Are You Grant Ready?
Updated: Jan 6
Some years ago, I presented a workshop to two different chambers of commerce in two different cities. The workshop title was “Are you Grant Ready?” and I presented it to nonprofits new to grant writing.
For each of these workshops, the nonprofit leaders entered the room with an intensity I did not anticipate.
The nonprofit cartoons I slipped into the presentation got no laughter or even a chuckle. These people were serious about learning.
In all fairness, grant writing is a stressful part of the nonprofit leader’s job, and so much importance can be put on one grant. I get it. I’ve been there!
So, what I realized after that second workshop is that most nonprofit leaders don’t need me to tell them when they’re grant-ready (unless I’m working with new nonprofits - they DO need me). They just want to know how to write a grant that is worthy of funding.
I’ve been writing grants, either on a team as a volunteer or as a nonprofit leader, since the early 1990s and I can’t say enough about how experience helps in this process. I’ve seen a lot of rejections and a lot of awards. There’s no “trick” to writing a good grant, but I can tell you that before you begin writing you have to do one crucial thing:
Read the grant application guidelines and instructions. Then reread them 3 more times.
This seems natural, but sometimes instructions can be daunting, especially if you’re new to grant writing or applying to a federal opportunity.
1 - READ. Take time to read the instructions (from beginning to end in one sitting) just to read and understand what you need to do to prepare.
2 - READ. Reread the instructions to find anything that looks unique, time-consuming, or unusual - making notes in your document. (I use Google drive shared files with my clients and the comments and ability to assign tasks are a helpful tool.)
3 - READ. Reread the instructions to gather information about the funder - tone, purpose, nuances, and specific words or phrases to use in your own narratives.
If the proposal is for a private or corporate foundation then you’ll want to read everything about the funder on their website (if they have one) to incorporate any phrases or tone back into your proposal. For example, “Like the Banfield Foundation, our organization is committed to improving the well-being of pets and the citizens of our community.” Then you elaborate the point with facts.
4 - READ. Make a checklist of documents and information needed to submit. You may need to gather supporting documents or letters of support that you don’t already have and that takes time.
You MAY even find that you’re ineligible to apply.
Recently, a client submitted a simple LOI (Letter of Interest) as per the funder's guidelines. Once approved, my client received the full proposal guidelines and instructions. After reading the instructions, we determined that the nonprofit was ineligible to apply because of one sentence within a 13-page document. It was disappointing but had we not read and understood the instructions, we would’ve wasted both time and money.
This is my simple lesson for today - read the guidelines and follow the instructions.
“Putting the GREEN in grant writing.”