How do you make a grants program more Idea Friendly? ?
“How do we make our grants program more Idea Friendly?” That was the question right after I spoke at the NADO (National Association of Development Organizations) conference. It’s a good question. Let’s talk it through.
A regional organization runs a grant program. They make grants to local groups who have come to rely on this source of funds, maybe over rely on it a little bit. The grant application process feels pretty rigid right now. They’d like to be a bit more Idea Friendly, but how do they start?
I’d start with the application. After the bare minimum legally- and logistically-required information, the only other things I think I’d ask would be these three questions:
1. Ask applicants to show their Small Steps.
What small steps have you taken? What experiments have you tried?
For example, if it’s an application for a bike trail, have you walked the proposed route? Did you mow the proposed path and hold a test ride?
2. Ask applicants how they’ve Gathered Their Crowd.
How have you brought people together around this project?
For the bike trail example, have you started community rides? Did you have a Bike Day in the community? Have you done a Bike Tune Up event?
3. Ask applicants how they’ve Built Connections.
What resources have you connected with? What assets have you already brought together?
Have you connected with youth groups that have bike safety or riding programs? Have you reached out to biking clubs? Have you found some small funding to start? How have local people already provided in-kind resources for your project?
Just by asking about the three parts of the Idea Friendly method, you’d have a great idea of which proposals will most likely succeed. You’ll know because they’ve succeeded in their Small Steps. They’ve Gathered Their Crowd and Built Connections. They’re ready to fund!
Can you see your own grants program working this way? The person who asked me the question has already started talking with the rest of the staff about it.
Not only will this shape the granting organization to be more Idea Friendly. It will also shape the communities that apply to start doing things in the Idea Friendly way.
Keep shaping the future of your town,
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