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Grant Application Writing – Prepare for Late Nights and Lots of Coffee

October 22, 2015 - Posted to Education

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Grant Application Writing

Some say that grant writing is worse than writing a Master’s thesis – they may be right. If you are about to launch such a project, then be prepared for lots of research, lots of writing, lots of revisions, and lots of late nights. These things are not prepared quickly or easily; and if you are going to spend the time to write a grant proposal, then you need to commit to doing it right.

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Defining Your Grant Proposal

Let’s face it. You are looking for money to support a project you have a mind – a project you think is important. Your first step is defining that project as clearly and as succinctly as possible. Only when you do this will you know what funding options are open to you. If, for example, you want to develop an after-school program for kids in an inner city neighborhood, what does that program look like? You may want to offer tutoring and homework help; you may want to offer athletic activities, gaming and computer-related activities; you may want to offer counseling services. And what is the goal of your project? It probably relates to giving kids a safe and productive place to be after school, without families incurring any cost. It may have some long-term goals related to instilling values and behaviors that will enhance these kids’ success as adults. You will be perhaps looking for education grants as well as grants funding programs that are sociological in nature. If, on the other hand, you are looking for grants to provide training exercises for classroom teachers, you will look both for education grants and, as well, specific grants for training programs.

The Steps in the Process

These steps will be key before you ever write your first sentence.

Identifying Potential Sources

  1. Do the Research. What public and private entities fund the kind of project you have defined? Ideally, you will find far more than one grant program for which you can qualify.
  2. What are the funding amount parameters that each entity provides? You may have to prepare grants for multiple entities in order to get the amount that you need.
  3. What are the specific requirements and guidelines of the entities? If you don’t meet the criteria for any of these potentials, you have to eliminate them – no sense wasting time.

Meeting With Stakeholders

At some point in your grant proposal, you will have to demonstrate that others in your community see the need for the project you are proposing. In the case of the after-school program, for example, you will need to meet with neighborhood leaders (church leaders, school administrators, city councilman, law enforcement personnel, etc.) to bring them on board. They must agree that there is a need for your program and be willing to support it, if in name only.

Get the Data

Part of your application will be a thorough review of similar projects and their success rates. No grantor wants to fund something that may be a failure. You need to demonstrate, from the data, not only a need for the project you proposes but, as well, the fact that similar projects elsewhere have been successful and that you intend to model your project on those successes. You then argue from a position of strength. Finding statistical data that points to a problem in your community (juvenile crime rate, lack of after-school activity options, etc.) and to national data that points to positive outcomes from programs such as yours will strengthen your position.

Now, you are ready to begin to write your proposal. And here are the steps.

Every grantor will have a specific format for a grant proposal, but there are common features, no matter what the format and no matter what the sequence. So, here are the basic element of a grant proposal.

  1. Demonstrate That there is a Problem and a Need

You have to convince the grantor that there is a problem and/or need in your community and that your proposed project will meet that need or assist to resolve that problem. Identify the need specifically and show how the community stakeholders have agreed with you. Provide the data, both local, state and national that support that need and how that need has been met successfully elsewhere.

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  1. The Goals

What is it you intend to achieve with your project – what is your desired outcome? How will a situation be improved? Identify your key outcomes:

  • Students will have a safe place to be after school
  • Students will improve academic performance and behaviors
  • Students will engage in healthy leisure time activity
  • Students will develop social and life skills
  1. Measurement of your outcomes – How will you measure the success of your project?

Here, you will need to establish very specific criteria that will demonstrate success. This might include, in our sample project, the numbers of children who regularly participate, improvements of those children in academic and behavioral performance in school, reduction in offenses of truancy, vandalism, and other juvenile offenses in the neighborhood, etc.

  1. The Design of the Program

What will be done and by whom? This may include such things as facility, staffing, activity components, and so forth. You need to be specific. If your after-school program will provide counseling services, for example, what certification will that counselor hold? In the example, there will have to be a facility large enough to accommodate your projected population, the design of the activities that will occur, the anticipated number of professional and para-professional staff, kitchen facilities, outdoor space for games, athletic activities, etc. Will you build a facility or will you make use of an existing facility (church, school, etc.)?

Be certain to include letters of stakeholders who are supportive of your project, and, in this case, the owners of any facility you may have selected.

Provide a timeline for getting the project up and running.

  1. The Budget

Every grant, in fact, is a finance grant, no matter what the project. This section will describe specifically the funds that you will need and exactly how those funds will be used. Be certain to follow the template that any grantor has provided in completing this section of your proposal. These are pretty comprehensive and ensure that you do not leave anything out.

To determine the amounts to put in any of the line items, your best bet is to meet with someone who is running a similar program in another community and take a look at their budget. You will get a very realistic picture.

  1. Get an outsider to review the entire proposal, word for word, line by line. There is no room here for poor writing or structural errors.
Do’s
Don’ts
  • Do tweak your proposal as necessary for every organization to which you will submit it
  • Don’t go over the page limit provided
  • Do follow the instructions and specific format for each application
  • Don’t assume a reader knows anything about the problem you have identified or your solution. Language should be clear and simple.
  • Do put the parts of your proposal in the order required by each organization
  • Don’t miss a deadline – ever.

There is no need in re-inventing the wheel. If there is a similar program close by, go there, spend time with the manager/administrator, and get all of the details that you may not have thought of. Find out how outcomes are being measured, how budget is being reported, etc.

Some Final Points

  1. If you have an opportunity to meet with a member from the funding organization, grab it! Let that person see your passion for the project.
  2. If you believe that you do not have the skill to write a grant, hire a professional grant writer to do so. Sometimes you may be allowed to put that cost in a budget line item, “consulting fees.”
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