The Board’s Role in Securing Grants

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Your organization’s board of directors may be affable and effective, challenging, or down-right difficult, but love it or not, it has a role to play in grants administration. The board’s responsibility to oversee the financial and legal operations of your nonprofit place it at the epicenter of post-award management, but the board also has a role on the pre-award side. Here are some typical ways that boards participate in securing grants.

  • Development of the strategic plan – The board’s job is to chart out a course towards the mission. Your job is to lay out a grantseeking strategy that’s in sync with the plan.
  • Approving submission of applications – The CEO usually briefs the board on proposals to be submitted, budget amounts, match requirements, and sustainability obligations that may necessitate additional fundraising. After voting to submit proposals, the board authorizes the CEO to sign legal application documents.
  • Accepting grant awards – The CEO usually briefs the board on a pending award then recommends that the board accept or decline the grant.
  • Providing financial support – Board members are expected to make financial donations to your organization. Since some foundations won’t make awards to nonprofits whose boards don’t contribute, this impacts your ability to secure grants.
  • Helping you make connections – Board members help your organization connect with influential community members. Since relationships are key with private and corporate foundations, the board’s effectiveness in relationship building can up the likelihood of receiving grant awards.
  • Board members with expertise specific to a particular grant proposal may contribute to the narrative, read drafts, recommend research, or sit alongside the CEO when a funder makes a site visit.

Even though the grants process is only one strata of their multi-layered responsibilities, board members need a realistic, professional understanding of how grants fit into the overall development plan. This means the grants professional and CEO may need to educate them. Without a solid understanding of the grants process, the board may have unrealistic expectations, make impossible demands, or send staff in search of dollars that won’t move the mission forward.

It’s best to have grant-related policies and procedures (P&Ps) in place to guide both pre- and post-award practices. Developing P&Ps forces the organization to consider the nuances of the grants process and enforcing P&Ps ensures operational consistency.

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