Is your library ready to chase grants? #16: 2013
As tax dollars shrink, we are all looking for alternate revenue sources, from increasing fees and fines, renting rooms, selling stuff and for some libraries actively chasing grants. If you are thinking about looking for grant opportunities to augment your bottom line, here are a few things to consider:
●Library staff are your best grant proposal writers…they understand you and your community’s needs best.
●Select your best writer who is: inquisitive and innovative, a real team player, works well under pressure, follows instructions precisely and likes a challenge. Be sure to give them time to research options, clearly and without bias to match the library mission with the granting agency. Then swing into action and quickly pull together a team and write a great application.
The classic response to this comment is “Kitty, we simply don’t have time”. My response to this very real concern is, remove some responsibilities off the grant writers list of duties. You need to decide, is getting a grant to renovate the website more important than cataloguing magazines?
Grant writing is not a solitary effort…you need to involve the:
► idea people i.e. the employee who is eager to renovate the website
► finance folks to work on the budget
► HR folks to write the job description, recruit the talent….
► a great editor, who is not the writer
► and you need the boss to be totally on board with the project
It takes a team to bring home a grant and make it successful.
● Before beginning the application process, you need to assess the ROI. The average $25,000-$50,000 grant will take an experienced grant writer 35-70 hours ($2,800-$5,000) to get it out the door. Don’t chase a grant if the return is not significant and the odds of winning are low!
● Be prepared to invest some of the library’s money in the project…not just staff and good will! For example, for the new website, the library could pay for some local design elements or marketing. You need to put your money where your mouth is if granters are to take you seriously!!
● Be strategic, begin with a small grant, perhaps from a local community group, for a very public, tangible project like buying eReaders, a senior services vehicle, or computers for kids. Then move on to larger more competitive provincial/state or national grants that require partners, matching funds, an external evaluator and a marketing plan.
● Keep the grant simple. Often we try to wedge too much stuff or too many ideas into one grant. The result is an application that is confusing and that the granting agency is not interested in supporting.
● Part of grant chasing is marketing…so always include a marketing budget in the proposal. To market a new website, printing some posters may not be the best marketing idea, but purchasing a television to put behind the circulation desk to stream the website live… maybe! My rule of thumb is for every $1,500 of grant money, include at least $120 in marketing costs.
● How committed to chasing grants are you…really? You need a 2-3 year commitment of the whole organization (i.e. in the strategic plan) to give chasing grants a fair chance to succeed. If after 3 years your success rate is 10%, then maybe you need to try something else.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to chasing grants. Deciding to actively pursue external grants requires the library to do some serious considerations: what is important, assemble the best team possible, develop a marketing plan, be committed to the long term, and then the courage of your conviction to simply do it.
If you are like me, what you will discover is the more grants you write, the better you become and the more fun it becomes as your success rate increases and the library moves forward.
Have a great week,
Kitty Pope #16 April 2013