nonprofit use

Getting Emergency Grant Money

Grant money is slow to get. There’s the application period, evaluation phase by the foundation, approval (hopefully), and then a period of time before the nonprofit gets the check. What if a nonprofit needs money now?

The “now” can be some catastrophic event like a hurricane, wildfires, or a virus that affects a lot of people. When this happens, foundations send checks out of cycle and without the need for much paperwork. Yet, there are “now” events that affect only one nonprofit.

This is why relationships are important. But, don’t run to a foundation asking for help when something happens. Evaluate the emergency situation, gather facts and data, reasons for the emergency, and plans for a solution. It is very important to lay out all this information before meeting with the foundation’s board members.

A grant writer should write up a complete explanation with a way-ahead. Most people understand that emergencies occur; however, they are not willing to give money that may not solve the problem. The key is assuring confidence the emergency is under control.

The emergency may not be in total control by the nonprofit staff and leadership. Yet, it should be enough that there is a reasonable chance of success. Foundations (like most people) enjoy honesty.

I wrote this blog because of a recent similar experience. A nonprofit I worked with was renovating an historic building. Of course, old buildings do not like to be renovated. When they are opened, they reveal surprises.

I convinced the nonprofit staff to step back and evaluate the situation. The building was still standing (yeah!). The immediate goal was to keep it that way. We are in the process of collecting photographs, getting help from a local architect, and presenting our findings to a local foundation. A work in progress, but things look hopeful.

Getting Beyond the Current Issue

Here comes the obvious: the coronavirus has impacted getting grants.

The rejections I and others receive usually explain how funding was redirected toward coronavirus issues. Or there are more requests because more nonprofits have lost donations and are applying. I think another big reason is the downturn in the economy and drop in investments. Foundations are understandably cautious about spending money. I would be.

Yet, this blog is about looking ahead in a positive way.

I’ve already written about how to work toward a post-virus future. This blog is about dealing with the frustration that nonprofit leadership and staff may express as grant requests are rejected and donations drop. It’s easy to say “Keep Calm and Carry On”, but it’s not easy to deal with lost income and rejection.

I can only offer communication as an option. In a crisis, people should talk. This includes those working for the nonprofit, volunteers, and grant writers. Discuss funding issues more often. Encourage each other to find new resource opportunities. Contact other nonprofits with a similar mission, even those in another state. Share information instead of competing for resources.

It is important not to let the rejections and frustrations take over. Not only for the nonprofit’s leadership and staff, but the volunteers and grant writers as well. Support each other. Maybe even invite some foundation members to join in a conversation of how to get beyond the current issue.

As Studs Terkel said, “Hope dies last.”

The Changing Criteria for Grant Applications

I have been researching grant applications and found that many foundations are funding only COVID-19 issues. However, I did find some foundations who are not only continuing their regular grant process, but have broadened their acceptance criteria to allow for more applications not related to COVID-19.

As an example, I recently wrote a grant request for a nonprofit who did not qualify a few months ago. The foundation changed the criteria by dropping some of their restrictions. Also, they extended their deadline allowing more time to apply.

With donations down, it is important for nonprofits to find other revenue streams. I always keep an eye out for those foundations that have similarities to a nonprofit’s mission, but do not generally meet the selection criteria. There’s always a chance that these close-but-not-close-enough foundations will change. And many do make changes during upheavals in the economy or other events (like now).

If the foundation’s website does not show any updates, call them. There are some who have changed things around without updating their website. (See previous blog posts about maintaining relationships.)

I usually spend just a few minutes a day researching grants. That way I feel it is less like a job, which is important since I’m supposed to be enjoying this.

Opinion piece: I saw many nonprofits had to close because the government did not consider them essential. Even though the nonprofits were addressing critical social needs in the community leaving people to suffer. What is essential and what is not has not been clearly thought out.

The Future is Coming

COVID-19 is changing priorities and deadlines for many grant applications. While there is money for the coronavirus, most of it will not help most nonprofits. Like small businesses sinking into bankruptcy, nonprofits are headed that way, too. Unless they manage their future.

One of the reasons grant deadlines have been delayed and priorities altered is that foundations are looking at their investments. Money will be tight due to the downward trend of the economy. Yet, like the recession of 2008, things will improve.

I am encouraging the nonprofits I work with to contact the foundations helping them in the past. Seek out and continue the relationships. During downturns and with reduced funding, foundations want to reduce risk. They are more likely to provide for nonprofits they funded in the past rather than recent ones.

Nonprofits can do more by looking for in-kind donations and volunteers. Plan for a lack of funding and seek non-funded options.

There will likely be despair. Yet, this is a right-now situation.

If you are a nonprofit who has been around for a few years, your mission has become important to many people. The positive impact to the community has been felt. Seek out businesses, government, and organizations who want to make sure the nonprofit does not fail. I hope the government and organizations help small businesses, too.