Important Advice For New Grant Writers pt. 2

What is the single most important advice you would share with someone new to grant writing?

Diane Fulham Blaszka

It’s estimated that 70% of funding success is due to the work done before “pen hits the paper” or, nowadays, “fingers hit the keyboard!”

Work closely with your client to make sure they have a credible, professional presence (strong website, materials, profiles on Guidestar/Charity Navigator, etc.) and have researched any personal connections that may exist (among board members, etc.) with the funding prospect BEFORE they invest a lot of time/money into proposal writing.

Those things are so important, especially in this competitive environment.

As tempting as it may be to jump on each and every job offered to us as grant writers, success rates will typically be greater if we caution clients against applying too randomly and (especially with newer nonprofits) before they have key things in place to come across as a credible organization.

Such an approach also positions you as a true and ethical adviser, and not someone simply looking to make a buck.

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Bernie Nofel

These are all great suggestions.

I would add one more — begin with a strong program design!

An application can follow all the required formatting, include all the proper documentation, align with the funding priorities, and be clearly written, but if the program design is flawed, it’s highly unlikely to be funded.

That’s why I believe an effective grant writer does more than generate a document – they become a sounding board and consultant on the strength of the program’s design.

If the need is clearly established, the organization’s capacity, niche and network in the community defined, the program service model supported by evidence-based best practices, the outcomes clearly enumerated, a sensible system for tracking and evaluating outcomes incorporated, support from the Board and stakeholder community established, a sensible budget generated, and a plan for sustainability described, then the proposal practically writes itself. You could almost write it with a crayon.

A good grant writer knows program, ideally from years of experience in a leadership position in that arena.

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Michele Boyer

Bernie brings up an important, but easily overlooked point about clearly enumerated outcomes.

You will be surprised how many organizations have no idea how to develop an outcome measure. For someone new to grant writing, learn how to help your client develop clear and effective outcomes measures, and you will increase your value manyfold.

Good outcome measures will have no more than one very specific measure per outcome,

  • EXAMPLE: Use two measures to track, “will administer correct ‘medication’ 100% of the time” AND “administer ‘medication’ in correct dose 100% of the time,” as compared to “will administer correct medication in correct dose 100% of the time.”
  • The latter has two parameters and if one or the other is wrong, it is impossible to determine which was done right and which was wrong.
  • Results give useless information for determining outcomes.

Also, keep outcomes to fewer than 10 whenever possible. Too many outcomes make data tracking more difficult.

Make sure your client actually tracks the data, and reports it at specified intervals.

Failure to show progress early can give the client a chance to correct their methods and achieve better results.

Periodic results also may be required for interim reports to the funder.

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Sara Farina

Bernie and Michele, that’s an excellent point. I’ve had to tell potential clients before that I couldn’t help them with the grants they wanted because their programming wasn’t strong enough – and on the off chance that they could have received funding, they could not possibly have carried out the terms of the grant.

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Janice Baker

When I first started, I found this quote kept me grounded:

“In my opinion, the success of grant proposals depends on four factors:

(1) The quality of the nonprofit organization.

(2) The innovative nature or critical importance of the proposed project.

(3) The emerging priorities of a funding source or the competition level in a particular grantmaking cycle.

(4) The skills of the grant writer in building a compelling case. No matter how carefully and strategically I prepare a proposal, these other factors impact the outcome. As a result, grant writers deserve upfront compensation for their time. “

It comes from this website: http://www.grantproposal.com/starting.html (I am not affiliated with the site in any way).

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Cindy Sterling

I concur with what Susan and Joseph stated.

Read the RFP carefully and make sure you respond to all the criteria / issues they want you do address.

Be clear and concise!

In many grants they want to see collaboration / partnerships – you should work on developing these prior to the RFP being release because the grant response time is generally short.

I recommend, maybe as part of your strategic planning, knowing what services/research/projects…you want a grant to support/develop so you are not just “chasing” grants.

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Jan A Beeton

 

Don’t just inform, PERSUADE.

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Judy Anne Cavey

 

It’s about relationship–create a solid working one between nonprofit, grant writer and funding institution.

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Harry Schiffman

Judy Anne Cavey is right! Developing relationships between the organization and those you are seeking funding from on all levels – government or private – is key.

These also have to be LONG TERM relationships!  One can’t just knock on someone’s door and say “show me the money” but you have to develop credibility with these folks.

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Judy Anne Cavey

 

Thanks Harry!  Love the “show me the money”…sadly, some people think that’s what it’s all about.

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Trudy Kilian

I agree with folks that have said something to the effect of “follow the instructions.”

If you can’t understand them or think anything is ambiguous, contact the entity that released the grant proposal opportunity.

I know, that’s 2 things.

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Marilyn Rice Korhonen

Create a system that works for you so you can manage all of the disparate pieces of each project as well as multiple projects.

Dedicate time for yourself to get exercise, relax, blow off steam.

Be selective about projects and work on those that mean something to you personally.

Initially, I wrote many types of proposals.

Now, I concentrate on a specialty of creating partnerships in and for small, rural communities to improve education and social services for children and their families.

It never ceases to be inspiring and worthwhile.  I would do this work for free if I did not require an income.

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Laurie Johnson

Wow – great comments so far and many that I believe are critical to success.

I would add Do Your Research.

A few well spent minutes researching what organizations the funder has supported in the past, the amount of their typical grant award and any other vital information will inform your work as you plan the project and budget.

So many times, new grant writers will ask for the moon which can mean the proposal won’t even be considered.

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Mark Buckley

 

Apply for grants that fund the work you do, and answer the questions and only the questions.

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Julie Hudash

Drink lots of coffee.

Follow ALL directions listed above.

Drink more coffee.

Mix proposal with exciting passion for the mission.

Drink more coffee.

Edit. Edit more. Submit. !

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Brian Sheridan

These are all great answers.

In the spirit of relationship building and also possibly saving you time, I recommend to first, do extensive research on a funder and second, call them to confirm something.

Do not call and ask “I’ve got this program. Will you fund it?” A question like that will simply lead them to direct you to look at their grant guidelines and may even annoy the funder.

A more nuanced question shows you’ve done your homework and may lead to a brief conversation, which will help both you as the proposal writer and the reviewer (who has a bit more of a feel for what you are doing).

During the conversation, if they tell you that they probably wouldn’t fund the program, consider it a blessing.

If they consider your program a square peg to their round hole, even the most well-written proposal won’t be funded.

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Are you interested in learning more about becoming a grant writer? Take a Quick Self-Test now to see if this is right for you or see a short video description of our Grant Writing Online Courses.

 

 

 

 



Cindy Sterling: I concur with what Susan and Joseph stated. Read the RFP carefully and make sure you respond to all the criteria / issues they want you do address. Be clear and concise!
In many grants they want to see collaboration / partnerships – you should work on developing these prior to the RFP being release because the grant response time is generally short. I recommend, maybe as part of your strategic planning, knowing what services/research/projects…you want a grant to support/develop so you are not just “chasing” grants.

Jan A Beeton: Don’t just inform, PERSUADE.

Judy Anne Cavey: It’s about relationship–create a solid working one between nonprofit, grant writer and funding institution.

Harry Schiffman: Judy Anne Cavey is right! Developing relationships between the organization and those you are seeking funding from on all levels – government or private – is key. These also have to be LONG TERM relationships! One can’t just knock on someone’s door and say “show me the money” but you have to develop credibility with these folks.

Judy Anne Cavey: Thanks Harry! Love the “show me the money”…sadly, some people think that’s what it’s all about.

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