It takes a lot of your staff’s time and effort to complete a funding application.
If your organization hires a grant writer, you also have a financial stake in the success of the project. You want to make sure you have the maximum chance of getting grant funding, right?
What if I told you there three little-known steps you can take to greatly increase your chances of funding? Read on!
In working with clients who have applied for and received grant funding, I realized they incorporated one or more of four activities into their grant writing process that I have not seen done often, but that virtually any organization seeking grant funding can do. And, I believe, as a result of their extra effort and investment, they increased their chances of receiving funding.
As you know, I believe knowledge is power. Hopefully, by being aware of these little-known steps, you can have a leg up on your grant funding competition!
Step 1: Set a timeline and stick to it!
I work with so few organizations that plan their grant application efforts, but establishing a timeline at the beginning of any grant writing project and then sticking to the timeline is imperative to the success of a grant. If you don’t have a timeline, you can miss key elements of the application due to poor planning. By establishing deadlines and holding team members to them, you also ensure progress to activities that otherwise could go un-monitored and undone.
I recommend the following process for putting together a project timeline. By the way, if you hire a grant writer, this is one of the first things your contractor should facilitate with your team.
Review the grant application and document all required data and timelines. I use the “two highlighter” method (one color for program requirements and one for application requirements).
Meet with the cross-functional team who will support the grant writing effort. Start the meeting by creating a timeline working backwards from the application submission date. I recommend aiming to submit the application a week before it is due. That will leave a little “wiggle room” if there are issues with completing assignments. Then, make assignments to team members for each piece of information or activity and make sure they understand their assignments.
Use the timeline as a reference for all project meetings. I recommend weekly or bi-weekly meetings during the application writing process. These can happen by phone or in person. Regularly scheduled meetings ensure everyone stays on tasks and problems get communicated in a timely manner.
Step 2: Benchmark successful grants
No matter the funder, you can usually get a copy of at least one previously successful grant. Sometimes, these are available on the funder’s website, but, if not, you can email the program contact to see if they have this information. Associations such as the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) have access to successful grant templates as a benefit for its members. If you have close relationships with other organizations who have received similar funding, ask your contacts for their previously successful applications.
Once you get successful applications, take a few hours to review them and make notes on words they used, how they addressed the application requirements and how they presented the data.
Benchmarking is a valuable way to discover best practices. It is also a solid investment in a successful grant application. Be sure to include time to gather these documents and for the review process in your project timeline.
Step 3: Have your application reviewed by an external, impartial third party
This is the one recommendation that will likely cost you some money. However, this is truly the biggest investment you can make in the success of your application.
I highly recommend applicants allow at least one week before grant submission in the project timeline to have their application reviewed by an experienced grant writer or by someone with experience reviewing grants for the program you are applying for. The extra time will be necessary not only for the review itself but to implement the reviewer’s suggestions.
I believe that any organization seeking grant funding should have an external review. However, I consider this activity particularly important if you are writing a grant for a large award for which you have no recent experience; if the grant has a lot of “moving parts”, or is very complex; before you submit any government grant; or if your staff has little experience completing grant applications. I have reviewed grant applications for several organizations prior to submittal and have received feedback that my efforts have been a key to their receipt of grant funding.
If you are interested in hiring me to do a review of your grant before you submit it, please contact me with the details of the grant (how many pages, deadline, a link, document or website outlining the grant application requirements, when the application will be available to review, etc). I will provide you a quote for the review of your grant application and, when I am done, a report detailing my findings.
Step 4: Learn how to write grants from those successful at doing so!
I saved the best for last! Many organizations tell me they don’t know how to write a grant, and to learn how to do so is too expensive or inconvenient for them. In fact, I heard this so often, I created the Grants4All Training Manual! This affordable, comprehensive self-study program will take you from the basics of grant funding through project planning and strategic planning to grant research and writing a grant application! I even provide tips and tricks to help you become a better grant writer! This program is perfect for those with little or no familiarity with grant funding who want to learn the techniques I have used and access templates I have developed to help you on your grant writing journey!
Micki has over 10 years of experience writing grants and has obtained over $4 million in grant funding for both for-profit and non-profit clients. She published “THE For-Profit Grant Writing Guide” in 2014 to help for-profit business leaders and grant writers understand the for-profit grant research and writing process.