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Myths in Grant Seeking: The Myth of Scarcity


Myth: No one is making grants anymore.

Reality: Historical trends favor more grants not fewer.


This post is part of a series on Myths in Grant Seeking.


Most grant seekers recoil at the prospect that the grant well ever will run dry. Underlying the Myth of Scarcity are grant seekers’ anxieties and misperceptions about the degree to which grants will continue to be available when they want to seek them. One variant of the myth appears as: ‘Since the markets soured no one is making grants anymore.’ A second variant occurs as: ‘Since the government’s budget was cut back, it’s pointless to try to win a grant.’


The Myth of Scarcity obscures several realities in grant seeking.


One reality relates to the year-over-year total value and growth trends of foundation assets. In any given year, lesser total amounts of grants may be awarded if the preceding year’s returns on the investment of foundation assets shrink or if donors contribute less to the many grant-making foundations. Both phenomena commonly occur during economic downturns.


A second reality relates to legislation. Grants become harder to find if local, state, or national legislators zero-fund or rescind particular grant programs. A zero-funded program is one that a law authorizes but for which legislators appropriate no funds. A rescinded program is one that an earlier law has authorized but a later law has ended its authorization. Finally, grants also become harder to find if legislators simply cease to authorize new grant programs.


Private foundations will continue to make grants each year for so long as they wish to operate as such and to maintain their status as nonprofit philanthropies. And governments will continue to make grants for so long as legislators appropriate funds for grant-making programs.


The next post in this series on Myths in Grant Seeking will address the flip side of the Myth of Scarcity, which is the Myth of Abundance.


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