Learning how to write a grant proposal can be quite scary for a lot of people and not everyone can get it done. It’s a word that many have heard of. However, grant writing is not something that many want to take the time to understand or even learn more about. In short, grant writing is something that many people shy away from because of their lack of understanding or how writing a grant can benefit their business or organization.
I’ve met a lot of people who have had amazing business ideas, but they just didn’t take the time to figure out how to implement that idea. Therefore, it died unborn. Over the past few months, I have taken a long hard look at my grant-writing skills, my talents and the knowledge I have acquired over the years. It’s been quite rewarding helping organizations and businesses look for grants that best meet their needs. Above all, to get the funding they have desired to invest in their communities.
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What is Grant Proposal?
A proposal has a lot of different purposes, but there’s only one good way to write one. The proposal’s way. A way that pulls together all of the information concisely and persuasively to help you get what you want over time. Grant writing is a search for proposals to help secure funding for your nonprofit organization. Most of the proposals contain deadlines and protocols. These are usually submitted during submission. The proposal outline has specific details on deadlines and how the grant should be turned in. This is a key component that many grant writers miss or even overlook. Make sure you follow through with everything. Don’t get to the end of the proposal, prepare to submit, and you’ve done things your way. Remember to use the checklist. It’s a part of the grant writing proposal too.
Grant writing is also specific. It takes time to look for what you need. Not all grants match what you want to do for your organization. Grantees have tried to make it fit. But, during the process of writing, it became too cumbersome and frustrating. The grant proposal finally had to be ditched became the business model didn’t match the needs assessments. Don’t risk it. You’ll have to start all over again.
If you locate an outstanding grant writer or consultant, they will be honest and remain upfront with you regarding your match with the grant proposal you have chosen. They won’t take you through the process of time.
How Are Grant Proposals Written?
Usually, a business or organization contacts the funder directly for more details. If new, a consultant or grant write will reach out to the funder to get the details needed for the non-profit or business seeking funding. If you are a proven organization that has been successful with submitting successful proposal in the past (grantmakers or sponsors) will reach out to offer you specific grants.
Before you start writing your proposal, for your business or organization you first want to search and call the funders to see if you qualify for the potential grant proposal you are seeking funding opportunities. I believed that every grant proposal is written with every organization in mind. That’s the nature of the proposal. However, the proposal (as mentioned) may not be the perfect match with you in mind. Therefore, knowing who’s funding your type of organization or business in your area or location, the range of their grant funding (past and present) is critical, and if you qualify. Remember, you can’t just assume it’s a match. You have to ask detail questions.
Use the following guidelines to help you narrow down the right opportunity:
- Sit down with your team and board to ask specific questions: What award amount are we looking for? Can our organization handle the upfront cost before the grant funding is released? Who are our corporate vendors? What bank or credit union will be processing payroll and other expenses? What local funders have given us money or in-kind contributions in the past? Are they willing to help again? Is there still a good relationship with those funders? This is key because if you are awarded a new grant. Grantors usually announce who their new awardees are. You never want the funders to regret you were awarded. This could affect your funding over the coming years. After you have answered these questions, start taking action.
- Call and make an appointment with the local banks in your area: Don’t go further than a 10-mile radius. There’s hidden money everywhere — even at your local banks. Find out who’s in charge of the community-outreach and other trust departments at each institution. These departments manage funding and know how much is available for local areas. Some banks offer sponsorships through trust. These are often not highly advertised sources of grant money. Ask and seek guidelines for applying for them.
- Go to your city hall and local county economic development agencies: Find out about any public monies available through contracts, bids, or grants for your projects. These are good for out-of-school time programs all year or during the summer months. Also, take the opportunity to find out about census data for your area. You’ll need it for your needs assessments.
- If you have a community foundation in your county, call to get an appointment to meet with someone there: Ask about the possibility of applying for capacity building funds for your organization. With a capacity-building grant, you can contract with qualified consultants for assistance with grant proposals, fundraising, board training, and volunteer services. These foundations are usually great to work with because they think about the overall success of an organization. They’re not just focused on 1 or 2 areas of development.
- Call the nearest university libraries to access the Foundation Center or their Small Business Office: These should be open for public access. It’s also a free-of-charge source for researching and finding potential funding sources for your needs. If not, ask questions to get the help you deserve.
- Attend all public events, community outreach (neighborhood associations, and other meetings) to share your ideas about a grant that will be offering to their community: Feedback is essential to the success of your organization. It’s vitality important to hear what the community needs are and how you can support those needs. Make sure you have brochures, hand-outs, and business cards so you can stay connected. You always want to create ways for others to contact you with further questions and to make referrals. Do not give your consultants or team members contact information out to anyone. It’s your vision. You want to make sure you are communicating information accurately.
- Network with other grant writers: To find out about their funding resource subscriptions. This is sometimes difficult to do. If grant funding is limited for a specific foundation, other grant writers and consultants are secretive about connecting you to their personal resources and database. I’ve never understood this. If grantors are following their guidelines, grant writers and consultants have nothing to fear in my opinion. Ask anyway, this may not be applicable to all.
- Most importantly, call your congressional team members: Let your representatives hear from you through email or phone call. Tell them more about your organization and its need for grant funding. Ask if they have any funding available for your project and if they know of any federal bucks that fit your needs.
Writing Effective and Successful Grant Proposals
To make your grant writing stand out from other grant proposals and to get your grant funded, you have to know how to write grant applications effectively. You have to follow the guidelines:
- Use the checklist provided. Read, Read and Read: Make sure that you get the grant application guidelines early if it’s available. If not, try to retrieve the prior year’s application, for “read-only” purposes. DO NOT USE THE PRIOR YEAR’S APPLICATION TO SUBMIT YOUR GRANT APPLICATION. USE THE MOST CURRENT “OFFICIAL” APPLICATION!
- Separating the application into parts is a key component: This separation allows you to divide the workload among your team. You want everyone to be clear about their tasks. It also allows everyone to look over their tasks and to ask the leading questions for success.
- Needs Assessment for your targeted area: When researching statistical data, for your grant proposal application, it’s best to go back 5 years to provide a snapshot of the need for the area your program will be serving. Don’t just pull general random data, but relevant data applicable to your application. Your goal is to tell a convincing story. If you’re unsure, reach out to a consultant or grant writer to assist you with this area of knowledge.
- Use a storytelling approach: Be persuasive. You have to utilize research and statistics to share a compelling story. You want the readers to visualize the need for your project. You have to know your vision, community and how you want to invest in your participants. You want your application to stand out from all the rest.
- Utilize a case study: Experience is everything. Allow your clients and/or your organization to help you tell your story. As you’re attending different community meetings and events, ask for individuals to share their stories about where they live. Be sure not to use “real” names for confidentiality reasons.
- Write to government funding agencies: Request (under the Freedom of Information Act) copies of funded grant applications. Use these documents as examples of how to write an award-winning grant application. They are a little difficult to read because you don’t have the actual document in front of you. But, you’ll get the gist.
- When you find best practices, look for the evaluation results: Use the FOIA results to implement your program. You want to make sure the program mirrors your program to what’s working and what’s not working. Make sure you know your program. You don’t want to make a mistake assuming. Be careful! What did not work for someone else’s program could work for yours. Consider variables you could put in place as benefactors to make the program above average
- Creative about saving multiple drafts: This was a nightmare for me as a superintendent in a district. I would always start off with the checklist, protocols, and guidelines to ensure my success. However, one particular year, one of my teachers sent me a “draft” of needs assessments from the “executive summary.” It was so different from the guidelines I sent. Long story short, she said, “I thought I added my information to the draft you sent me.” The team was off, no draft copy was correct. The data was flawed and we were under a strict guideline. In short, we submitted the wrong proposal because I assumed they knew which proposal draft was most current. Come up with a system that works best for the team. Communicate!
- Hire a proofreader or editor: Don’t take this lightly. You need someone. A fresh pair of eyes to read over your writing and to clean it up. You’ve looked at the document too many times and for so long. The familiarity is too risky. It’s worth the money in the long run. Or, ask a trustworthy co-worker, friend or English major (preferably college student) to proofread and give feedback.
- Alert: Write in short, compelling sentences: Long-winded and complex sentences will almost always lose the reader. They will become uninterested in what you have to say. You are trying to persuade your reader by telling a story, not putting them to sleep. Remember, you have an audience you want to reach.
In conclusion, visit the federal government website www.grants.gov, the central source for locating and applying for many programs. Besides that, check individual federal agencies’ websites because not all programs are listed on www.grants.gov. Also, check your state and local government websites to see what grants they offer. It takes time to find your match.
Keep in mind. It doesn’t take a rock science to learn how to write a grant proposal. However, the process of learning how to write the proposal is time-consuming. Nonetheless, if this is your organization’s first attempt at applying for a grant, the entire process will benefit your organization. The goal is to end up with a well-conceived proposal that lays out a strategic plan that going to address the problems in your area, as well as the funding to pay for it.
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