Grant Writing For Dummies
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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 how to document your productivity and impact. This Cheat Sheet provides the critical aspects of grant writing for quick reference.

Track your grant-related productivity and impact

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 never-ending job or contract.

Often, your employer or client will ask you about your win rate. It’s critical to steer them away from using the term win rate. Instead, focus on your grant-related productivity and its impact on your organization.

At the beginning of your employer’s or client’s fiscal year, create a spreadsheet to track your hands-on time for everything grants. Here’s an example of the productivity tasks to track daily:

  • Staff meetings related to grants
  • Collaborative partner meetings related to grants
  • Board meetings preparation and attendance related to grants
  • Grant research time
  • Funder communication and meeting time
  • Grant project planning time
  • Grant writing time
  • Editing and draft feedback time
  • Final grant application package submission time
  • Overtime hours to meet grant application deadlines
  • Grant management and reporting time
  • Grant closeout time
  • Number of grants you are juggling each year

Your work as a grant writer never ends. This spreadsheet list says it all. Whether your grant applications are funded or rejected, you still spend countless hours on everything grants, from the idea to the production to the management to closeout.

Prove that you are worth your weight in gold when your employer calls you in for your annual review or your client wants to know what you’re doing for them if the requests submitted are not fully funded or funded at all.

Grant writers are superhumans! Remember to highlight your education, expertise, and experience and how you use these three Es to impact organizational and community-wide growth. Often, during the grant project planning process with internal and external stakeholders, you will find that the monetary and in-kind resources already exist to implement new programs or expand and improve existing programs. Grant writers are expected to create entire programs when no one has the time to provide input and the grant application is on a critical near deadline.

10 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.
  • 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 Candid’s Foundation Directory Online. This is your public-access, free-of-charge source for researching foundation and corporate funding sources.
  • Network with other grantwriters 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, 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 they make a positive funding decision.
  • 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 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.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dr. Beverly A. Browning is the author of 43 grant-related publications and six editions of Grant Writing For Dummies. She has raised over $750 million in awards for her clients.

Stan Hutton is Program Consultant for the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.

Frances N. Phillips teaches grant writing at San Francisco State University.

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