Continued from Part: 1 of Grant Proposal Writing Steps
Preliminary results, if any: If you have done some research on the project already and can point to some findings, you might point to evidence and examples that support your conclusions in the proposal. Donor organisations most likely prefer to give money to projects that are likely to be successful. That said, donor organisations don’t want to fund projects that have already been completed. So, there is a balance here that you need to find regarding including results.
Project timeline: This should be a graphic (Gant chart usually works well) The project timeline helps the reader envision the life of the project:
i) When will it start? ii) When will it finish? iii) What are the major tasks that need to be completed?
The reader wants to know that you will be able to finalise the work in a reasonable time frame.
Project Budget: One of the trickiest parts of the grant proposal is the budget. Here you need to be focused and clear about how much money you need and how it should get spent. Remember to make sure that the amount of money you need matches with what the donor organisation is willing to give. You don’t want to ask for $5,000 for travel expenses and find out that the grant only gives out $500 of non-travel related monies. The donor organisation will assume that you have not read their guidelines and put your proposal in the trash can).
They want you to be as accurate as possible. Don’t say project materials, when you know you need a Cannon GL2 digital camera
Here are some general categories that can be further refined: i)Travel ii)Research assistant iii)Accommodations iv)Equipment
For each budget item, you should include a cost estimate. Then, you will need to total your expenses for the budget proposal.
One last thought: it is not enough to tack on a budget at the back of the proposal. You need to include a few sentences within the budget section that discuss the items and point out the final total.
Editing the Writing: Editing is the key to creating a polished piece of writing. However, you won’t be able to catch the problems with the grant proposal if you don’t set it aside for a short while (a day or two). You have been immersed in the writing and it is difficult to see anything new about the document. You will be amazed at how much clarity you can bring to a piece of writing just by letting it sit over night as you sleep. I know, I know, you have worked until the deadline and don’t have time to let it sit. Here are a few editing strategies:
Peer Review: When this happens you need to find another pair of eyes, eyes that you trust, to read the proposal for you. A peer can help you catch the typos, the inconsistencies, etc.
Back to front: Reread your grant proposal one line at a time starting from the end. When you read your work from backwards, it changes your perspective and you can see things that you would have otherwise have missed.
Charts and Graphs: Pay particular attention to your charts and graphs. These should read as stand-alone pieces of the proposal. What does stand-alone mean? Your reader should be able to pick up your proposal, flip through it to any chart and graph and be able to figure out by reading it what its main message to the reader should be.
In order to make stand-alone charts and graphs, focus on the titles at the top (for tables) and on the captions at the bottom (for figures e.g., pictures, graphs, etc.). The title or caption should state what the table or graph is showing to the reader. In other words, it should interpret the information for the reader.
Remember that readers like to look at pictures (so much so that often they will start with your pictures without having looked at the rest of the document). This is your chance to make a few strong points using your tables and charts.
Phase V. Format the Grant
The formatting phase can be quite time-consuming. Here you have your proposal already written, and you are ready to send it off. There’s just one more thing to think about: how it looks.
Should you include colour charts?
If done well, colour conveys professionalism, draws the reader’s attention, and helps focus your reader on the most important information. Assume, that the committee who will review it will reproduce the grant. Colour copies are expensive to make, and it is unlikely that the committee will take the time and pay the money to have colour copies make. If your proposal hinges on a color-coded bar chart, you might want to rethink how the data are presented.
Are your headings active?
Use bold, active headings that tell the reader about the section that follows. Legal briefs that make a series of arguments to a justice use this technique. Just as the tables and graphs should make a point, bold headings should do the same. Active titles draw the reader’s attention and help the reader focus on the point that the next section will make.
Did you leave any white space? White space allows the reader to rest her eyes and also to focus better. A piece of paper that is filled with words can seem difficult to penetrate, difficult to figure out. Busy grantors who have to get through many grants don’t have time to kick back with a cup of coffee in hand and dive into your prose. They want to know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it and they want you to tell them as concisely as possible.
Allowing for white space is like allowing your reader to take a breath now and again. Here’s how to incorporate white space:
- If your proposal paragraphs are single spaced, leave a blank space between paragraphs.
- Include standard 1-inch margins around the text for the reader.
- Use 12 points, not 10 point font.
- Include bullets to break lists of things out of paragraph form.
- Single space sentences that are included in a bulleted point, but include space between bulleted points
What about numbering? Did you number the pages, your tables and your figures? Number the pages, tables and figures so that donor committees, working together on a proposal, can easily collaborate on your work.
What about appendices? Put detailed data, if necessary to the proposal, in an appendix. You don’t want to clutter your writing, yet you want to make sure that all needed information is available to the donor committee that is reviewing your work. You can include these details in an appendix for the reader.
Appendices should be labelled A, B, C, etc. And, each appendix should include a brief 1 paragraph summary of what it is discussing. Finally, if you include an appendix, you need to refer to it in the main body of the text so that the reader knows it is there and knows what it is.
Phase VI. Reread the directions. Read the directions and your lists one last time before sending the document out. Good luck!!
- 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 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.
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 easily determine who should get the money.
This is easier to figure out if everyone follows the directions. And, those who don’t follow the directions 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 fill out 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.
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