Researching Needs and Best Practices for Grant Writing

By Beverly A. Browning

You probably know a lot about the population you want to serve with your hoped-for grant monies. And if you’re at the grant-writing stage for a program, you’re probably pretty well versed in what you want to accomplish and how you plan to go about putting the program in place. But to write an award-winning application, you need to beef up your facts with even more facts.

Knowing the grant or cooperative agreement’s intent or focus sets the direction for the type of research you must do in order to write a high-scoring, competitive grant application. For example, if the monies are intended to fund a new economic development initiative for small businesses for the City of Phoenix, you need to research demographics on the needs of small businesses in the county and city.

You can get information about small business demographics by state by typing keywords into your favorite Internet search engine or by using some of the resources available on Small Business Development Center website for the state.

You can create an online electronic folder for your research data so you have it at your fingertips when you’re not at your home office’s computer. Having access to critically needed information from all forms of mobile technology is the best plan when you may take your work home from the office and you need access to files. You can use Dropbox and have the mobile application downloaded on your smartphone, tablet, and laptops. Remember, when you’re on a grant application deadline, all your work may not be done during traditional work hours.

Google Scholar is a great resource for finding publications if you’re affiliated with any college. In addition, you’ll also have access to enormous publication databases.

Publications produced by the government agencies that award grants are another good source for facts and figures. You can obtain these valuable resources from each government agency’s information clearinghouse. Check out agency websites for links labeled Resources or Publications. You may encounter any of the following publications, which can be of great help:

  • Bulletins: These documents summarize recent findings from government program initiatives. Designed for use as references, they may contain graphics such as tables, charts, graphs, and photographs. You can re-create some of the most current and relevant graphics in your statement of need or program design.
  • Fact sheets: Fact sheets highlight, in one to two pages, key points and sources of further information on government programs and initiatives. You can cite the most recent facts (never more than five years old) in your statement of need.
  • Journals: These publications highlight innovative programs or contain articles on critical issues and trends. You can cite some of the model programs at the beginning of your program design section to show how you’re modeling your project on a successful program. You can also use any critical issues or trends covered in journals in your statement of need.
  • Reports: These documents contain comprehensive research and evaluation findings; provide detailed descriptions of innovative programs implemented at the national, state, and local levels; and present statistical analysis, trends, or other data on selected topics. Reports may include explanations of case studies, field studies, and other strategies used for assessing program success and replication. Some reports provide training curricula and lesson plans as well.
  • Summaries: Summaries describe key research and evaluation findings that may affect future policies and practices. Summaries highlight funded programs implemented at the national, state, or local level that may serve as models for other jurisdictions. These publications usually include appendixes and lists of resources and additional readings.

You can cite research on evaluation findings in your statement of need. Cite innovative programs considered models in your program design section to build the basis for proposing your own program model.

You might consider saving any research-oriented publication you can get your hands on. You can save it to you Dropbox by subject category. As new reports are published, replace the older reports so that you’re working on your grant applications with the most current research findings. Grant writing is so much easier when you have the information you need (and the information you didn’t even know you needed) at your fingertips. The Internet has also made it easy to bookmark a favorite website.