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7 Myths About Grants

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For whatever reason, many myths about grants are perpetuated. With the new year here, I thought it prudent to bust a few of these myths to prepare us for a clear-headed and productive 2013. Contributors to the following article are Dr. Bev Browning, Vice President of Grants Professional Services at eCivis; Angel Wright-Feldman, Director of Grants Management Services at eCivis; and yours truly. We came up with the following seven common myths about grant writing and grants management. See if these examples resonate.

Myth #1: Grants do not come with strings attached.

Grants by definition come with restrictions. Once you’ve landed a grant, your organization is charged with managing a promise—to use the money is certain ways, to follow reporting procedures, and to demonstrate programmatic progress. Break that promise and you could lose that money and future funding opportunities from that grantor. So when you get a grant award, think that instead of being granted a lump sum of money, you’ve been handed a baton in a relay race. Your job is to run your project and keep it thriving after the award money has “finished”—that’s sustainability. Funders want to see the markers of progress, measurable objectives (see SMART objectives). Who’s the ultimate recipient of this baton? The community that the grant serves. You’re an active steward in that relay, not a static recipient.

Myth #2: The grant well is dry. There’s no money out there.

A tough economy means only that the competition is fiercer than in years’ past. It means that project alignment with a foundation’s mission or strict adherence to eligibility guidelines of a state/federal program is crucial to pursuing a well-researched grant opportunity. It means that investing time in grant writing is more important than ever. It’s not about a needy grant-seeking institution knocking on the grant maker coffer; it’s about the missions of two entities aligning, collaborating, and pooling money and in-kind efforts toward a greater good.

Myth #3: Anyone can win a grant award; all you have to is fill in the application and the government will give you a grant.

Many grant funding opportunities are highly competitive.  If you apply for federal grants, consider that your organization is competing among 50 states, 5 major territories and 11 smaller Pacific Islands, and 565 federally recognized tribes. In some federal-level grant competitions, thousands of grant applications are submitted and fewer than 25 are actually awarded.

Myth #4: The government has “free grants” for paying off your bills, buying a house, and taking a vacation.

This is the sort of myth perpetuated by the likes of Matthew Lesko, “the question-mark guy.” Unfortunately, people still buy it. The federal government has many entitlement programs for eligible individuals, including homebuyer assistance grants; however, there are no true grants to pay your debts as an individual or to take a vacation.

Myth #5: Grant writing and grants management is a solo sport.

Grant writing and grants management are team sports.  Any project that your organization undertakes will likely involve individuals from several departments within your organization and maybe a few external collaborators.  Never attempt to write or manage a grant in a silo.

Myth #6: My organization can quickly pull together an application.

You could, but that attitude is foolish. All grant work varies according to program and project, and may take days or weeks to complete. The work involves more than just drafting the application; it includes team collaboration. This includes completing a go/no go assessment to make sure you’re best positioned to move forward; planning meetings; identifying partners; assigning roles; setting expectations; gathering and reviewing documentation; making sure everyone involved is on board for evening and weekend work; and writing, editing, proofreading, and submission.

Myth #7: Grants management begins after the grant award notice is signed.

The most competitive grant applications will consider grants management during the proposal development phase.  Funders should be given a very clear understanding of how you’re going to account for grant dollars they award to your organization.


So what are some myths and pet peeves that come to mind that are not mentioned above? Your comments are more than welcome. And if you enjoyed this blog topic, enjoy this free article:

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