First of all, no one adores writing for grants. By definition, if you have to write for a grant, you don’t have money for the project that you want to do. And, you have to ask someone else for money.
This isn’t as bad as asking your parents for a loan, but it can be tedious nonetheless. But try to think about writing for a grant as a chance to become clear about your great idea. Use these grant proposal writing steps and process as a way to begin your research and you will find your grant writing both useful and productive.
You will win some grants, and you will lose some grants. Smaller grants can be easier to win than larger grants because of the number of competitors.
But keep trying….
Phase I. Do you know exactly what you want to do? Do you know who the audience for your idea might be? In other words, what would you do with the money and who would it most benefit? This is the beginning of any grant proposal :–
The summary: You need to be able to articulate in writing, exactly what you want to do and why. If you cannot do this part, you might as well give up looking for a grant to fund it. No one wants to support a half-baked idea.
Grantors want to feel good about where the money is going and what the outcome of the grant might be. So, after you figure out exactly what your idea might be, get your persuasive tools (logos, ethos and pathos) out of the barn and begin writing.
Exercise 1: Write a one paragraph summary of your idea that you need to be funded by some kind of grant.
Phase II. So, the worst-case scenario is that you have this great project that you want to do, but it doesn’t really fit into any of the grants that you have researched.
What should you do? Research, research, research… I know you don’t want to hear it, but you need to sit down for a few days and actually search for grants that will best fit your idea.
Also, who do you already know? Do you know anyone who works for a foundation? If so, you might start with those you know to find out if your project might be considered.
If you don’t know anyone, and you have never done this before, here are a few thoughts:
- With paragraph in hand, ask a few people you know about possible funding sources. People who you work with or for can be of great assistance in directing you to the write sources for grants.
- With paragraph in hand, hit the library. Librarians are masters in finding information for you. Librarians, after all, work in libraries and are surrounded by lots and lots of information. Librarians are usually more than willing to help direct you to places that can save you loads of time.
- Hit specific grant libraries (again, with a paragraph in hand – it’s the only way). Boston has its own grant library, the Foundation Center Cooperating Collection, housed in the Social Sciences Department of the Boston Public Library, where tours, help and grants are catalogued for you. Schedule time to spend a day or so in a grant resource center.
Phase III. So now you have a few grants that seem to be possible candidates. They may or may not match your idea exactly, but maybe they are close enough.
- Now it is time to read the directions. Just like your first-grade teacher told you, read the directions and then re-read the directions. Grants usually have a set of specific requirements.
Grantors want grant proposals looking more or less the same so that they can quickly determine who should get the money. This is easier to figure out if everyone follows the directions. And, those who don’t follow the instructions become at best annoying to the committee and at worst, dismissed.
So, re-read the directions. If the grantor asks that a specific cover page be filled out and submitted, do it – even if you have to dig into your closet to find an old typewriter in order to complete the form.
- Make lists of things you need to accumulate. Some grants require letters of recommendation, project plans, project photos and/or references. Some grants require film or video.
Whatever the specifics, create a list and keep adding to it. This way, when you are about to submit the grant, you can check your list (twice) in order to make sure that everything has been included.
Phase IV. Write the grant
- Generating Writing: So you have this great idea, you have a few grants that look relevant to this idea, and you have a paragraph about your idea. Now, is the time to put pen to paper.
You don’t have to start from scratch – you already have your paragraph. Also, since you have had this idea germinating for a while, pull out your old notes and e-mails about this topic.
When this idea fist hit you, what were its major parts? What was so compelling about this idea? Let me put it like this, try to get yourself back to the stage where the idea was first born inside you; when you were excited enough about the idea to actually go and do all the research to find grants for it. Write about the idea without editing.
Just write where you are…
Think about these questions:
What is the idea?
Why is it a good idea?
How many parts are there to this idea?
Who will care about the idea?
Who will this idea help? How?
Who will this idea hurt? How?
Tell yourself why it is a good idea.
How will you be able to find out if your idea is a success?
How will you measure results?
What will be the final product produced?
Now you have a bunch of writing about your idea. This writing is from the creator inside you – the person who is like a little kid talking about this idea to anyone who will listen.
One other idea, create charts and graphs to help illustrate your ideas. In general, readers love pictures that are thoughtful and well done. If you have an image that can help bring your idea to life, consider including it and writing about it so that the reader can understand what the image conveys and why it is included.
- Structuring the Writing: To bring structure to your writing means making it logical. You take your raw writing and you begin to group it into chunks that the reader can understand and follow.
- In some cases, the structure will be dictated by the grant. The grant guidelines will require that certain questions be answered. Try to create structure that flows from a more general outline of the work to be performed (summary) to the specific details (methodology).
A solid overall structure looks like this:
- Complete summary of the project:
This section should be able to stand-alone. Don’t refer to other parts of the proposal here. Busy readers may not have time to digest your entire proposal, but they will probably be able to get through this section with ease.
- Background/Motivation for the project:
Here you place the project within its context. Here your reader wants to know what the motivation is for the project – read: why should I care about this project?
- Specific project and how it fits into the history:
Now we return to the actual project. The discussion of the project should flow naturally from the background that you just provided to your reader. Here show how your project makes sense to do, given the background/problem discussed above. Here you show your reader how you will solve or contribute something to solving the problem outlined in the background section.
- Methodology (How you will approach the project):
The foundation giving grants wants to make sure that the money that it is giving to you will be put to good use. In this section, you provide a clear outline of how your project will move from point A (an idea) to point B (a solution). Perhaps you need to study three different groups of people; perhaps you will study three different approaches to teaching parents about nutrition.
Whatever study you will be conducting, it needs to be carefully thought through. Much has been written about projects that have failed, not for lack of good ideas but for lack of implementation and follow through.
Perhaps the donor organization that you are writing to has experienced such project failures (your research or contacts may point these particular failures out to you).
To be Continued…..Part:II.