Grant Writing For Dummies
Building your grant seeking and grant writing skills is the best way to secure funding for your organization. The keys to finding grant funding opportunities and writing award-winning grant proposals are knowing where to find opportunities and understanding what funders want to read. In terms of your professional development as a grant writer, it also helps to know that core measure of success: your win rate.
11 Places to Look for Grant Funding
Before you get down to business writing grant requests, you first have to search for and qualify potential grant funding opportunities. Knowing who's funding your type of organization, who's funding in or near your location, and the range of their grant awards (past and present) is critical.
Following are several tips that can help you zero in on the right opportunity quickly:
Sit down with your work associates and ask these questions: Who are our corporate vendors? What bank or credit union processes our payroll? What local funders have given us money or in-kind contributions in the past five years? Do we still have a good relationship with these funders? Can we approach them again for funding support? After you have some answers, start taking action.
Call and make an appointment to visit every bank in your town, city, village, and county. There's hidden money everywhere — even at your local banks. Find out who heads up the trust department (typically a trust officer) at each institution. Trust officers manage trust accounts for living and dead money-giving individuals and families. These trusts are often not highly advertised sources of grant money. Ask and get some guidelines for finding them and applying to them for grants.
Stroll over to the nearest large public or university library to access the Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online. This is your public-access, free-of-charge source for researching foundation and corporate funding sources.
Network with other grant writers to find out about their funding resource subscriptions. Ask what works and check out these additional possibilities.
Head down to your city and county economic development agencies to find out about any public monies available (contracts or grants) for your project.
If you have a community foundation in your county, call to get an appointment to meet with someone there to 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 grant writing, fundraising, board training, and volunteer coordination services.
Don't forget to call your governor's office and ask about state agency grant funding and other monies that may be available for your organization or business.
Attend all public events where the "who's who" crowd will be gathered and hand out business cards. Just make sure your agency's mission and contact info are on the card!
Prepare and distribute a press release to all local and regional media announcing that you have a project in need of funding.
Most importantly, call your congressional team members to let them know more about your organization and its need for grant funding. Ask if they can start to track any federal bucks that fit your needs.
9 Tips for Writing Effective Grant Proposals
To make your grant writing stand out from other proposals and get your grant funded, you have to know how to write grant applications effectively. Do some research for your specific grant proposal and incorporate the following guidelines to spin written magic:
Use a storytelling approach (with supporting statistics) in such a compelling way that the reader can't put down your application until she makes a positive funding decision. Make them cry!
Incorporate a case study of a real client your organization has served. Of course, change the name for confidentiality reasons. Show a real need of a real person.
Take advantage of online dictionaries and thesauruses to expand your command of new words and capture the grant decision maker's attention.
Write to government funding agencies and 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.
Research proven best practices for your proposed solutions and incorporate language from the experts.
When you find best practices, look for the evaluation results of previously implemented programs similar to yours. Know what works and what doesn't work before you write your proposed solution.
Eliminate multiple drafts from your writing habits because the most creative and "wow" words are often the first words you type.
Hire a proofreader or editor (or a college student) to read your writing and clean it up. Don't have any money? Ask a trustworthy and capable co-worker or friend.
Write in short, hard-hitting sentences. Long-winded sentences almost always lose the reader.
3 Great Websites for Grant Writing and Grant Funding
You can find myriad grant research websites these days, both free and subscription-based. If you are seeking a grant, have a look at one of the following sites:
eCivis Grants Network: This is a subscription-based service with profiles for public and private sector funders.
The Foundation Center: This subscription-based service for private-sector funders offers several newsletters, including Philanthropy News Digest.
Grants.gov: Here, you can find government agency funding announcements for free.
Determine Your Grant Win Rate
Whether you're an employee or a consultant, grant writing is a hard, arduous task. From researching the money to chasing the money to often having to manage the money, it's like being a rat in a maze. There must be some reward if you make it through the maze, but what is that reward? It's your win rate!
In the grants-related industry, your win rate is what gets you a promotion, a new client, or even a bonus from your employer. Calculate your personal win rate by counting the number of grant applications you wrote and submitted in the previous calendar year. Set an annual goal for increasing your win rate to become a much desired grant writer.
Note that formula grant applications don't count because they're typically fill-in-the-blank applications with guaranteed funding based on a preset formula. (For example, if your school district has 300 children enrolled and the state department of education has formula money allocated on a per-pupil basis —$2,000 per student — filling out a formula grant application gets the district $600,000.) Only competitive grant applications are calculated in your win rate.
Say you wrote and submitted 12 competitive grant applications in the last calendar year. Out of the 12 applications you submitted, 9 were funded. Because 9 is 75 percent of 12, that means your win rate for the past calendar year is 75 percent.
To determine whether that's a good win rate, check out the following chart:
|Win Rate||Translation||What Your Rate Means to an Employer or Client|
|0–29%||Failure||Either this individual does not write many grant requests or
writes them badly!
This individual is either a time waster or a resource waster.
Fire, do not promote, or do not contract with this grant writer.
|30–49%||Barely performing||This individual has a poor track record for bringing in grant
We pay or contract with this person for full-time work; however, our return on investment is under 50%.
Red flag; start requiring a monthly work plan to see if we're getting what we're paying for. If not, fire, do not promote, or do not contract with this grant writer.
|50–74%||Satisfactory||This individual is bringing dollars in our door.
This individual is working hard to increase our return on investment.
What resources can we provide to help this individual increase our return on investment?
|75–90%||Good||We have made a good investment.
Our return on investment is high.
This individual is continually bringing dollars in our door.
How can we acknowledge our appreciation for having made the right choice?
|91–100%||Guru status||We got lucky when we hired or contracted with this
We have definite proof of a high return on our investment in this individual.
We can't pay this individual her true worth; she will likely be looking for a higher paying job or contract in the near future.