I always think of the last quarter of the year as the “learning season” when I attend the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) National Conference and begin thinking about the year past and ahead. This is not an easy process for me. As a grants professional, it is so easy to get bogged down in the daily grind, but this season really forces me and gives me permission to think about my own learning and goals. It reminds me of the Dr. Suess book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. A friend gave me this to me when I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree. At the young age of 20, I could not even begin to imagine where I would go. Some 20 years later, after working as an in-house grant professional and now working in a consultant role, I am using this learning season to really reflect on where I have been and where I will still go. There are so many different paths in the grant professional’s work. This just one example – my journey.

While there are legal requirements for nonprofit organizations around transparency and disclosure of financial information, there can also be some grey areas where ethical decisions aren’t as clear. For instance, it can be tempting to apply for and accept funding anywhere you can get it. But what if you serve clients who are struggling with substance use, and a potential funder is known for contributing to the opioid crisis? If accepting money means you are straying from your mission, or if you have any doubt about the morality of doing business with a certain corporation, it may not be worth the financial benefit. Your goal should be to build funder relationships that you can stand behind and feel good about. Here, we are going to explore a few other ethical dilemmas you may run across when building relationships with funders.

National Endowment for the Arts – National Folklife Network If your organization is interested in working with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to build and manage a formal network that supports the unique local and regional cultural traditions found throughout the United States, this funding opportunity might be for you. The NEA recently opened applications for the National Folklife Network (NFN) cooperative agreement to select an organization, or “cooperator,” to establish and administer the NFN. The NFN will assist each of seven regional cohorts through training, fieldwork, convenings, collaborations, and cultural asset mapping.

The topic of ethics in grants is incredibly broad, as there are often many moving parts and people involved with grant awards. The fund-seeking agency might have a variety of staff members contributing to the process: the executive director, program staff, finance staff, a grant writer, maybe even the board of directors. And then, of course, if the agency receives an award, there are ethical considerations for managing the sometimes very large sums of money. Once again, there might be a host of individuals carrying out the program activities, reporting progress, expending the funds, and so on. In other words, the agency is responsible for ensuring ethical practices across many levels of a grant award. But for the purposes of this discussion, I want to back up a bit. What about some of the ethics that go into researching and writing the proposal?

United States Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Services Is your organization, local school district, or state agency interested in student nutrition and agricultural education? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently opened its annual Farm to School funding opportunity through its Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) office. This grant program, in alignment with the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, aims to create farm to school programs that provide eligible schools with access to local foods. Let’s take a closer look at this opportunity.

Do you remember the first time you wrote a report for a funder and had to explain away an undesirable outcome (or more)? Picture it: coffee on drip. Report questions pulled, outcomes and program-related questions sent to program staff. Me, a rookie grant professional at the time, ready to tackle the report…or so I thought. And then I got the email: one of the program’s stated outcomes fell significantly short of the goal. As in, the targeted outcome was 80%, but the actual outcome was 40%. *Insert appropriate amounts of rookie-level panic here, then breathe.*

Health Resources and Services Administration – Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Does your organization deliver health care services to rural communities? The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently opened a funding opportunity through its Rural Health Care Services Outreach Program. This is a community-based grant program intended to enhance health care delivery in rural areas by improving access to services, adapting to changes in the overall health care environment, and enriching the health of rural communities. Let’s take a closer look at this grant program.

We live in a world where, as consumers, we can purchase literally anything with a quick search and a few clicks. The rise of online shopping and next-day delivery has made it easier than ever to go on a shopping splurge without seriously weighing the costs and benefits of the newest gadget or the impact it will have on our personal finances. When a grant is awarded to an organization, the program staff may enthusiastically load up their online shopping carts with everything outlined in the grant budget. There is certainly a time and place for efficient procurement of approved supplies and services. In fact, federal law requires grantees minimize the time elapsing between the receipt of grant funds and the payment for allowable expenditures (2 CFR 200.305(b)). It is important for program staff to quickly implement the grant award, and typically, this means doing a little shopping.

National Endowment for the Humanities – Office of Digital Humanities Attention humanities folks with an upcoming digital project! If your program is seeking funding for an innovative, experimental, or challenging digital project – whether in the early start-up phase, sustainability phase, or anywhere in between – you might be interested in this opportunity. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently opened applications for the Digital Humanities Advancement Grants (DHAG) to support scholarly research, exploration of methodologies, development of software/technology, and other digital projects that enhance scholarship, teaching, and public programming in the humanities.