First off, I have to ask you all to bear with me if this doesn’t entirely make sense—I’m sick, it’s late, and overall my head isn’t working at 100% :B
Alrighty, ladies and gentlemen! We’re all of the opinion that we want to see this con happen sometime in the near future. As with any great undertaking, the one thing we’re going to need more than anything else to make this work is that silly little thing called money. And unless somebody quite rich decides to take pity on the poor writers and fans, there’s only one real way that we’re going to get the money for this—and that’s through grants.
Now, from looking at the profiles of some other similar conventions, it looks like a lot of these conventions have one overarching organization that pretty much runs things, along with a few smaller sponsors. Of course this varies from con to con, but it’s never a bad thing to have multiple sponsors. If we want this con to be long-running, however, it might be worth it to consider establishing a permanent, overarching organization that will oversee the con itself, as well as any other little offshoots we might try (this of course is thinking way in the future, but it’s something to chew on). Having an organization to handle the set-up and oversight of the con itself will likely make our jobs a lot easier—and it will also make it easier to get both not-for-profit status, and a grant to make this con happen.
The grant-writing process is a long and relatively complex one—and it is also best done, I have discovered, when done collectively. There are also several steps involved. The first one is not to look for funders, since how can we look for funders when we don’t even know what our goals are?
The first thing we need to figure out is—who are we? What are we doing? What are we going to contribute? How will we, and therefore the convention, help ourselves and help others? All those pesky little existential questions that keep us up at night, lol.
The step after that is to determine our own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is called a SWOT analysis and is used by pretty much everyone in the business world (and this includes not-for-profit). What are our strengths—who do we have who is willing to work for us? How will this convention help people? What experience do we have? Weaknesses—what internal problems do we have to contend with? What can we improve upon. Opportunities--what opportunities are out there that we can exploit? What do we intend to use in order to make this work? What can we use? Threats—what external problems do we have to contend with? (Heh, this last one should be easy—dates, money, location, other conventions).
It’s only after we know who we are, what we want to do, and how we intend to do it that we can start to look for funders. There are many types of funders and grants that we can find and use, but at this point I’m thinking that foundational funders are going to be our best bet (of course this can change in the course of our development—you see why finding funders always comes last?) When I say “foundational funders” I mean funds from good-works foundations (like the Red Cross, though I doubt we’ll get money from them, haha) who are willing to donate money to a cause they like. Guidestar is a good place for basic information about not-for-profits, and has information about the forms needed to apply for not-for-profit status as well as how to find good funders. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s The Catalog of Federal and Domestic Assistance, always a good place to hunt down federal grants. But as I said, we’re probably going to want to look at foundational grants, at least at this point in time. And while finding a funding partner is going to be the last thing we do when drafting a grant proposal, it would be good for some of you to check out these sites or find out what you can on the web, just to familiarize yourselves with the process.
As I said before, the grant-writing is best done collectively. Therefore, at this point I’d like to ask for anyone willing to help in drafting a grant proposal. Experience is definitely appreciated, but anyone willing to do research, make phone calls, talk to people or generally go hunting will be enormously helpful. A word on my own experience, which in all honesty isn’t that much to bark about—I’m a Junior in college and just got out of a semester-long course on grant-writing, in which I and three other students drafted a 43-page grant proposal for an alternative high school in Ithaca, New York. We’re still waiting for word on whether the grant was approved or not. I’m also a writer by nature (though more creative than technical), and I have pretty extensive knowledge about the process itself and how to go about it. From what I’ve seen on this community already, there seem to be a few people with substantially more experience than I, and I would like to hear their opinions on this matter.
So! Anyone willing to go through the grueling process of proposal-writing, or anyone who can devote a little time or information, leave a comment and we can talk things out. I have a lot of confidence in this, everyone—I’m sure we can make this happen!
(Long post is long)