A Strategic Guide to Grant Writing

It’s grant writing season, and with the economy still in recovery, proposal development remains one of the best ways to initiate new programs and to sustain your organization’s activities. But before you plan that brainstorming session where ideas will flow freely, here are a few strategic guidelines that may add some focus to your efforts: A vision, mission, or strategic plan is a good starting point. Identify funding gaps and overlaps in your strategic plan goals and objectives. A more thorough evaluation and re-assessment of where resources are already being applied, and where they are lacking is useful. Questions include:

  • Are there expressed or implied priorities among the goals?
  • Are there goals that are (or can be) adequately addressed through current policies, procedures, initiatives? By way of budgetary changes? By way of other fundraising efforts?
  • Are there goals that can only be met through outside funding?

Research a variety of public and private funding opportunities, especially regional or local foundations. The latter will likely require that monies be spent in close proximity, where the results of your efforts can be witnessed first-hand. For federal funding, Grants.gov is an excellent resource. A simple Google search beginning with “grants for…” is also a good idea. Remember to consider your organization’s history of proposal-writing efforts or prior awards as well as the grantor’s history. An evaluation and re-assessment of what is available is warranted. Questions include:

  • Is this a new or previously existing source of funding?
  • Is there a precedent for granting awards to similar agencies?
  • Has your agency received prior funding? Have you submitted an unfunded proposal, and if so, is a re-submittal warranted?

Gain a thorough understanding of all proposal and award guidelines. Consider not only the amount and length of the award, but other factors as well. Questions include:

  • Are there conditions for receiving funding?
  • Is the grant renewable or continuing?
  • Will funding be available over the duration of the proposed project or is there a “contingent upon” clause?
  • Is any matching required?
  • Is collaboration or partnership encouraged?
  • Is there an expectation for sustainability after the grant period? If so, how will your organization absorb this cost over time?

Lastly, align organizational priorities with the mission and priorities of the funding agency. Ask not what the grantor can do for you, but what you can do for the grantor. It may be a harsh reality, but your great idea is not about you or even your cause – it’s about their purpose. Questions include:

  • Is there a noticeable trend in the types of recent awards granted by the agency or foundation?
  • Does the RFP or solicitation contain clearly-stated priorities? Are there points awarded in scoring for addressing these priorities?
  • Is there a preferred target group or population to be served?

With these tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared to write a successfully funded proposal. Happy hunting and Good Luck!