Tips for the Pre-Application Period

Assistance to Applicants:

Since groups that are good candidates for grassroots grants are often unfamiliar with the requirements of conventional grantsmanship, it makes sense to simplify the funder’s usual application procedures and invest more time in pre-application assistance.  Potential applicants will find these procedures helpful:

  • A well-publicized meeting to explain the program’s purposes and procedures (it’s good to hold this in a neighborhood setting);
  • A clear statement of the criteria to be used in choosing among applicants;
  • One-on-one or small group assistance to potential applicants to help scale their objectives appropriately, to help them develop the rudiments of a realistic plan, and to adjust expectations.
  • Less demand for written evidence, and an application form stripped of all but the most essential questions;
  • Less demand for the formal trappings of a more sophisticated organizations (by-laws, multi-year plan, audit, etc.);
  • More reliance on on-site inquiry and discussion with applicants;
  • Input in evaluating applicants from a community advisory mechanism that is familiar with resident groups, their issues and needs.

From “Supporting Low-Income Neighborhood Organizations:  A Guide for Community Foundations” by Rainbow Research. From Your Peers: A Sampling of the Range of Approaches

We ask people to call first.  That way, we save the organization the time of doing the application work if it is not a fit.  it also helps us understand whether or not the organization needs technical assistance of any kind.
– Eunice Letzing, Seattle’s Neighbor to Neighbor Program

We provide application workshops throughout the application period.  Applicants must attend an application workshop in order to apply.  the workshops are two hours in length and cover eligibility, guidelines and the applicator process.  Applicants are invited to attend as many application workshops as they need, although most only attend one.  I’ve seen that the workshops improve the quality of the applications that we receive and allow us to do much of the technical assistance and relationship-building before the application is submitted.
– Julie Tindall, City of Orlando’s Mayor’s Matching Grants Program

We don’t technically have any pre-application materials.  Our workshops and work is pretty much personalized for each group.  Each project is different.  It’s hard to put most of the preparation into templates.  We spend lots of time emphasizing that we don’t required applicants to provide all of the research, statistics and rationales for implementing their project.  the Foundation has already done that work and we know that there are deficits; we just want to know what they see from their vantage point and what they want to do about it.

I probably spend more time on reassuring the applicant that they are the “authorities” and the bet ones to write the grant than on anything else…….many folks have convinced themselves they cannot possibility write a grant because they are not at the proper “level” to do so.

I usually close with an interactive group activity.  The group is given cards with descriptions of different groups with ideas for projects; the group role plays how those scenarios manifested and they must act like the resident panel to determine whether the group would be funded and why or why not.
– Lisa Leverette, Skillman Foundation’s Community Connections Grant Program

We like the “you talk, we type” style of grant applications.
– Jennifer Vanica, President, Jacobs Family Foundation


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