The Bite of the Elephant — or Walrus, if You’re Alaskan

One of the hardest tasks to master as a new grant writer is the scope of a project. How much should we ask for? How do I figure out what to include in the project? I call this “the bite of the elephant”, which refers to the joke “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer? “A bite at a time.” (In Alaska classes, I substitute “walrus” for “elephant”.)

Inexperienced grant writers sometimes assume that when grant money runs out on their project, the answer is pretty easy – just go get another grant to fund the project. In reality, it’s not quite that simple.

There are grant makers who fund ongoing projects, but the projects they fund are often very large projects initiated internally by the foundation with the expectation that they will have a major impact regionally or nationally. Sometimes the foundation chooses the organization they want to complete the grant project and asks them to apply – the money is never available in a public competition.

Truth be told, it’s easier to get funds for new projects or an expansion of an existing project than it is to fund an ongoing program. Next time, we’ll take a look at how to plan a project in order to maximize its chance of being grant funded on an ongoing basis.

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