Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Ol' Grants Door-Slam

It's easy to go a little crazy in the warped world of grant writing.

One thing that has just never been easy for me to swallow, however, is the concept of the "solicitation-only" foundation. For those who don't know, foundations who operate with some version of this policy utilize their own internal methods (and community connections) to seek out nonprofits for grant applications. Their application process is otherwise closed.

I can understand this method for a small family foundation who may only have the funds to support 4-5 projects a year. But for foundations who have the capacity to make a real difference in the community - especially during times of economic strain - I can't help but feel that this process of grantmaking puts an undue muzzle on the nonprofit community.

Without profit to weed out winners and losers in the nonprofit community, there's very little that we can hold onto as organizations to show who deserves to survive and thrive. The grant making process, when it is democratized, allows us to approach this ideal.

An imperfect and subjective process no matter how you shake it, at least there is the potential for everyone to make their best organizational and programmatic case in an open grants process.

I urge the foundations out there not to give in to the temptation to move to a solicitations-only approach. I know it's more work. I know it's more paper. And more staff.

But there is no better way to hear the needs of the community than to keep your doors, and your mailbox, open.

I would love to hear from anyone out there who supports the solicitations-only approach. Perhaps I am becoming a little too jaded...

(Photo copyright: Door Slams: bartmacguire)

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