Finding grants takes creativity, diligence

Use local contacts to increase success

It is not essential that a hospice create a staff position for a grant writer, but a hospice's fundraising program does have an advantage when a staff person is assigned the responsibility of finding and applying for grants, according to experts interviewed by Hospice Management Advisor. In fact, the part-time grant writer for Hospice of Wake County has more than covered her salary with more than $450,000 in grants obtained in the 14 months she's worked for the agency.

"In addition to identifying grant opportunities, a grant writer can be responsible for any follow-up required by the foundation or donor," says Mike Blanchard, vice president of development for Hospice of Wake County in Raleigh, NC. All of these activities require attention, and they need to be a priority for someone, he adds. His hospice was fortunate to find someone locally who had worked as a grant writer for other organizations and was looking for a part-time job, he says.

The advantage of a staff grant writer, even a part-time or contract person, is that he or she can spend time focusing on research, says Pam Brown, CFRE, executive vice president for community development at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN. Searching the Internet, using contacts in different organizations, and calling foundations can yield information about grants that are typically not sought by hospices. "Our grant writer has even found organizations that fund services in specific areas of town that extend from one specific street to another street," she says. If the area is served by the hospice, the grant writer checks further to see if there is a grant that matches their service, Brown explains.

Before applying for a grant, make sure your services are a match for the foundation or donor's funding priorities, says Blanchard. You also need to be clear about your mission or goal, he adds. "One mistake that hospices make when applying for grants is to let funding opportunities shape a program rather than the program shape the grant application," he says. Just because there is money designated for certain services from a donor or foundation, a hospice should not create the service unless it fits with the agency's mission, Blanchard explains.

There are several ways to identify grant opportunities, he says. The Foundation Center's web site (www.foundationcenter.org) offers free access to forms, tools, and statistics. A subscription service also is available for grant writers to gain access to comprehensive directories of funding sources, he adds.

Brown and Blanchard also suggest the following:

• Ask board members and volunteers to let you know if other organizations at which they work or volunteer offer community grants or financial gifts. Local churches also might have community grants for services.

• When approaching a national corporate foundation or not-for-profit organization for a grant, find a local connection such as a branch office in your city. Also, share the board of directors' list with your board members to see if they know someone with whom they can make initial contact to start the conversation.

• Don't be afraid of making telephone calls to gather more information and see if your hospice's program meets funding guidelines set by the foundation.

• Keep an open mind when searching for grants. Sometimes you run across a grant that is appropriate for another service. For example, if you're searching for support for a bereavement program, you might find a source that would fund your palliative care program.

• Expand your search to include children-oriented foundations to support your pediatric programs, specific disease-oriented foundations to support palliative care programs for certain patients, or local foundations that want money to stay in your community. By looking beyond "health care" or "hospice," you can gain access to more funding opportunities.