So, you understand the value of grant writing, and think you’re ready to give it a try. But where to start?
Have no fear—armed with this handy guide, you’ll be writing winning grant proposals in no time!
What Does a Winning Grant Proposal Entail?
First and foremost, successful grant proposals are compelling. The point is to convince people to give you money, and no one gives away free money unless they have a very good reason for it.
Grant proposals align with the vision of the funding organization. Their purpose is to convince the organization that by supporting your project, they will further advance whatever cause they support.
A successful grant proposal follows guidelines and clearly defines the project’s purpose and methods. The project’s aims are clearly outlined and are both measurable and achievable using the methodology outlined in the proposal. It sounds daunting, but once you get the hang of it, it will seem entirely doable.
So, what are the steps to become a master grant writer?
1: Research the funding organization
It is important to research the funding organization to understand their history and motive for offering grants. You want to find the group that best fits the purpose of your project, as they will be most likely to accept your plan.
The funding organization will also provide an overview of the grant, including rules and qualifications for submission, as well as expectations and requirements for the recipient. It’s important to follow these guidelines as closely as possible in order to boost your chances.
Of course, one of the best research tools is past grant winners which, in many cases, will be freely available from the organization. Reading case studies of the winning submissions will help determine if you are a good fit for the grant, as well as provide insight into what the judges are looking for.
Before proceeding with the grant process, ask yourself the following qualifying questions:
- Is your program in-line with the organization’s vision, objectives and message?
- Do you qualify? Is your school or program eligible for funding?
- What does the person or group want in return? Will you be able to deliver?
- Any reporting and compliance requirements? Are they realistic and achievable?
2: Develop relationships
People associated with the grant can be helpful in providing guidance and support throughout the grant process. Therefore, it’s important to develop and maintain relationships with the funding officials and previous grant recipients in order to gain invaluable insight and guidance.
There are several means of building relationships, including email, phone and social media, and more than one might be necessary to making a connection. Make sure to do your research and prepare questions prior to reaching out to people, and be aware of how to approach officials and past recipients.
Don’t be picky about who you connect to within the organization—anyone may have influence in grant selection, and having more people on your side only improves your chances.
Once connected, remember to always be polite, listen, and take notes. Ask for their feedback, after you write a summary, ask the funder if they are open to previewing it. Their feedback is essential in knowing whether your approach is on target or needs revision, so don’t forget to thank them for their time!
Be sure to open by congratulating previous recipients for their achievement. Next, develop the relationship further by showing an interest in their project and inquire about their project’s progress. Once you establish a connection, ask if they would be willing to share their insights and experience with you. It is very possible the information that they provide will give you the competitive edge that you need to secure a grant of your own.
3: Develop a Budget
In many cases, the budget is the first thing a judge will review. You want to ensure that all of the information is concise and well-presented, and that your maximizing your use of the grant money. After all, these people are investing in your project—demonstrate that it’s a good investment!
Create a cost-effective and accurate budget by detailing how you arrived at your figures, and identify any contribution you have made to the program. Prove your creditability by defining how your experience and skill will lead to successful implementation, and account for all of the funding. Never ask for more money than you need.
4: Create and Maintain a Timeline.
You don’t want to wait until the last minute, then frantically try and get everything done. You won’t have enough time to develop relationships, argue your case, or make sure that all of your figures add up—that’s why you want to start the process months before submitting your proposal.
Know the grant deadlines, and create a work schedule that will allow you to meet those deadlines.
Make sure to give yourself enough time to revise your proposal. It’s recommended that you have several people proofread your proposal and make recommendations before you submit it to the funding organization. More often than not, others will pick up on mistakes that you aren’t able to notice.
5: Read and Carefully Follow the R.F.P (Request for Proposal) Guidelines
Each grant will be unique and have their own set of guidelines. If you find that one or even several of the guidelines for a particular grant are not in-line with your proposal, you should continue to look for other grant opportunities.
Remember that most grants are very competitive. Failure to follow the R.F.P. guidelines can knock your grant out of the running immediately, so be detailed and do not overlook any points.
Also, just assume if you’re not sure on any point. There is nothing wrong with asking the funder for clarity if R.F.P. guidelines seem unclear.
6: Be Detailed in Your Proposal
Be sure to support your proposal by providing the right information, and have all required documentation. This includes:
- Annual Reports
- Financial Statements
- Case Studies
Provide reasons why your plan will produce the desired outcomes. Clearly define your goal for the funder, and make it seem measurable and achievable.
Lastly, make sure your proposal is easy to read and free of grammatical errors. You should ask someone who has no insight on your project to read your proposal and explain it back to you to ensure that it is easy-to-understand and coherent.
Detail what you expect will be the outcome of the project, and explain how you will track those results. Do not make the mistake of assuming the funder understands your proposal.
7: Be Compelling
You want people to be just as excited about your proposal as you are. This is your project, but you want the enthusiasm you have for it to be both obvious and infectious.
You will need to write a clear but compelling proposal which allows the funder to visualize what you hope to accomplish within your project. Outline the vision of the project, and how it relates to the core mission and vision of the organization.
Be considerate of the funder’s time—exercise brevity when drafting your proposal. Your goal is to write the best proposal, not the longest, so aim to write a powerful description in the fewest words possible. Every word should be important and contribute to the overall message—otherwise, leave them out.
8: Look Through the Eyes of the Funder
When you trying to convince someone to give you a grant, you have to remember that you’re writing to sell them on this project. Ask yourself, “if I were in charge, would I want to fund my project?”
Consider the following questions:
- Was I clear in conveying why I need the funding?
- Have I detailed the impact the funds will have?
- Did I convey the right energy or passion for the project?
- Have I explained why my idea is unique and worthy of funding?
- Is my level of commitment clear?
- Have I outlined my qualifications and assured the funder of my abilities?
- Did I address all of the guidelines?
- Did I demonstrate how I will measure, monitor and analyze my progress?
If the answer to any is “no,” then you know you still have some work to do.
Congrats! You’ll Be a Grant-Writing Guru in No Time!
These are just a few of the tools you will need to write great grant proposals, but you’re now well on your way to mastering the process.
Successful grant writing is one-part art and one-part science. However, a dynamic, yet clear and well-supported proposal will always make your submission stand out from the rest!