Does the shoe fit?

What do foundations look for in a good grant proposal?

As a nonprofit applying for a grant, how do you know that your program or project is the right fit for a specific grant opportunity?

At MeHAF, we know the application process can be cumbersome. That is why we have spent a tremendous amount of time working on streamlining our proposal processes and why grantseekers are our first consideration as we put together our funding guidelines.

It's impossible to track the exact amount of effort that goes into releasing a MeHAF Request for Proposals (RFP), but nonprofits are often surprised to learn what a lengthy and thoughtful process it is. Our staff, our Board of Trustees' Strategic Planning and Grants Committees, as well as the entire Board review and approve concepts that require many hours of discussion, writing, and reviewing..."lather, rinse, repeat!"

We put in the necessary work up front with the intention of finding all the right partners to help MeHAF make a difference in the lives of Maine people.

Whether you are considering applying to MeHAF or to another foundation for funding, here are a few tips to help ensure you'll get the right fit:

  • Read and analyze the RFP. Compare the guidelines with your project idea. Does the RFP truly allow you to carry out your project the way you intend?
  • Is the grant funding truly worth the time and effort? Or will it actually cost your organization too much in staff time, consulting fees and reprioritization of work to submit a targeted, quality proposal?
  • Can you actually do what the RFP is asking you to do? Is your work honestly well-aligned with the RFP goals? Or are you trying to make it fit? Do you have the requisite staff, expertise and tools to accomplish the work?
  • Does the timeline work for your project? Do you have to scramble to put a project together sooner than you expected? Can you meet deadlines and milestones?
  • Does your proposal match the guidelines and priorities in the RFP? Will your work genuinely lead to the outcomes laid out in the RFP? Or does your work coincidentally sound like what the grant is funding with different objectives?

The staff at MeHAF has had many conversations with prospective applicants determined to submit a proposal, trying to convince us that their proposal is a good fit even when it clearly is not. If you are in one of those situations, whether it is with MeHAF or another funder, it is best to have an honest conversation and be sure to listen to any candid feedback the foundation is providing. The notion of a "right fit" is essential to the success of receiving a grant, but more importantly, to the success of achieving the project goals...for your organization and stakeholders, for the foundation, and most importantly for the people your organization serves. You never know what will happen down the road, but realize that sometimes the shoe just isn't the right fit and you have to walk away.


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