It's pretty obvious from my website's name www.YourGrantAuthority.com that I know a little something about grants. (I'm assuming that I would be mocked or relentlessly ridiculed if I didn't.) I am a grant writer. It's what I do. But when I try to coach others to write grants, I sometimes get the feeling that not only do they want to know how to write grants but they want to know exactly just what it is a grant writer does overall. You know, so they too can answer that age-old question “What do you do for a living?”
Grant writing is, of course, not an all-inclusive fund raising job. There are many essential aspects to raising funds for a nonprofit that employ many different strategies including annual giving, major gifts, direct mail and nonprofit marketing. But just like each of these strategies has its own “rules and regulations” to be successful, the grant writer should also be prepared for a set of priorities that are required to get grants.
Luckily for you, I'm here to clear up the mystery in just what a grant writer is expected to do in writing winning grant proposals. The Boy Scout motto applies here: Be Prepared! A winning grant writer is expected to:
1. Gather Information – Like a squirrel foraging for nuts, so the grant writer must be at diligently digging for information. He or she has to have a thorough understanding of all programs and projects that the nonprofit wants to pursue funding to support. It's also a must to involve the personnel that would be responsible for carrying out the grant's objectives.
2. Organize Information – What good is it to have all this knowledge and not know what to do with it? An organized grant writer is successful and will employ strategies necessary to make his or her job easier. Grant prospect worksheets, biographical information, program information, legal documentation, etc. should be filed for easy reference.
3. Research, research, research! - Not all grant funders are interested in you. Whittle down the ones that are and get to know their interests, their preferences and their restrictions.
4. Write the Applications – Well, you already knew this one, right? You are charged with compiling, writing and editing applications that will make the grant maker sit up and take notice of you.
5. Skillfully Present Budgets – In working with your nonprofit, it's best to take the budget numbers and present them in a way that is pleasing to grant funders. In other words, grant makers want true information but sometimes request it in a format that is different than what your current budget reflects. Be sure to present the numbers in the way they are requesting.
6. Don't Send Blanket Proposals – Please! Grant makers are a picky bunch (rightfully so) and look for opportunities to cull those proposals that don't fit their program or application requirements. Follow a grant maker's instructions to the letter. For heaven's sake, if you can't follow simple instructions how can they depend on you to do what you say you're going to do with the money they entrust you with?
7. Keep Friendly with Grant Makers - I don't mean treat them to dinner and a movie but I do mean establishing relationships with them that means them hearing from you on other occasions besides grant giving time. Email or call with program updates, add them to your informative newsletter list and be available at all times for questions they might have of you.
8. Deliver Timely Reports – Work with program staff to help compile follow-up reports that are required by grant makers.
There you have it – your 8 Great Expectations as a grant writer. Will these steps bring you a grant every time? Nope, but regardless of a grant award or no grant award just consistently follow these guidelines in doing your job as a professional grant writer. The funding will always follow.