board members give financially to the organization. Some take it a step further and ask what percentage of your entire agency budget is donated by your board members. For those boards that do not have a 100% giving rate, this can be very problematic. In truth, the organization may not be awarded a grant because of poor board giving records. At the very least, they will lose points in the scoring process for this issue.

The bottom line here is that funders are social investors. They are looking for social ROI on their investment. They are looking for organizations and boards who are passionate enough about what they do and the impact they are having that they are personally making financial sacrifices to support the organization. It is already a very competitive grant world out there, be sure your board is not hindering your success with their lack of financial commitment.

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