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Baking Your Cake: Incorporating Technology in a Grant Proposal

Sep 30

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Wednesday, September 30, 2015  RssIcon

Rarely are there grants expressly for the purpose of purchasing technology equipment. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is host to one of these exceptions, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant, wherein the USDA funds the acquisition of video conferencing equipment for rural end-users proposing either distance learning or telemedicine projects.

Opportunities such as DLT are few and far between and often come with strict eligibility requirements that knock many would-be applicants out of the running.

Fortunately, many grants allow for technology purchases to be built in as part of the budget for equipment. In fact, some of the best technology funding opportunities don’t even come across as “technology grants” at first glance.     

As with any line item on your grant proposal budget, it comes down to whether or not you are able to justify the need for that technology as contributing to part of the overall project. In other words, how is that technology a means to the end?

Here at Grants Office we have a mantra: “Grants fund projects, not products”.  In working with clients and technology vendors across all sectors, this phrase is something that is uttered countless times a day. The technology vendor is looking to make a sale, the customer has a technology need, and both are trying to make the transaction happen through grant funding. Both are excited about the technology, what it can do, how it will integrate into the existing infrastructure.

 

Moreover, it’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that grant funding is simply “free money ripe for the picking.” That sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who have worked on a grant proposal or an awards administration know firsthand how complicated and time intensive the process can be.

So again, we circle back to the idea that grants fund projects, not products. Urging everyone to remember why the technology is needed in the first place is vital. Not simply because the current equipment is aging and in need of continuous repair. Nor because the current network can no longer handle the influx of traffic.

 

How does that network support the overall purpose of the organization? What are those programmatic drivers behind the need for the technology acquisition? What is the overall project that the technology will ultimately support? These questions are attempting to focus you on one area - What is the problem your organization is trying to solve?  This, the essential question that you must link back to in any grant proposal, is vital to a multitude of grant opportunities whether for a technology purchase or not.

The trick for technology purchases is not to be seduced by the technology itself and the logistics of the product. You should always keep in mind that technology is simply one ingredient in an overall project. And that brings us to cake. More accurately, how putting together your grant budget is like baking a cake where the technology are the eggs.

 

I imagine you perked up at the thought of cake. Of course you did, who can blame you? But it if I started listing off all of the ingredients that go into a cake you would probably zone out – skim over the next few lines until you saw something more interesting, check your email, send a text message. Of course, there will be a few who do find all of these ingredients interesting, however, the vast majority don’t really care. What they are focused on is cake, the sum of all those individual parts.

The same is true of grant funders. They want to see the overall project. They want to know what the end result of the sum of your parts will be. Of course, because they are sponsoring this cake, they will want to know that you used quality ingredients, however, they don’t want to necessarily focus only on the eggs. Even if the eggs are the essential ingredient that binds everything else together.

 

And so, a call to arms. Yes, you may have a technology need, but I challenge you to take some time and reflect. What will that technology ultimately support? How will its acquisition contribute to the overall mission of your organization? What need will it fill? What problem that your organization is facing will it solve? And most importantly, what is your programmatic driver for the technology acquisition?

The answers to those questions will help you identify which of the myriad of technology-friendly grant opportunities you should pursue to not only address a challenge your organization faces, but also fund your technology purchase through a grant!

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