Making the Case for General Operating Support

Conventional wisdom is that making a case for general operating support though a grant proposal is a difficult proposition.  Or is it?

Recently, I revisited Paul Brest’s terrific article from the Winter 2003 edition of Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Smart Money” — link here to read http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/smart_money.  He takes a very strategic view of the notion of general operating support on the part of both grantee and grant maker with both benefiting from the ability of the grantee to sustain the gains made through program investments and the increased capacity of the grantee to launch and support new initiatives.

This suggests that the central case to be made in a general support proposal is as follows:

We, the prospective grantee, have a vision/theory of change, realistic goals and the expertise/experience to achieve them.  In the next year, we have identified programmatic objectives which will require flexible resources and a strong infrastructure to support them.  Your grant will be used toward this greater purpose.

To support this case, the proposal should communicate three key things:

  • Significant challenges or opportunities to be addressed and pursued during the coming year
  • Your organization’s vision or theory of change vis a vis the above
  • A broad look at programmatic objectives (this allows you to describe particular program or groups of programs but with clarity of purpose)

Addressing these three content areas challenges the writer and the broader team (leadership and program staff) to step back and take a more holistic look at the work of the organization during the coming year.  Its a worthwhile exercise if it helps to craft a case for unrestricted support that will help ensure adequate resources for the coming year.  It is an essential exercise if your organization looks to thrive and grow.

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