March 12, 2018

So you want to apply for a Meyer grant?

I used to write grants and didn't exactly love doing it, so I feel the pain of grantwriters: When a funding opportunity opens, they are tasked with figuring out how to present the most compelling information possible and persuade a funder that a particular project is worthy of investment. To add to the stress, funders' selection criteria can seem obscure, with processes that are often daunting, unclear and even seemingly arbitrary.

Our values dictate that we strive to be transparent about our grantmaking and open regarding our decision-making processes. In addition to our website's Applicant Resources section (where we have compiled useful information, templates and examples) and the many in-person and virtual information sessions we've organized around the state, I'd like to offer the following — hopefully helpful — tips to make the application process easier and your proposal more successful.

Determine eligibility and alignment

Many organizations are eligible to apply for Meyer funding, but not all of them will be in alignment with our goals.

To be eligible, your organization must fulfill certain requirements, such as having tax-exempt status and meeting our nondiscriminatory policy, among others.

To show alignment, however, you have to demonstrate that your project or proposal "fits" with Meyer's goals, i.e. not only that your project will help Meyer achieve a portfolio's desired outcomes but also that you have a strong analysis of how your work is (or is demonstrably committed to be) rooted in equity and inclusion.

If this is still too vague, information sessions are great opportunities to engage with our staff, hear us talk about our funding priorities and ask questions. You should also check out what each portfolio funded last year. Building Community's award list is here, Equitable Education's award list is here, Healthy Environment's list is here, and Housing Opportunities' list is here.

Familiarize yourself with our portfolios, grant types and amounts

In the Initial Application, you will choose one portfolio goal and up to two outcomes your proposed work will help achieve. Spend some time reading about the different portfolios, their grant types and their maximum amounts, and decide which goals your work will most likely help to accomplish. If you're unsure about what the types of funding mean, please click here. To find out about maximum amounts, visit each portfolio's page.

If you still have questions after looking at the portfolios or feel like you fit in multiple places, email us at questions [at] mmt.org and our staff will get in touch with you. You may also take a look at Meyer's frequently asked questions page.

Use plain language

When talking about your work, don't assume we know what you do, who you are, or what communities you serve. Answer each question fully and use as plain a language as possible, providing examples if appropriate, and avoiding jargon and acronyms.

Perhaps a good question to ask may be: If a friend read your application, would she understand what your organization does or what your proposal is about? If the answer is no, then chances are we probably won't either.

The cardstack above illustrates three approaches to writing the program description for "Awesome Organization." As you can see, finding the sweet spot of clarity and simplicity can make a big difference.

Connect the need for your project to its root causes

Your proposal has a better chance of rising to the top if you can articulate clearly (a) how your work will dismantle barriers for underserved communities or (b) how your project will somehow address the root or systemic causes of a problem.

Using Awesome Organization as an example again, we can say that improving access to chocolate (or food or shelter or education) is a worthy cause in its own right, but Awesome Organization's proposal would be significantly more competitive if it demonstrated that it not only addresses the immediate need of the community to access chocolate but that it also understands what creates that immediate need — lack of farmer training and access to capital, especially for farmers from underserved communities — and how the organization can effect long-lasting change — providing low- or no-interest loans to farmers to keep chocolate affordable and addressing the barriers that prevent them from connecting to each other and accessing spaces that allow them to innovate.

Want more information? Sign up for our Building Community's newsletter and read Erin Dysart's blog about how Building Community thinks about the Direct Service-Root Causes connection.

Some additional tips

Create or update your profile in GrantIS as soon as possible

And consider that …

  • The setup takes a few days.
  • If you already have a profile, you'll need to update it. (Before you submit your application, we will ask you to certify that your organization's information is correct.)
  • If you are applying through a fiscal sponsor, the process can take additional time.

"Right-size" your ask

  • Familiarize yourself with the range of funding amounts in your chosen portfolio. In determining whether your request is appropriate, we will consider your project size, project complexity, project budget, organization size and what other funding you've secured.

Include key information in the body of the application

  • We receive so many initial applications that — as much as we would like to — we may not be able to read attached materials we have not specifically requested. Having said that, if you are citing a report or quoting experts, please include links in the body of the narrative instead of providing a bibliography. It saves you words and it makes it easier for us to find the information.

Share the good ... and the bad

  • We love to hear about the great work you're doing. But if your organization is going through a transition, has experienced some challenges recently or is expecting some rough times ahead, note it in your application as well and explain what you've done or are going to do to address the challenge.

If you're not invited to submit a full proposal, ask for feedback

  • We'd be happy to go over your application and share our perspective on what you can consider when submitting your next application.

Once again, we are looking forward to reading about all that you're accomplishing.

See you at the information sessions!

— Violeta