Grant writing is not dead. Sure, it may be taking a backseat right now with political turmoil and forecast of reduced incentives for corporations to give to nonprofits, but funding hasn’t completely disappeared. This is probably one of the most unpredictable times in history for the future of grants, but there are cycles of recessions, depressions and political changes throughout history: 2017 is one of those times. Don’t panic.
So, should your organization even try to apply for a grant? Well, as a grant writer, I give a very hardy nod ‘yes,’ but for reasons that surpass my ability to make a living at writing grants. I have the advantage of seeing firsthand the impact that grants have on organizations when they write the grant correctly — even if the grant doesn’t get awarded. What? Yep, you heard me.
Firstly, you must get your organization in gear to get organized, and possibly resurrect those draft policies and procedures and get them updated and approved. Secondly, your organization must outline the needs and demands from clients, and develop a project that provides a solution to those needs. Thirdly, you must get feedback and possibly (usually) resubmit the updated grant at the next funding cycle, or to another funding source. As the good ole adage states, “Nothing would get done without deadlines.” That is what grants provide — a deadline. Of course, it is always more fun when you get grants awarded.
This three-part series will provide you with the six basic steps of writing a winning grant. In this segment, we will be covering the grant writing structure and about your organization.\
Grant writing structure
The grant writing structure is not really a part of the actual grant writing, but developing a team (and having a kick-off meeting) will prevent much pulling out of hair, excessive head-bashing against your computer or last minute panicked shouts of “I thought you had the password to submit the grant.” If you believe it would be much more pleasant if none of those things happen, then it is imperative to put together a grant writing team. The ideal grant team is comprised of the lead grant writer, the budget lead, the grant coordinator and potential specialists. The executive director should oversee the process and be involved in the design, but he or she should ultimately be someone whom you report to, who reviews the grant and possibly submits the grant.
Begin the grant writing structure with a kick-off meeting and do the following:
- Read the funding opportunity announcement or Request for Proposal. Make sure your organization is eligible, and that the opportunity meets your mission and vision.
- Check the deadline to see if you have adequate time to apply.
- Identify if there are any matching funds required, and if so, ensure that your organization has the capacity or stakeholders to meet those funds.
- Go to the scoring section and see what is required.
- Outline your objectives and budget; i.e. figure out if the grant is adequate to meet your project needs, or what specific part of a project it can help offset with funding.
- Identify responsibilities of key people and start your action plan timeline. This timeline should list all objectives and activities and task each key person responsible for each activity, along with deadlines for completion (for a full free checklist, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
About your organization
This section is self-explanatory, but you would be surprised how many organizations do not have this information in one easily accessible location. Funding sources want to know about your organization. They want to know that your organization is credible, has adequate staffing and processes to implement the grant and that you are fiscally responsible. They basically want to get a good idea about who and what you stand for, so that, if awarded, you can manage the grant. Pull together this information and make sure you keep it updated annually and accessible. You would be surprised by how many organizations miss out on grants because their employees are not updating their resumes annually to include all of the different skills and professional development that they ascertain. Here is information that you can get sorted before you even start to apply for a grant.
- Status of your organization; i.e. is it a nonprofit/for-profit, when was it founded and by whom?
- Vision and mission statement: does this need to be updated?
- Activities your organization has completed (usually in the last year); i.e. fundraisers, events, new initiatives, etc. Include dates and funding amounts, if necessary.
- Other grants or funding your organization has received: include all amounts, from which organization, durations of funding and what the funding was for.
- Board officers and members bios
- Updated resumes of staff
- Staffing structure; i.e. updated organizational chart
- Financial oversight and management of funds
- Job roles for projects; i.e. if you need to hire a new role for the grant, draft up job descriptions
- A full list of partners and stakeholders
A structured kick-off meeting will mitigate future challenges of people not reaching deadlines and rushing to turn in grants at the very last minute. This will be the difference between making the grant writing process bearable versus excruciating. As far as “About your organization,” once you have all the documents updated and filed electronically, in one master folder, you will be a million miles ahead for the next grant. Believe me, this will save you hours and hours of frantic, last-minute time.
— This piece is the first in a three-part series. Stay tuned to the next issue of Guam Business Magazine for “Needs and target demographic” and “Goals, objectives and outcomes.” For more information, visit www.wegogrants.com and check out Rustick’s book, “Wish Granted! Tips, Tools, and Templates to Write a Winning Grant” or her “Grant Writing & Funding Podcast.”