The Agony of Defeat...or the Pathway to Future Success?
Many organizations are distressed when they do not win a grant from the federal government particularly when they have invested significant time and resources to secure funding.
One should be disappointed but if it the process was done correctly it can perhaps open doors for future opportunities. When I say correctly I am speaking to what I feel is the best method to be successful.
The best proposals we have written have been when the organization is fully invested from the top down. That means having a continued dialogue throughout the process. It also means that the finance department is invested as well as the project supervisors who have the greatest feel of what the organization is actually doing on the ground. It means brainstorming and bouncing ideas so that there is clear sense of the direction needed.
The great thing about grants is that there is a deadline. One does not have time to posture and pontificate the great theories of the world. One has to take the time given and maximize the resources to meet the prescribed deadline. Many people think that grant writers go in some imaginary corner and come out with magic. Successful grant writing is a team sport.
I have written four successful Second Chance grants to the federal government and I think each provides a glimmer into what one faces when competing on the federal level. On each occasion, there were between 250-300 proposals that were submitted from around the country. The Second Chance Act was signed into law on April 9, 2008 and has continued to evolve over time. The first grant I wrote was for a very small organization but they filled a unique niche that met a real need at the time. I would hope that our writing and crafting the response also helped as we focused exclusively on women way before the topic became popular. The second grant was a very large national organization that had significant political strength but had also a grant making machine that churned out grants and knew all the rules to be successful. The third grant was again a small to mid-size agency that struck a chord with veterans as the primary issue before it was very popular to discuss. Finally, another small to mid-size agency received support because they are a very well run and they have systems to engage the entire team in the proposal development process. Each of these organizations could have come up short.
Not winning is hard but I have seen organizations taking that effort and reusing with appropriate modifications to request support from foundations and local and state government sources.
Seeking federal support should be just one part of a multi-dimensional strategy to get revenue for your organization. When competing for federal dollars if one gets knocked down one has to get back up see what you can do better and move forward. Often it may not be your proposal that was off but the timing and or politics where one Senator made a deal to ensure that his District got the money.