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Like many of you, school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have placed me in the - let’s be honest - not entirely welcome position of balancing a full-time career with my new role of homeschool teacher. I naively and, looking back on it, pompously believed that this would be a piece of cake. I have teenagers, not small children who demand constant attention. They are good students. How hard can it be? Hard. Harder than I thought possible.

You are knee deep in a large government grant proposal and… The executive director calls you on the way to another meeting and quickly ambles off a new strategy the agency will be embarking on that must be included in the proposal. The finance person sends you an email with three new expenses to include in the budget. As you are leaving a meeting with the evaluation team, you are told about a new assessment tool the agency will be implementing…

COVID-19 has forced many schools, hospitals, and agencies to launch emergency operations that they did not previously offer or to expand upon services that were quickly found to be insufficient. Many limped into virtual operations without adequate technology infrastructure, software platforms, or sufficient bandwidth (both internet signal and staff capacity). The USDA Rural Utilities Services Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant is not new, but it has certainly launched itself into celebrity status. This three-year grant provides eligible applicants the funding to purchase telecommunications equipment, computer networks, and related advanced technologies to be used by students, medical professionals, and rural residents for the purpose of expanding telemedicine and distance learning to rural communities.

As grant writers, we help secure much-needed funding so projects or programs can fulfill their objectives. As our society evolves, more and more funders are including cultural competency questions in their grant applications. Funders want to know that investing in your organization’s project or program helps a vast array of people and that your organization is cognizant of serving people in a way that is inclusive, respectful of diversity, and equitable. However, much like the for-profit world, the non-profit sector is not always diverse or culturally competent.

This is a strange time for many nonprofits. For some nonprofits, they are busier than they have ever been, even at the height of the Great Recession. Other nonprofits have closed their doors due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Some wonder if it is indecent to even be fundraising right now for anything outside of basic necessities, while others are organizing new and extra fundraising methods because their annual fundraising events are now canceled. How will this change the funding landscape and for how long? We don’t know. What we do know is that the funding landscape will continue to be incredibly competitive just as it was during the Great Recession. At Assel Grant Services, we were writing before, during, and after that recession, and we are writing in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis as well. Experience has taught us that in order to be funded, grants must be about more than just passion and need. Programs must be of the highest quality and they must directly align to community needs. How can we ensure that alignment? How can we prove to funders that we are truly meeting the needs of the community? Run your programs through a logic model.

During my years as the staff grant writer/developer/manager at a small liberal arts university, I had the privilege of working with exceptionally talented faculty members who were passionate about developing their programs with grant funding. I also had the privilege of working with executive level administrators skilled at driving the strategic plan and maintaining the daily operations of the university. Neither stakeholder group had the time or inclination to wade through the minutia of funder requirements. That was my job. Described below are some of the strategies I found effective for educating key personnel and organization administrators about the “shall” and “shall not” of funder requirements.

Conducting Mission-Focused Planning and Needs Assessments with Applicant Organizations: Part 2 – Assessing the Need Written by Julie Alsup, GPC and Tom Assel, GPC In Part 1, we talked about finding and using existing needs assessments. But suppose no appropriate needs assessment data already exists. How do you start the needs planning process?

There are many ways to think about budgeting in relation to grants. Essential to a well-run grants program is planning what discerns program or project creation needs from budget relieving needs. Program/project creation - funds to help create a new program or project that aligns with the organization’s mission. Budget relieving - funds that help ‘plug’ holes and relieve existing expenses.

Cultivating Buy-In by Tracey Diefenbach, GPC I will never forget the day I took a grant approval form to the vice president of programs I worked with at the time. She took one look at it and said, “We are back to using this thing again?” The form required the team’s signatures on a statement of whether we decided to pursue a grant. At the time, I was fairly new to the position and while I thought what she said was cynical, a part of me agreed and questioned how a piece of paper could serve as full consensus and buy-in. I went with it and started using the form.