Fundability 101

When I was 8 or 9, I would often watch old Mickey Rooney movies (and if you are asking Mickey WHO, you know just how old those movies are). In them, a group of kids would face a problem where they needed some money. “I know,” Mickey would inevitably say, “let’s put on a show.” And in quick order, a very professional production would premiere and all problems solved.

A lot of people who work in the nonprofit or educational sectors seem to think that they are Mickey Rooney. Instead of putting on a show, however, the think that the answer is to have an event or—better still-- write a grant.

As someone who makes a regular portion of her income by teaching grant writing, I often find myself in the strange position of convincing people that a grant may not be the best solution. Sometimes this is because grants require fair amount of managing, and not all organizations have the wherewithal to do that. They simply are not (yet) grant ready. More often, however, it is because what is being sought simply is not grant fundable.

Just because you think you need something, it doesn’t follow that anybody will want to provide the funding so you can get it. “They (the ubiquitous—presumably some foundation, corporation or the government) should fund this,” the logic seems to go, “ because I need it.”

Even assuming there were to be some truth to this logic (there isn’t), the first question that comes to mind is do you truly need this or do you simply want it? The second, closely related question is does the grant maker care?

I know. I know you care. This is something that matters to you. But does it matter to your clients or constituents or your students? Will it make a difference to their lives? Funders, you see, want to have a sense that whatever they are funding is important and the best way to make someone think that something is important is to convince them that their support (funding/investment, however you want to to describe it) will make a difference. One really important way to make a difference is to change something from what is to what it should be.

If what you want won’t change anything for the better for the people you are supposed to be serving (and no, that’s not you, your office, your boss or your secretary), then you do not have a fundable project.