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7. “Think like a funder”

Mrs. Bell was really pleased with the numbers she had pulled together. They made a good case for a lead poisoning prevention program in her neighborhood, especially compared to the parish, state and nation. She decided to run them past Paul Laurence at school. He was on the boards of directors of several nonprofits in the city and he’d learned a lot about grantwriting. He even helped to write a successful federal grant.


Read Mrs. Bell’s first draft of her needs assessment.

“Well Ida. These are great,” said Mr. Laurence after he’d read the first draft of her needs assessment.

“You did a great job researching this problem and getting numbers that show how bad it could be in our neighborhood. But one thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to think like a funder. Not only do funders want to know how bad the problem might be, but they want to know how your neighborhood compares to other neighborhoods in their funding area. If you are going to approach a foundation that funds mostly in Orleans Parish, you’re going to have to show them how Central City compares to the rest of the neighborhoods. What if all the rest of them have 90% of the houses built before 1950? Then Central City is the last neighborhood they would want to fund in.”

Ida was crest-fallen. She’d work so hard. Wasn’t this enough? But, what Mr. Laurence said made plenty of sense. A funder had to think about where their money was most needed, not just where it was needed. She wished she had thought of this in the first place.

Next page: Need – compared to what?
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