Grants are essentially one time payments to an organization, individual, or group of individuals that does not require any type of repayment schedule. In terms of financing a project, for example better agricultural inputs on a smallhold farm, it is actually more appealing for farmers to receive a small grant, a lump sum of money they can do what they want with, instead of being tied to the conditionality of a loan and its repayment schedule and associated interest rates.
Loans, while still an important means of financing, can further indebt those who have limited means of paying back the full amount or simply desperate to get any type of flow for their business/idea.
Grants and social science research go hand in hand because researchers make it their job to locate, and give voice to pressing issues that demand grant funding. It is the job of a good social science researcher to at least make a persuasive case in the form of a grant proposal or even journal article, of why funding certain initiatives matter.
Funders, especially since the birth of the Sustainable Development Goals, and since Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has come into the mainstream and has left corporations accountable for their footprints, are increasingly looking to make their portfolios a little more equitable and eco-friendly. This means funding development projects aimed at reducing poverty in developing economies, working toward climate justice and decreased CO2 emissions, and it means putting money into the hands of organizations that can form advocacy measures as well.
It’s up to researchers to convince funders about the status of the world
Social science researchers—especially those who work in the fields of environmental regulation and poverty alleviation, have the unique goal of making funders aware of large and systemic problems that are accruing in the U.S. or in developing economies where their organizations run small and medium sized programs intent on making on some aspect—agriculture, nutrition, health, childcare, or gender relations, more equitable.
In turn, these programs not only create advocacy for the rest of the world to pay attention to, but they also create donor attraction, from individual or corporate donors who want to have a portfolio of grant-making that is contingent with the systemic issues of the world that are worth solving, and also fit the status quo of the moment.
Global Greengrants Fund, for example, a small grant funding organization with its HQ in Boulder, Colorado, combines journalism with grant-making. It is an organization that celebrates the victories of fishermen gathering together to oppose a mining construction project in their community, and an organization that helps to de-fund major oil and gas initiatives and speak out against plastic pollution worldwide. This organization, on the grants side of things, helps to write and craft grants that appeal to donors portfolios, and at the same time disburse funds to small organizations fighting for justice, creating more resilient and innovative societies globally.
Researchers need to pay attention to trends
Greengrants makes this possible on the research side of things first, though. It is the job of a great researcher to gather sound information, and also to translate this information into the work of a grant that can appeal to donors who are willing to see the opportunity cost of such an endeavor. Researchers essentially need to take the most key information, and synthesize it in the Abstract portion of their grant proposal. They also need to make sure their literature review is concise and shows funders just how important respective projects with a clear outline of how the history of problem has made it now hard to ignore and the best time to jump on the issue and help solve it.
Oftentimes in the non-profit world, budgets are thin and researchers will take on multiple roles such as primary research but then also helping draft grant proposals. It’s the work of great social science researchers who can manage both tasks and the see importance of their wordsmithing when appealing to major funders for global problems.