Writing a grant is not the complex, difficult task many people think it is. Yes, it is time consuming; and yes, you do take a risk of your application being turned down; but there are many steps you can take ahead of time to help ensure success.
FIRST, before you even consider writing a grant, make sure you have on file the kinds of documents you'll need for most grant submissions:
- Mission statement
- By-laws and articles of incorporation
- Organizational chart
- Organizational history
- Audit or, if an audit is not required, a financial statement
- Favorable newspaper articles about your organizations, and other PR materials
- Sufficient copier paper, FedEx packages, binders, dividers, etc.
Having these at the ready will make the writing process go much easier.
SECOND, after you've done your homework and isolated a funding source to which you want to apply, READ THE APPLICATION CAREFULLY. Make sure of several things: you are an eligible applicant for the funds, there is sufficient time for you to put your application together, and the purposes for which you want the funds are allowable expenses.
THIRD, make yourself a timeline. You'll come back to this frequently throughout the process. At the beginning keep it simple: starting date, and drop-in -the-mail and due dates. As you move through the process allocate time to your tasks. Also, you will have to ask co-workers and partners for materials. Make a note of when you made the requests and the due dates you gave them. Grant proposals do not have to be last minute, rushed affairs. Make it easy on your self by staying organized. Review your timeline frequently throughout the process.
FOURTH, begin the writing. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS and answer them CLEARLY AND CONCISELY IN THE FORMAT PROVIDED USING SUFFICIENT BACK-UP DOCUMENTATION. Most applicants fail because they simply do not answer the questions. Make sure you understand what the funder is looking for, and give them what they want. If they are asking about your experience, make sure you provide sufficient detail. Always assume the person reading your application knows nothing about your organization or what you propose to do.
Most applications provide you with a format. Many do not make following the format a requirement, but make it a requirement for yourself. It will make the reader's job much easier.
Be positive and be brief. Funders want to know you are good at what you do, and that you:
- understand the needs in your community
- can document the needs using local data
- know how to address them
- have a specific plan
- have a credible budget
- have a method for evaluating that plan, and
- have a plan for continuing the program once the grant has expired. etc.
And don't kill them with words. If you have said everything you need to say in less than the space allotted, don't worry.
FIFTH, go back and re-read the application to make sure you are on the right track. Check on how many originals and copies have been requested, and, therefore, how many original signatures you'll need, and from whom. Make sure you have a back-up copier, and that you know where the latest FedEX and US Postal Service drops are. Ensure you are on track with your timeline and adjust as necessary.
There are grantsmanship classes offered across the country. Look for classes being sponsored through your local United Way or area Community Foundations. The best classes will be the ones that run for several days and help to hone your writing skills.