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The Importance of Community Support

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Of all the elements that must find their way into a grant proposal, there’s one that may get overlooked. This is the element of community support. Include it and you’ll strengthen your proposal; leave it out and you may get a rejection letter.

If all things are equal in two proposals, and one clearly demonstrates community support, that’s the one that will get funded. Why is community support so important to funders? Consider the grantors’ purpose, mission, and funding priorities. They not only have a philanthropic mission to serve the community, but a desire to make an impact in the community.

When your organization makes an impact in the lives of those you serve, what do you do about it? Do you quietly go about your business? Or do you let everyone know? By informing the community of your success—your clients, your donors, your members, potential donors, local media, your industry, your website, your newsletter, your volunteers, your staff, etc.—you’re also taking a huge step to gaining community support. People can’t support your organization if they don’t know about the wonderful things you do. Don’t save all your accomplishments for grant applications and a year-end report! Get the word out in ways that fit your organization’s personality and mission.

Kids enjoying nature trail

How do you articulate community support in a grant proposal?

You want to highlight support relating to your proposal. Say the proposal is for developing a new hiking trail. You’d mention the number of trail users you already have, the number of hits to your trail web site, the other community organizations that support trail use and who endorse the project, comments from surveys that support the need for more trails, the number of members who’ve signed up to receive trail updates, how many years your Trail Volunteer Program has been active and how many participate. Perhaps you have an annual race on the trail, give the highlights of community support for that event. Give whatever details show that trails matter in your community and that trails impact the quality of life of residents.

The grantor isn’t only supporting a trail, they are supporting the people who will develop it, manage it, and especially those who will use it. Again it’s about convincing the donor of the significant long-term impact they can potentially make by awarding your organization a grant.