The good news is that last year I attended a terrific workshop on this topic at the Boston regional N-TEN conference. It was organized by fellow TechnobabeTheresa Ellis, so I went to her and requested permission to replicate her idea. She very graciously agreed, coaching me about how to proceed, and encouraging me to recruit as many panelists as possible from the session that she designed.
Here's the plan. Four of our panelists will be from the philanthropic world, folks with plenty of practical experience:
The fifth panelist will be Kevin Whalen from the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing. He will be presenting proposal to support the Immigrant Organizers Information Technology Network that has already submitted and accepted by the Boston Foundation. (Geeta Pradhan of TBF has been very kind about giving her blessing on this.)
We will distribute copies to all of the workshop attendees, and get down to cases. Our panelists will have a free and frank exchange of views on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal, and then take questions from the workshop attendees. I don't expect any formulaic answers to come out of this session, but hope that this will improve understanding about how and why some grant proposals succeed with some donors.
I'm convinced that - even though I don't have the answer to the vexed question about how small nonprofits can find sustainable funding for their technology infrastructure - the answers lie in dialogue among the donors, the nonprofit executives, the nonprofit technology assistance providers, and other stakeholders in the missions of these organizations. We need to work out a process of relationship building and mutual education across the divide between donors and recipients.
* No relation to yours truly, except to the extent that all human beings are cousins, and that I happen to be an avid fan of the human being in question.