The Quick-Fix Quest


I really like running.  Even though I am far from speedy, I embrace the mental and physical charge that it gives me. Recently however, knee pain brought my days of running to a screeching halt.  In a state of panic, I reached out to a physical therapist who prescribed weekly visits to her office and 15 minutes of daily (and painful) stretching. I kept my disappointment to myself.  In our modern-day world of instant gratification, it was frustrating to me that she couldn’t offer a quicker fix.

My frustration with such a slow plan for healing is not unlike the frustrations I hear as a grant writer from nonprofits seeking support. So often prospective and current clients contact me in a panic looking to setup or accelerate a grant program as a quick-fix to the current “pain” their organization is facing. Whether it be budget shortfalls, board pressure, or limited staff capacity - these nonprofits need help and they need it fast. Unfortunately, grant programs, like most development strategies, are not a quick-fix.

Just as time is needed to nurture a slowed body back to health, so is time needed to develop a healthy and sustainable grant program. While grants can be, and often are, an excellent component of a nonprofit’s development strategy, they can also be a nonprofit’s most fickle friend. For example, it is not uncommon to get responses from funders four to eight months after an application is submitted. Sometimes, applications have two or three rounds of review, further drawing out the time when a client can expect results. Additionally, just like individual donors, foundations can shift their priorities, making it difficult for organizations to secure and keep ongoing funding. Foundations also require relationship building and stewardship. Unlike individual donors where the personal relationship is easy to identify, cultivation strategies for corporate and family foundations can take time to develop before a grantee might reap benefits. So, while grants are a sensible option for nonprofits looking to grow and thrive, these programs must be pursued as part of a comprehensive strategy and endeavored upon with great patience.    

After weeks of diligent stretching (and practicing patience), my knee is getting stronger and I am back to running. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly days when I contemplated the quick-fix of an ibuprofen and a little run; but, now that I am on the other side of my injury I can attest to the longer-term benefits of resisting those temptations.

At Brightspot, we recognize that quick-fixes are tempting, especially in times of distress, and that investing resources today for results down the road can be painful.  But our professional experience tells us that fundraising is a slow and steady process that, when done with patience, can make for stronger, more stable organizations. So to all the nonprofits out there working through their own pains, I encourage you to embrace the mindset that a healthy nonprofit is one that is made over time.