Why Doesn’t Anyone Want My Free Money?

Alison and Joanne Newens


As public school kids, we have heard the phrase “We can’t do this because we don’t have any money” on a daily basis. We cannot go to the computer lab because it is booked and we cannot afford another one; we cannot have class sets of books because our library only gets so much funding; we cannot host a charity dance because we do not have the means to hire janitors so late at night. Money is the only thing standing between many people and their goals.

Then why don’t more people apply for grants—which is basically free money?

Because of a lack of awareness.

As youth philanthropists, we have to make sure that our peers know about our grant opportunities to reach their goals. Of course, advertising is not easy unless you can afford a Superbowl commercial, but here are some innovative ideas about how to broadcast grant opportunities:

  1. Word of mouth.  As board members of Grants Advisory Board for Youth, we rely on each other to spread the news about our grants. We are all from different schools and different districts, so we make sure our presentations that advertise about our grant application do not overlap with the same audiences.
  2. Social media. Word of mouth only goes so far; even the most popular kid in the school district cannot reach the range of people we want to know about our grant opportunities. Each board member advertises on our own social media platform at a specific time. The key to advertising is repetition, so we have to space our posts out evenly for more people to see them. Studies have shown that most people are on Facebook between 1 and 3 PM on weekdays. We use these studies to our advantage and assign board members to post at a certain time for maximum views.
  3. Visual Aids. They say that the attention span of a teenager is around that of a goldfish. That is why we have spiced up our grant presentations to make sure our audiences pay attention and follow through with what we need them to do. Prezi is a pumped-up version  PowerPoint that we love to use, because it is riddled with pizazz-y transitions, bright colors, and other visual effects. Google Slides is also efficient because many board members can edit the presentation to tailor to their own audiences.
    Pro Tip: Make sure your audience knows what a grant even is! Some younger audiences have no idea what grants are, and some high schoolers mistake grants for just free money. Grants Advisory Board for Youth, for example, uses this Prezi to inform potential grantees so that they  know exactly what they are applying for.
  4. Flyers. You cannot go wrong with good ol’ fashioned flyers! However, flyers must go in strategic locations. A local Starbucks, for example, would be a better place to hang a flyer than a local senior diner. Posting flyers at your school cannot go wrong, but remember to get an administrator’s approval before taping it on halls or lockers.
  5. Emails. Who checks their email anymore, unless it’s from someone official like college recruitment or Forever 21 with 25% off coupons? The trick with emails is to BE one of these official people. With a free account on Mail Chimp, your board can send fancy and official emails with a personalized header. A person is more likely to open an email that says “Dear *their name*” then one that says “Everyone should apply!”
  6. Get help. This may seem like an obvious answer, but we have learned that it is who you know, not what you know. Reaching out to local government officials is one of the best ways to advertise. Councilmen and women have their own social media platforms that have hundreds of followers, and they are willing to do anything for their constituents. We have even spoken at City Council meetings about our grants to let our local government know about our deeds.

So next time you ask your board, “Why doesn’t anyone want our free money?” think about what audiences you are advertising to. Tailor your presentations to their needs and attention spans, make sure the timing and location of your advertisements are strategic for maximum views, and do not be afraid to reach out for help.

Picture of About Alison and Joanne Newens

About Alison and Joanne Newens

Alison and Joanne Newens are board members of Grants Advisory Board for Youth, funded by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. Joanne, a freshman at UC Davis, and Alison, a junior at John F Kennedy High, are actively involved in the community—from community children’s theater to Salvation Army bell ringing to leading service clubs at their schools. They know both sides of the grant making process and enjoy giving grants tailored towards the arts and education.