“A Win-Win-Win Situation”:
If you’re interested in offering yoga to special populations, consider securing grant money to realize your vision. The grant writing process may seem intimidating at first, but drawing on your knowledge and resources, you’ll find that you can produce successful proposals with far-reaching results. Recently, I received a grant enabling me to provide free yoga classes to breast cancer patients and survivors for an entire year. The grant covers all my costs, including marketing and a professional fee for my instruction.
Ideally, a good grant proposal will create a win-win-win situation, addressing in a symbiotic way the needs of 1) the population served, 2) the funding source and 3) the teacher.
The needs of the population served
Funding sources expect your proposal to assess needs and propose strategies for addressing these needs. I knew that the diagnosis of breast cancer is frequently accompanied by a physical, emotional and spiritual crisis. It seemed to me vital for this population to find a way during this difficult time to be in a caring and compassionate relationship with the body, to remain active to the best of one’s physical ability, to soothe difficult emotions and to cultivate a sense of empowerment in relation to one’s healing.
Knowing from my own experience that yoga offered this potential, I utilized these goals as the foundation of my grant proposal. I transformed them into measurable quantities by designing a evaluation form which would enable me to report back to the funding source with statements such as “Ninety-five percent of participants reported being better able to cope with difficult emotions as a result of their yogic practice.” Citing relevant studies or similar programs that have been successful will also strengthen your proposal.
The needs of the funding source
Successful grant writing requires matching your proposed program to an appropriate funding source. Even the best grant proposal will fail if it does not meet the criteria for the types of programs the organization typically supports. The Web can be helpful for researching potential funding sources, but the assistance of a reference librarian at your local library is indispensable, especially when researching local grants.
In preparing your application, look beyond the criteria that funding sources provide for grant proposals. Review the publicity generated by an organization: How does it present what it does? What types of programs does it currently fund? Whenever possible, speak directly to someone within the organization. I established a phone relationship with the coordinator of the grant program I applied to and she was happy to answer my questions about the organization and the grant application process.
It’s in an organization’s self-interest to fund programs that are visible, successful and reflect positively on them. Thus, they want your program to succeed as much as you do, but need to be convinced that you can deliver a successful, quality product. Obviously, your professional qualifications and experience are relevant, but consider other ways your proposal might convey your competence. A graphic artist I know helped me develop a great-looking brochure to illustrate how I would present my program to the public and as an example of the quality and professionalism of all aspects of my work.
Remember to read between the lines. The grant application I received emphasized that grant recipients were to market their own programs and asked for a detailed marketing plan. This left the impression that programs the organization had funded in the past had failed due to inadequate marketing efforts. Not only did I develop an elaborate marketing plan in response, but I felt secure in requesting substantial funding for it.
Grant proposals inevitably require the submission of budgets. It is essential that you carefully consider and research your costs in order to arrive at realistic budget figures. If your estimates are too high, you run the risk of being turned down; if you underestimate, you may end up paying out of your own pocket in order to fulfill your grant agreement.
Grant proposals that show a significant financial contribution from other sources are more likely to be funded. But even if you have no other patrons or money of your own to contribute, the resourcefulness you employ can be assigned a financial value. For example, I assigned a market value to my artist friend’s services and listed it as a in-kind donation. Similarly, I assigned a rental fee for the “free” mailing list and classroom space I had secured, listing them as line items in the budget covered by in-kind contributions. In this way, I was able to show that a quarter of my program costs were covered by sources outside the grant, even though I secured no money directly.
You might also consider charging participants a nominal fee for your program. Even small fees can add up, significantly reducing costs.
The needs of the teacher
You will probably never be fully reimbursed for your time and effort in writing the grant and delivering the program, so don’t shortchange yourself when it comes to costs that can be realistically applied to the grant. Ask for a professional wage for your services. Don’t think of this as undermining your proposal by raising costs, but rather as lending it credibility, reflecting the respect teaching yoga deserves.
Your grant may also address your needs less directly. My affiliation with the hospital that funded my grant, plus media coverage and marketing of my program, has enhanced marketing for my other classes. The program has opened doors for me to bring yoga to people with other medical issues. And, of course, I’ve had the satisfaction of offering something I’m passionate about to people who can greatly benefit from it but may have not have had access otherwise.
Dean Hudson, M.S.W., L.I.C.S.W., is a licensed psychotherapist, a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher mentor and director of Pathways to Wholeness. He is also a Danskinetics® instructor and leader of Dances of Universal Peace. Dean teaches classes and leads workshops at Kripalu and throughout Western Massachusetts and New England.