The Case for an In-House Grants Administrator

By Mike Pritchard; Vice President of Business Development- Goodwill Industries of Denver
Posted

At Goodwill Denver, we rely on many types of donations to help keep our organization running and growing. Like most nonprofit organizations, we understand the importance of diversifying our funding streams to make sure we don’t have all of our funding eggs in one basket, so to speak. The world of grant/foundation funding is not only an important piece of that diversification, it’s also one that is constantly growing and changing—not just year to year, but daily. Several years ago, Goodwill Denver made the transition from working with an outside grants contractor to creating an in-house position for grants administration. While it may not make sense for every single organization, here’s why it made sense for us and why doing the same might work in favor of your nonprofit:

  1. Taking “grant work” off of the plates of other people in our organization helped those people focus on their specific program goals. Working in grants takes a very specific kind of talent. Oftentimes, when organizations try to divvy up this responsibility between multiple people, it distracts from what their position was really intended to accomplish.
  2. An in-house Grants Administrator can easily glean more about the day to day operations of the nonprofit. Not only is this person better equipped to describe the mission of the organization, but he/she can also access information more quickly from others inside the org.
  3. A Grants Admin can help prevent “mission drift.” In other words, that person has the time to look for and go after grants that already suit the mission of the organization. Often, organizations will make small alterations to their programming in order to be eligible for a large grant. With an in-house grants admin, a nonprofit is more likely to be able to spend the time it takes to find the grants that fit them already.
  4. Grants often require elements from other parts of the org, like Public Relations or Volunteer Coordination. That’s why we call our position a Grants Administrator instead of a Grant Writer. The position also allows for that person to coordinate what’s needed from other departments in the nonprofit, too.
  5. The Grants Admin has more at stake in the success of the company. At Goodwill, we feel that it makes a difference that the person who puts our grants together also gets to see the good that we do in the community every day. In addition, because the Grants Admin has relationships with people throughout the organization, he/she can connect potential foundations more easily to experiences that will help them understand the organizations goals and aspirations.
  6. A Grants Admin can keep an eye on the trends and shifts in the foundation world. Not only that, he/she can also keep up with when it is appropriate to take a year off from a grant or when to step back into consideration for one.

Obviously, creating a new position isn’t always feasible for very small nonprofits, but in Goodwill Denver’s experience, it is definitely something that is worth working toward. It’s important to remember that there are thousands of foundations out there who genuinely want to help fund organizations like yours. You just need to have the tools and the know-how to go out there and secure them, and creating any sort of in-house grants position is a giant step in the right direction.