Q: What is the best way to measure return on investment for grantwriting?
A: You may be tempted to think that it’s simply the amount of money you immediately bring in minus the time and money you spent to procure that grant. Right? Not so fast…
We need to look at grantwriting’s return on investment in both the short term and long term.
The number and size of grants directly resulting from any given proposal is often out of your control. Foundation board members consider many factors when funding different grants, and (I dare say) the quality of your proposal is only one of them. The organization’s reputation or history in the community, changing funder priorities or staff, unexpected limitations on funds, and a perceived mismatch with a proposal’s emphasis are just a few. So the short-term success of any proposal (i.e., getting funded) is not the only way we can measure the effectiveness of grantwriting work.
The good news is that the grantwriting process itself can be valuable to the organization in several ways. For example, thinking through the responses to a Request for Proposals can be a great strategic planning exercise. Creating a program budget may shine a light on expenses you have never tallied up before. While writing a general operations proposal, seeing the big picture of an organization (beyond its day-to-day parts) can be an eye-opening experience. I have seen many organizations benefit in these ways from the grantwriting process (whether or not they get a specific grant).
At the end of the process comes that final product. Once you invest the time to create solid, comprehensive templates, subsequent versions take a lot less time. You will have created a document that can be repurposed for many fundraising materials, and can be tweaked for future proposals. That text can be built upon for months, even years, to come.
And don’t forget that an initially rejected proposal can be a blessing in disguise. You may learn valuable lessons from the rejecting funder. Maybe your organization has some weaknesses that you couldn’t see but the funder could? Perhaps you are showing potential and the foundation is able to share non-monetary resources that are actually more beneficial to you right now? Sometimes funders can connect you to a collaborator that will make your proposal fundable next time. Maybe the funder is interested in funding you, but you just need a few more years under your belt? These are just examples of the many valuable lessons you may learn from funders.
So don’t discount the long-term, indirect return on that investment. The value is actually much more than simply a check in the mail for the next funding cycle.
GOOD NEWS! This is exactly the type of question we discuss in the Grantwriter’s FastTrack Coaching Program. Get the answers you’re looking for! Join us for the February 2 – March 12 session.
(By the way, if you are looking for free information about grantseeking or grantwriting, check out http://www.writingtomakeadifference.com/grant. You’ll find a free Sample Grant Proposal Checklist, a quick summary of what NOT TO DO, and even Q & A.)