Dangers of Being a Grant Prostitute
Can we have a frank discussion about prostitution? No, not THAT kind of prostitution. The kind of prostitution where you solicit any grant or funder that will pay your organization money.
Your organization has a great record of performance in your area of expertise but you need additional funds to support your needs. You decide to apply for any grant or funder that will possibly pay you.
Because of your stellar record, you are awarded a big new grant. The problem is it in a field that you have no expertise in yet. Do you accept the grant? Most organizations will say “Of Course! Are you crazy?!”
In the words of the immortal Robot from the old television series Lost in Space, “DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!”
I have seen many organizations take big losses and even go out of business by taking grants out of their area of expertise. Often the best case scenario is breaking even with only minor damage to their reputation.
1. Know your Mission – Make sure that any grant you apply for and accept aligns with your organization’s core values. If you start selling yourself to everyone soon you don’t recognize who you are. Be sure your actions benefit your clients.
2. Start small – If you are looking to expand your organization start with some smaller grants. This will enable you to gain expertise in the field and give your staff training on the ins and outs of your new area. You get the best of both worlds, experience without putting your organization’s financial future at risk.
3. Hire a Qualified Consultant – Hire an independent contractor or consultant with expertise in the field. It is worth the cost and will shorten the learning curve. A word of caution though. Make sure you check the background of the individual and communicate like crazy with her. It is in both your best interests.
4. Do a risk analysis – We always like to look at new deals as if they will always work perfectly. Assign someone to be the devil’s advocate. What could happen if things go wrong? Be sure you have a plan to limit your losses if things go bad and that you can survive that loss.
5. Partner with Other Agencies – Consider working with another organization that has expertise in your new area but could benefit from what you do well. For example, if you have excellent administrative experience and another organization has expertise in the field work, partner up and leverage each other’s strengths.
6. Look for new opportunities in your area of expertise – The saying goes “there is riches in niches.” Look to expand your operation using your current expertise.
What dangers and solutions do you see in expanding into new areas of business?