Library managers face funding shortfalls without cutting services to the public or staff to offer those services by looking outside their regular funding sources to additional sources of income. Granting organizations fit this funding gap.
According to Stephanie K. Gerding in Ten Terrific Tips for Library Grants, when applying for grants, several things must be taken into consideration. First, the library must be in a position to fulfill the obligations of the grant; they must have the resources (including staff time) to implement the project. Second, grant proposals should be library mission-driven, not grant-driven and the projects should support the library’s mission. Third, there should be a reason to look for a grant to support the proposed project. As Gerding says, “funder’s don’t exist to give money to great ideas. They have missions of their own that are usually founded in making a positive difference in the world” (“Ten Terrific Tips for Library Grants” 336) and your proposal should fulfill that purpose so as to not waste their money. Gerding’s fourth tip is to identify the solution to your problem; that is a vision of what the result of the project will be. Gerding provides great examples of how to write these objectives. Gerding’s fifth tip is to develop the project. She leaves development to the fifth step, reinforcing the need to do preliminary work before even embarking on writing the proposal. She also indicates in this fifth point that funders prefer new projects to something that has already been started and that the project must meet the identified need.
Outcomes and evaluation should be assessed throughout the project, rather than waiting for the end. In her sixth tip, Gerding suggests that there be benchmarks throughout, so you know where you started and are able to ascertain the impact the project had on the problem identified. Along the way, you will be able to make changes, detect if you are off track, understand if your target audience has changed and recognise unexpected (positive or negative) consequences of the project.
Finally, Gerding emphasises focussing on details, deadlines and guidelines. Have all reporting done on time, follow formatting guidelines, and submit the correct number of copies. Not providing granting bodies with the information they are looking for in the manner in which they have asked for it is an easy reason for them to reject your proposal. Use headings, organize the proposal and have a second person edit the documents are among Gerding’s tips for successful grant work.
Ultimately, it would be ideal to have sufficient, sustainable and dependable funding, however, until that happens, finding like-minded groups to share the costs of providing service to the public is not a terrible way to fund the library’s mission. Having like goals, thinking consciously about them and presenting those thoughts in an orderly manner for grant application and reporting also provides the library with the tools needed to advocate for the library. Applying for grants allows the library manager time to focus on the mission and vision of the library, on the needs of the patrons and community and how the library can efficiently fulfill those needs with the assistance of partners by working toward a common goal.
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