The government shutdown is hardly news at this point, and has directly impacted at least 800,000 government workers who have been furloughed. It has also impacted a lot of businesses frequented by those workers.
While the full economic impact of the shutdown is still unknown, some nonprofits are directly feeling the effects. Federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have suspended their grantmaking programs for the duration of the shutdown. While some nonprofits had already received grant allocations for the year from those agencies before October 1, some hadn't, and it's unclear what the impact of delayed funding cycles will be going forward, even once the government has reopened for business.
So what can grantseekers learn from the government shutdown?
- Diversify your funding sources. As we've written about before, relying too heavily on a given funding source (whether a single funder, or a single type of funder) can be risky for nonprofits. If your organization has historically relied heavily on government grants, start building relationships with private foundations and corporate giving programs. Connect with the community foundation in your area. Think about adding individual donors and fees for service (if your organization provides services for which you can charge) to your sources of funding. Your organization may not be directly impacted by the shutdown (and I hope it isn't), but it's never a wrong time to think about diversifying your funding sources.
- Have a plan B. While your organization will hopefully never be in a position where a major funding source disappears overnight, it's always good to have a plan B. When crafting your grantseeking strategy for the year, chart out how much money your organization needs from grants (versus other funding sources) to support your programs, which past funders you expect to support your organization again, which new funders you plan to approach, and the expected grant amounts from each. Then think through what will happen if some of the grants you think are sure things don't come through. Sometimes foundation priorities change, economic conditions shift and diminish foundation assets, or something happens like a government shutdown. Knowing where you'll be able to make up any shortfall is critical. And raising more money than oyou need is also a good thing. You can always put additional money raised into a reserve fund (though be careful if any of the grants awarded are restricted) or offer more programs and services with the additional funds.
- Store your grant information online. What would happen if you were unable to access your organization's office for several days - or several weeks? Would you miss a grant proposal deadline? Or a grant report deadline? How would that impact your grantseeking for the year? How would it impact your relationship with your funders? By storing all of your grant-related information online, in a system like PhilanTrack, you can access your grant information and write your proposals and reports anywhere, at any time, to ensure that you're able to keep your grantseeking going, even if there are unexpected events that prevent you from accessing physical files in your organization's office.
Photo credit: adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcostin/3449288718/