Affiliation – Who Needs It?
If you are an individual grantseeker, you might
be tempted to say affiliation is not for me. After all, thousands of grants are
awarded each year by various types of funders directly to unaffiliated individual
applicants. And we know that it is possible to apply for, receive, and utilize
grant money all on your own. And yet...there are many individual applicants who
could benefit from some form of institutional affiliation. A number of grant
ideas truly are enhanced by organizational sponsorship. Others more or less
require it. To cite a few examples:
- If you are an inventor working on an idea for
a gadget that will improve the quality of everyday life, but you do not require
the use of high technology equipment or laboratories, you
can probably apply to a government agency or foundation on your own.
- If you are a
mathematician whose grant idea relies on complex computer programming and the
assistance of technical personnel, you most likely require affiliation with an
academic institution or research institute. Funders will want to know that you
have access to the appropriate technology before they will award you a grant.
They have to be sure that you possess the wherewithal to do what you propose to
- If you are a sculptor
whose idea involves creating a statue to improve the appearance of a local
park, and you already have your own studio, materials, and tools, you most
likely can apply to a local corporation or family foundation directly on your own.
- If you are a poet who
proposes to give readings at various elementary schools "to turn kids
on" to poetry, you might find it helpful to have the local school board
sponsor you. This will reassure potential funders that there is actual interest
in your idea at the community level, that you will have official cooperation,
and that your schedule will be coordinated in a systematic way.
- If your idea involves
writing a work of fiction, and the grant you require is for straightforward
expenses, then you can apply directly to funders that make such grants for
works in progress. Should you have a publisher, a letter of endorsement from
your editor will help. If your manuscript is complete, you can apply to one of
the associations that give awards under such categories as "best short
work by a new author."
- If your idea is to
conduct an oral history project by interviewing on tape those who lived through
a particular event in history, you probably should establish a formal
connection with a nearby historical society. Funders will want to know that you
are working under the auspices of a respectable agency that will supervise your
procedures, seeing that you are in touch with appropriate subjects for your
- If you propose to work
on a new medical theory that certain enzymes combat a particular disease,
sponsorship by one of the major medical research bodies is essential. There are
thousands of controversial theories
about various diseases, many coming from apparently competent scientists. Grants
decision makers ordinarily do not themselves have the expertise to oversee or
even fully comprehend your idea from a scientific standpoint. They need to know
that some qualified, prestigious body will attend to this for them.
- If you propose to travel
outside the country either to gain or to share information in your field of
specialization, you definitely must apply under the auspices of a fellowship
program or foreign-exchange agency. In this instance, the sponsor serves to
guarantee the funder that you are not just taking a paid vacation and also
promises to supervise you during your stay.
- If you are a social worker, psychologist, or other type of counselor
and you propose to operate a telephone hotline, a youth shelter,
an alcoholism program, or other counseling service, of course,
you can apply on your own to a foundation or corporation for initial
funding as well as for equipment rental. However, if you find
a church, community center, or local agency like the boys and
girls club to sponsor you and perhaps to donate some space, it
will lend authenticity to your idea, which in turn will make it
more attractive to a broader spectrum of prospective funders.
This list could be continued ad infinitum.
Determining whether or not you need a sponsor is up to you. The decision rests
on whether you as an applicant can make it on your own, whether you want
to go it alone, whether your idea lends itself to
development by just one individual, and whether support services are required.
There are as many types of sponsors as there are ideas for grants. As the
previous examples indicate, there are varying levels and degrees of affiliation
with any given sponsor. The choices concerning what kind you need and how
structured or loose the relationship should be are also up to you. The
individual grantseeker can and should create a sponsoring arrangement that
benefits him and his grant idea, while not losing sight
of the motivation of the funder.