EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES THROUGH MINI-GRANTS
Goal: Our goal is to outline the steps needed for developing a community-based mini-grant program.
Overview of Contents:
Forming a mini-grant committee
meets to decide:
Forming a mini-grant committee
Choose people who have a track record of commitment to the same goals youre hoping to achieve with your mini-grant program. (For example, if you are giving mini-grants to community groups who are doing programs for youth, you want people on the grant committee who work/have worked with youth, understand the value of community-based programs and have a network in their community for inviting youth groups to apply for grants.)
Tell potential members how often you will meet and that you expect people to attendthis is a working group, its not a political appointment.
Choose a diverse group of people that represents the area you are serving and the population. If your mini-grants are targeted to youth groups, then you need youth on your committee. If you are offering mini-grants in six counties, then all six counties need to be represented. Diversity in backgrounds is also desirable if it relates to your goals. For example, membership of a program that will award mini-grants to community-based youth groups should include representation from church, home, community, school, health care, business and reflect the ethnic make-up of your community/county/city.
If your mini-grant program extends past a year, reevaluate your committee. Anyone who has regularly not attended should not be included in year two. Writ them a letter, thank them for their willingness to serve and explain you are looking for members who are able to attend regularly.
Committee meets to decide
1. Criteria for applying for mini-grants:
Although your funding source has criteria, the committee needs to explore their ideas of the types of activities they would like to see funded. You want to clearly state what your criteria are for the people who will be applying for your mini-grants. Three to five criteria are a good start. You will find that as your committee meets and discusses grants, certain values emerge that can be translated into criteria for the next year. (Th CIGY committee received a number of grants to pay for awards for kids, and it became obvious to the group that we were not interested in funding anything that promoted competition. Our criteria the second year included "Projects that promote cooperation, not competition").
You need a cover letter to send with your application form that includes your list of criteria for submitting an application. Be sure to explain any deadlines. (One criteria we always include, "Must have FEIN# to receive funds"). See attachment for examples.
2. Amount of mini-grant award:
Another important item for potential applicants is how much they can ask for on their application. The term "mini" implies you are offering small amounts. We have found that groups can do a lot with $500-$2,000. Your mini-grant committee decides how many grants to give and what the limit of giving will be.
3. Mini-grant application form:
The committee needs to remember an important fact when developing the application for mini-grants. These are mini-grants (small amounts of money) available to community-based organizations (staffed by very busy people). The time needed to complete the application should be two hours or less.
The mini-grant application should ask for basic information, such as; names of an organization, contact person, brief description of a project and so forth. There should also be a budget page and a copy of the project evaluation so organizations can see the criteria by which they will be evaluated. Several examples of good application forms for mini-grant are attached to this module.
The committee should develop a realistic time line for their activities. This is basically a schedule for: developing the application form; publicizing the mini-grant program; deciding on a deadline(s) for submission of application; announcing a date for awards of mini-grants; and determining dates for completion of projects and due date of evaluation materials.
Obviously, organizations that may apply for mini-grants need the application early enough to at least talk with their community groups about possible projects. The publicity about the project should be out about six weeks before the application deadline.
5. Providing technical assistance and administration of mini-grant program:
Technical assistance includes answering questions on the phone, visiting groups to tell them about your mini-grant program, helping groups write a grant, attending functions funded with mini-grant monies and reporting back to the group, etc. One designated person who has the time or who can do it as part of their job can do this. This can also be done collectively by your committee members, especially if you are serving more than one community or county. Your cover letter could include a list of contacts in each area or county that groups can call for assistance. (We were very successful with this approach since we served five counties and had two representatives from each county. It was especially useful in bonding members to projects in their community.)
Someone needs to be responsible for the administrative chores such as facilitation of meetings, minutes of meetings, notifying applicants, writing award and rejection letters, etc. One person can do both technical assistance and administration. We found that for a $25,00 mini-grant program, these two tasks took approximately 10-15 hours per month to handle competently. This figure does not include planning and implementing the celebration at the end of each grant year.
6. Publicity plan:
You can let people know about your mini-grant program through newspaper and radio announcements. We have found that a picture and an article in a newspaper are the best way to attract attention to your program. Other ways to publicize include developing flyers for distribution and sending a newsletter that reaches the target population. If you are a computer savvy, you can design a WebPage and publicize you address.
Committee Reviews Applications and Awards Mini-Grants:
After applications are submitted, the committee needs to meet and review them. It is important that the committee review the criteria that they have developed for the grants and evaluate applications based on those criteria.
Develop a form letter on your computer. Make sure to congratulate the grantee and tell them how much you are awarding them in the first two sentences of your letter. Include when they can expect to get their money, any deadlines for completion, and other requests such as receipts, etc. It is always a good idea to send the evaluation again with this letter and mention that it will be due when their project is completed. An example of a notification letter is included in the attachments.
Committee Representative(s) Stay "in-touch" with Grantees:
Throughout the grant period, the individual responsible for technical assistance should periodically check with the grantees to see if they are having any problems and to offer them encouragement.
Planning and Implementing Celebration:
Its a good idea every year to invite people from the programs that received mini-grant funding to a year-end celebration. You want people to meet each other and share their stories. Provide space at your celebration for display materials so groups can bring information about their programs. Food is an essential part of any celebration, and we recommend that you factor money into your budget for the celebration each year. Its a great idea to develop a handout of all the groups who received monies during the year. At the celebration, it will be important to facilitate a process where all participates introduce themselves, say who theyre with and what they did with their mini-grant. We also value hearing what went well, what challenges were and lessons learned. We recommend sitting the group in a circle (20-30) or several circles (30-50) when the sharing starts. Attached is an example of an invitation to a community "mini-grant" celebration and summary of awards.
Evaluation: Its important to keep you evaluation requirements simple for mini-grant recipients. An evaluation form can be attached with your application and sent again with your award letter
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