Sona---It’s tough to tell your boss the realities of the faulty evaluations most bosses make of their grant writers when it comes to establishing fixed goals for money raised when you have little, or no control over funding decisions. The leaders of so many non-profit organizations simply do not know that the awarding of grants has more to do with function than form, and grant writers are not usually the ones who make the policy and practice recommendations that lead to a search for funding.
Here is how I see it, and it is what guided me as I had grant writers over a number of years performing their work in my department.
If some private and community foundations give annual operating money to your organization, you are in a reasonably good position to budget contributed income in that instance, as those foundation donors are potentially good candidates to renew their support of the annual fund campaign --- and you forecast and budget just as you would do with any base of support with which you have a history of giving.
But, I expect that your organization has many special projects, programs, and other initiatives which lend themselves to having you search for foundations in order to meet their guidelines regarding what most of them want to give their money to --- and that is their preferred funding of new, expanded, and planned activities.
So how to budget grant money from this most common, flexible, uncertain, and unreliable potential base of grant awarding? You do it with great care, avoiding as best you can a “hold-you-to-it” prediction which could be considered a guarantee. I’d rather set a lesser accountable “target” goal, considering all of the variables which would be out of your control when it comes to, in effect, promising sure grant income.
From year to year you could have a very wide range of projects, programs, and other initiatives available for proposal development, all ready for submission to funding sources. Maybe thirty last year, and only ten this year. And the respective costs of those initiatives for which you are seeking funds would change significantly from year to year. Thus, the total potential revenue of all the requests, even if funded in full, could be an amount significantly high one year and greatly lower the next.
So it’s obvious that the number of proposals you can and want to develop will vary from one year to the next. The availability of viable prospects to give money to fund those initiatives is always changing, and even then, their willingness to give at the time you ask cannot be assured. And, of course, when they do give, you can’t count on it being the amount you requested.
It simply comes down to the available and viable prospects which can be matched to approved and prioritized projects, services, and operations which available and logical foundations might support.
When you do commit---or are forced---to an arbitrary budget for grant revenue, and the prospect, project and timing conditions stated above are not at all clear, the danger could be to meet the budget “goal” in the form of scattershot proposals just to get them out the door and in the hands of prospects to hope for the best. And it’s possible that in such haste and anxiety, some of the proposals will be for ill-defined or contrived purposes submitted to meet that money goal.
Those are the risks, and such perceived disorganization can do damage to any organization’s donor/prospect cultivation and loyalty programs as well as being disheartening within the organization.
Another risk to that flawed fixed budget process for such elusive and uncertain revenue based mostly on guess work, could be personal. As sure as there might be a required and exacting budget amount to be raised under such uncertain circumstances, once the goal is not met you can be sure it will be thought to be the fault of the one who provided the budget number.
It all comes down to the fact that attempting to set a budget for grant revenue is an exercise made somewhat in vain when you have an uncertain number of proposals from year to year which would result in positive or negative responses when they are presented to new, potentially uninterested, foundations.
Naturally, your forecasts could be more reliable when you are going to previous foundation donors seeking renewed grants when most of those proposals are for operating support, and to those which had funded special initiatives. Then, you ask for new funding, or extensions of grants.
Setting a loose grant award money “target,” or objective, rather than a fixed goal, allows for the realities of receiving lesser potential, and for achieving the successes.
Fixed goals should not be based on chance.
I have more (if you can believe it) in my article on the subject:
--- Positioning Grant Writers For Success