Partnering for a Grant Application — The Downside and Risks

My name is Rodney L. Sutton, Sr. and I’m the community development coordinator and grant writer for Horizons of Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties Inc. Our organization uses grants to fund many of our activities. In this blog post., I want to share with you our experience applying for a grant with another organization for a hydroponic farming project.

Horizons of Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties, Inc. has been in operation since 1976. Our agency began in the heart of an aging parent whose concern for her adult developmentally disabled child was to keep her from being placed in an institution after the parent passed away. The parent wanted the child to live in a home-like atmosphere with 3 or 4 other individuals. This desire evolved into the residential services of Horizons of Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties, Inc. We now employ more than 270 people to provide the needed services.

Horizons, Inc. strives to meet the holistic needs of individuals with developmental disabilities by providing:

  • Home-like living environments
  • An Adult Day Care facility with habilitation services
  • Professionally trained staff to ensure health and safety
  • Access to recreation and work opportunities
  • Transportation

The goal of our organization is to help those with disabilities become more independent and to educate the community about development disabilities. By managing themselves they become more independent and obtain the skills needed in life. In the Day Habilitation program, individuals are given the opportunity to learn new skills and receive job training, and maintain current skills while enjoying daily social interaction and recreational activities.

Some time ago, Horizons Inc. was approached by a partner agency with an idea for introducing hydroponics to individuals with developmental disabilities. It fit with our goals so we decided to write a grant for a familiar funder that we had used in the past. The lessons learned from this encounter are useful for grant writers and organizations looking to collaborate for specific projects.

Know your funder and how to develop better relationships with funders

One of the most important lessons that I learned is to understand the funder’s priorities. Building relationships is key for success and one must focus on the relationship with the funder. One can’t just accept the funder’s money and not understand their mission. This is particularly important when deciding to collaborate with another organization. Don’t assume that the funder will accept the partner organization. There are plenty of positives to collaboration, but by not understanding relationships with funders and stakeholders, one not only loses opportunities, but also burns bridges.

How collaboration can go wrong

There are factors that inhibit organizations from receiving grants. Our funder was willing to give us the grant to build out a hydroponic program.  However, they were not familiar with our partner.  As a result, this caused some friction because they didn’t want to give the grant to that organization.

The lesson that I learned from this was to always consult with the funder in order to make sure that the collaborating organization is acceptable to the funders and their values. We may be united by the same cause and goals, but the funder’s needs are important when it comes to establishing relationships for future projects. If both sides aren’t on the same page then there is a failure of communication between the two parties that could not only ruin a grant opportunity, but future opportunities as well.

Making collaboration beneficial requires mutual agreement between the funder and the organizations receiving the grant. Effective communication between the parties can reduce the chance of miscommunication. This means understanding your audience, understanding those providing grants for that specific audience, and understanding how the funders approve organizations to which they disperse funds. has resources for finding grants for organizations that helps those with disabilities. We also have grants for organizations that specialize in farming and agriculture. These are terrific opportunities for organizations to obtain grants for their organizations in order to promote their cause. GrantWatch is an excellent database for finding thousands of grants for your organization.

Facts about hydroponics

Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Hydroponics is believed to be a practice as old as the pyramids. Recent surveys have indicated that there are over 1,000,000 household soil-less culture units operating in the United States for the production of food alone. Russia, France, Canada, South Africa, Holland, Japan, Australia and Germany are among other countries where hydroponics is receiving the attention it deserves.

Below is a visual of how our process works for using hydroponics to teach those with developmental disabilities skills for the future:

About the Author: Rodney L. Sutton, Sr. has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 15 years in various capacities. The last five years he has focused on grant writing, fundraising and nonprofit development.