Neva Fenno, M.S. Ed., MLIS
This blog has always targeted schools, private and public, and the teachers and grant professionals on salary in school districts. Grant seekers in non-profit service organizations have much to learn (I hope) from tuning in to this blog for news and ideas in grant writing. These seekers are the worker bees in our non-profit education environment who toil tirelessly to find funds for our kids for important projects that can raise academic achievement. Afterschool programs, STEM projects and fund raising for technology have all been big points of focus. Most of us are part-timers; we teach for a living and write grants on the side. Some of us have been elevated to positions in school administration offices to make the management of funds raised through grants our primary responsibility.
Some school districts, perhaps because of their small size, look for consultants in the field of philanthropy to help find grant funds for their programs. When a school district takes this approach, they enter into a murky world of how to pay the consulting professionals for their services. There is an entire view of professional ethics at work here that grant seekers confront in their efforts to find funds for worthwhile projects.
One approach is to pay the consultant a percentage of the total grant for finding funds and mounting the appeal to grantors to bring in grants for schools. I’ve alluded to this before in my grant writing articles and I think it’s a good time to discuss this idea. I do not recommend, nor do I endorse, taking this approach to find funds for your school projects. In this model, consultants will promise guaranteed returns for their efforts if 20% of the grant is set aside to pay them to find funds for programs and services. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea. The main reason is practical; grantors will not entertain this “pay for play” approach. If they find “grant consultant” in the budget narrative, the application will most likely end up in the circular file. If the grant consultant fee is buried in other lines like “marketing” or “fund-raising” in the budget, the foundation will know. They have been in the business of supporting worthwhile school projects for a long time. They’ve learned to smell a rat. That’s how this approach is perceived in the fund raising business, as being suspect and untenable.
In an article published on the Puget Sound Grant Writers Association, Ken Ristine of the Cheney Foundation writes:
"A funder's main concern about fundraiser compensation lies in the answer to this question: What would charitable fund raising look like if it were a standard practice to pay fundraisers on commission? Public confidence and support of organizations would be undermined."
There are just too many reasons why a grant application can succeed or fail that have nothing to do with the grant writer.
If you are thinking about hiring a professional to come in to your school to consult and provide grant writing services, the only way to make it work is to cut a line item in your regular budget to pay this person/firm. If there are dedicated funds for grant seeking in the city budget (regular school budget in public schools), the efforts remain separate from the grant efforts themselves. This is clean and efficient, even if it means mounting a concerted lobbying effort through the school business office to set these funds aside. If approached properly, this allocation will pay for itself quickly without performing complicated contortions to justify a grant consultant in a grant narrative as a line item on a percentage basis.
In complete disclosure, in my early grant writing life, I tried to be one of those percentage based grant writers. My efforts were a waste of my time as I tried to find schools that would pay me this way. I found myself trying to come up with compelling reasons why schools would want to hire me as a consultant on a percentage basis from funds I might locate to pay for programs. The question kept coming up, “what if I fail?” Then what? Do I just ride off into the sunset, unpaid and unsuccessful after wasting many hours of my time? It’s just not workable. I invite grant writers who are successful using this approach to get in touch with me to let me know how this model has worked for you. I will stand corrected and say so in future articles.
Keep it separate. Find funds through your business office to pay a professional to come in and help you with your important work. You may find you learn a great deal from this person, and lessons learned can be translated to funding for future projects.
Let me know how you’re doing, I will share your school’s success stories with our readers.
Solve for Tomorrow Contest
The contest aims to engage and create enthusiasm for STEM subjects by asking teachers and their students to answer the challenge, "Show how STEM can be applied to help your local community." Winning schools will be awarded more than $2 million in technology from Samsung. Public school teachers in grades 6 - 12 can apply.
Math, Science/Environmental, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Technology.
The Andrew Jergens Foundation
Emphasis on organizations serving minority, low-income, and/or disadvantaged children.
At-Risk/Character, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Math, Reading, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
Public School, Private School.
Next round: 1/1/2017
Proposal Deadline Description
January 1, May 1, August 1
$5,000.00 - $25,000.00
200 W. 4th St. Cincinnati, OH 45202
Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio
Free Grant Search Database
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