It is important to recognize, right from the start, "grant writing" is a game. You are in competition with many others – some experienced and others novice. Your goal is to WIN the game – which in this instance – the prize is the funding.
So what can you do to give your project a competitive edge?
First things first - make sure your project aligns with the grant's goal(s) and what the organization wants to fund. All too often, we tend to start the grant writing process by focusing on what we need to do a certain project. Then we apply for grants. In order to save you time, it is important that you look at each grant opportunity, at the beginning of the process, from the "funder's" perspective. When people fail to do this, more than likely, the grant proposal “misses the mark” and does NOT “win the game.”
Why not just submit the grant and hope for the best?
Grants take time to write. You don’t want to spend time writing and submitting a grant that most likely “misses the mark.” It is a waste of your valuable time. By first looking at the "Funders Perspective” you are able to quickly determine whether you should invest your time writing a grant for a particular competition.
Start the process by identifying the purpose of the grant and the funding organization.
For the most part, grants have identified a very specific purpose/direction. Typically, whether public or private, organizations funding grants see a gap between what is and what ought to be or how they envision things can be. They perceive a "need or a gap" and want to award grants to organizations for the purpose of bridging/closing the gap or meeting the need. They want to be able to say the funds they award will make a difference
Realizing this, it is important to first identify what need the organization is trying to meet... what type of projects they are looking to fund... what projects they have funded in the past... and what they don't want to fund. Once you know this, then you can look at your own needs/project and make sure it aligns with what the organization wants to fund. If you don't find a match, STOP! Do not invest the time and resources if the fit isn't there.
Here are some basic questions to ask yourself as you look at a new grant opportunity:
- What is the purpose of the grant and the organization providing the funds? Does what you want match the purpose of this grant?
- Are you eligible to submit the grant? Do you meet ALL of their eligibility requirements?
- What is the maximum amount of funding? What is their funding range? Can you accomplish the objectives of your project (all of them) with the monies they are allocating?
- What is the deadline - first for the grant? Can you write a good grant application in the time allow?
- What is the project period for the grant? Can you start and finish your project within the project period of the grant?
- Does you project match the activities the grant says it will fund? Remember if it says it does NOT fund certain activities... they mean they will NOT fund your project if it has those activities in the application.
Grants take time to write and they take time to evaluate. If you answer NO to any of these questions, then that particular grant probably isn't for you. If you answer YES to all these questions, then it may be time to start writing.
Debbie Edwards is currently the Director of Grant Support for Mesa Public Schools (MPS) in Mesa, Arizona, and President of Consulting Services of D & J, Inc. She has over 15 years of extensive experience and a proven track record in developing proposals for clients across the United States for a variety of federal, state and private funding opportunities. Most recently she spearheaded the development of a virtual Grant Support Office for Mesa Public Schools providing MPS employees with a 24/7 access to a variety of resources and training to support their grant development and writing efforts. In addition, she works with business/industry company executives facilitating discussions/planning regarding competitive market analysis, customer segment selection, product positioning, product launch activities, public relations, marketing material development, website content creation, etc. at both strategic and operational levels.