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PND Talk: Multiple Grant Proposal Submissions

February 28, 2014

Macauley_culkinIn the third installment of our PND Talk series (the first two are here and here), we re-visit a question that Enid asked in 2005 about a situation that, while not common, illustrates the critical importance of transparency and two-way communication in the grantee-funder relationship.

Enid asked: Let's say you are seeking funding for a program whose cost is budgeted at $100,000 and you submit three grant proposals to three different foundations for the same program and get funding from all three. Do you accept funding from all three for the same program? Just one? How is this handled?

As always, she got excellent advice from the PND Talk community, starting with Tony Poderis, who wrote:

Enid -- I simply would absolutely not submit multiple proposals to more than one foundation for funding of the same project in the first place.

I would not do it because I believe -- in general -- that such special project solicitations should be sequential. Only rarely, if ever, would I offer a specific project funding opportunity to two or more prospects at the same time. The danger is that more than one will accept. Yes, I said danger -- even when getting the money.

I would not make simultaneous solicitations seeking grants from each of the multiple foundations for one project's full funding. I would go to the best possible prospect first and wait for that decision. I would not submit the proposal to the other potential funding source or sources until the first said no, yes to to the full request, or yes to partial funding. Then on, or not, to the other.

Having more than one foundation accept the same proposal at the same time and having them make their respective awards is a possibility I would not treat lightly.... Having to go back to a program officer who is the process of pushing it through his or her foundation's channels for you and having to say you gave the project to someone else has the potential for damaging that relationship -- maybe permanently....

Julie chimed in with this:

Finding three organizations that you have researched and determined to be an excellent fit for funding would be a very rare case indeed. In any event, most funders would not want to be the only one supporting a project; in fact many funders ask you specifically to reveal other foundations/organizations that have been approached or are participating. It is acceptable to approach more than one source, but I would never ask three sources simultaneously for full funding. Review the conversations you have had with all three and determine which one is the best fit.

In some cases, you could reasonably ask for funding (while being mindful of time frames for submission and approval) for 50 percent of the project's anticipated cost from two different funders. With a little luck and overlap in terms of the timing of the grant checks, you probably wouldn't need to open discussions with the remaining foundation/organization. And if only one of the two comes through with funding, you still have the third funder you can approach from a position of strength, with a verifiable funder already on board. Tony is correct, you don't want to appear inept in the process, or have to ask a funder to change some aspect of a grant it has already approved. Respect needs to be a two-way street at ALL times....

And Carol summed things up nicely in her response:

I am definitely a proponent of multiple requests for the same project, but it should be planned out based on your research of the funders you are approaching, their deadlines, are they returning funders or new, their gift size capacity, etc. A $100,000 budget for program is not that easy to fund, depending on the resources in your geographic area. If you are in a capital campaign and working with consultants, you may well identify one funder or two who like your program and your problems are solved. But if your program is ongoing and you need to keep raising $100,000 a year, you will need multiple asks.

I've found after twelve years in fundraising and doing grant work that honesty is the best policy when working with funders. You might want to discuss the situation with a program person at a foundation that is a longtime funder of your organization and ask their opinion. You might want to approach a major funder in your area that doesn't support your organization and ask a program officer there how he or she would feel about such a situation. Don't be shy. That kind of approach works.

A general rule of thumb is that funders don't want to be the sole supporter of a program, so you need to send out more than one proposal. You just have to be smart about it....

Okay, you've heard from our community of experts; now we want to hear from you. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your organization or client received more than one grant for the same work? What, if anything, did you do? And what would you expect a funder to do in such a situation? Better yet, if you are a funder, what would you do?

Use the comments section below to share your thoughts and advice....

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