So, you’ve decided you want to write a grant. That’s great! Grants can be a great way to fund your organization’s work. But grants are hard work, and before you start writing, there are a few things you need to do to prepare. Follow along to learn tips and tricks that will help you before and during the writing process!
Before You Begin Writing:
1. Build relationships.
Take some time to research the foundations or entity that is funding the grant you are going to apply for. It’s crucial to remember that funders are people too, and building relationships are imperative. Find out the person in charge of overseeing grant applications and reach out to them. Let them know how you think your missions align and ask them any questions you may have about eligibility or the grant process. When it comes time to review your grant proposal, make sure you have left a positive mark with your name and organization.
2. Know the Grant Guidelines and Required Documentation
Along with compelling narratives, most grants require solid documentation. Make sure you understand what documentation is required and that you have it before you submit your proposal. The most common things grantors ask for are:
- IRS Letter of Determination/501(3)(c)
- Organizational Budget
- Program Budget (when applying for program support)
- Income and Loss Statements
- Certificate of Good Standing
- List of Board Members
- Key organizational staff and their CV
Some funders will have specific eligibility criteria that show them your organization is stable and can effectively utilize grant funds. They may require your organization to be a certain age or have a certain level of budget. It’s also important to know the grantor’s funding priorities and specifically how they align with your mission. This can be accomplished by referencing the funding priorities listed on the funder’s website. Even better, if you’ve done your work and established a relationship with the funder, you can also reach out to your contact at the foundation.
3. Know Your Why
This statement is true for all aspects of life, but it’s especially important for grant writing. Grants are competitive. Why is your organization applying for this grant? Why should this funder grant your organization above another? What are your goals? If funded, what will success look like to you and how will you know? What are the parameters of your program, and how will you use funds to support it? This is also a good way to be prepared for any emotional appeal opportunities that may arise when writing the narrative position of a grant.
4. Set Internal Deadlines
It is absolutely crucial to writing a successful grant proposal and your mental health to give yourself enough time to properly write narratives and gather all required documentation. It takes time to build relationships. It takes time to create a budget. It takes time to gather information from your board and key members of your organization. It takes time to do your research and write a compelling narrative. If a grant is due at midnight, do not wait until 11:59 pm to submit it. Not only does this jeopardize getting your submission in on time, but it also causes avoidable stress, and can look unprofessional to a funder. If you can’t get a grant proposal submitted in a timely manner, they might not have confidence in your organization’s ability to carry out the work you said you would. Plan to set your internal due date for at least a week before a grant is due, and stick to it as if it were the actual due date.
5. Consider Hiring an Experienced Grant Writer
If you are new to grant writing, it’s worthwhile to consider hiring an experienced grant writer. While grant writing is an important skill that can be learned and there are many valuable resources available, nothing replaces learning from someone who has a well-rounded knowledge base and proven track record. Think about selecting a large, difficult grant and having an experienced grant writer walk you through the steps of how to do it correctly. This is a great way to learn and then be able to teach your team.
You are now on your way to becoming a grant-writing powerhouse! You have the knowledge of what is needed before you even start writing. The next step is putting it into action.
Remember to build relationships with funders, do your research and know what is required, know why your organization is applying for the grant, and give yourself enough time. Finally, consider hiring an experienced grant writer that will walk you through the process and provide you with the tools you need to succeed on your own.