Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Most Important Fundamental of All: Study the Largest Funders to Get the Largest Amount of Money

I won the first eight federal grants I wrote. In addition to helping jump start my career as a grant writing, this experience taught me the considerable advantages of going after the largest funders first. This principle may seem counter intuitive at first because it is natural to assume that the smaller, local funders - even the tinest family-run funders - might be softer targets.
Drew & Associates has moved to Santa Ana, CA. Here are some pictures of the new offices including the conference room and lobby. Starting in November, we will offer Dr. Drew's workshops and retreats here.

In reality, these small local funders provide grant writers a number of sometimes insurmountable obstacles. Since they are so small, they only have a little money to give and they tend to give only a small number of grants each year. Due to their limited resources, they are less likely to have staff to answer your calls or provide you with additional assistance. The information on their website will most likely be out-of-date. Many, in fact, won't have a website at all.  

In contrast, the largest funders - including the federal government - have full-time staff available to provide you with advice and guidance. In my experience, some of these program consultants will almost write your grant for you if they like your cause. Their websites are usually quite detailed and include links to earlier grantees and other valuable program information. The federal government is especially valuable to grant writers because it goes out of its way to refer you to the latest peer reviewed, state-of-the-art research. 

(It is often a good practice, as Beverly A. Browning notes, to begin your grant writing campaign with your federal grant applications so that you will learn enough new information to write really great state and local-level grants.)

All in all, it pays to go after the largest funders if only because they can give larger grants. After all, for virtually the same amount of effort you access greater possibilities and eventually win much larger grants. My most recent federal grant, for example, was a $1.5 million win for Irvine Valley College. 

Best of all, the larger funders - especially the federal government - are relatively slow to change their interests or application requirements. Once you master their system, you are virtually set for life. For these larger organizations, change comes slow so you can count on the fact that your study of the largest funders will benefit you for many years to come, no matter where you work or how many times you need to craft grant applications. 

Finally, the largest funders have such large endowments that they will probably be the largest funders even decades from now. Smaller foundations may find themselves vulnerable to running out of money because they cannot hire sophisticated investment advisers to manage their portfolios. Again, you have an advantage if you study the largest funders because they will most likely be the same ones you will revisit over the course of your grant writing career. 

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