Getting the Grant

Submitted by Anne Morais on September 10, 2016 - 3:08pm
A short series of tips and questions for grant writers

These blog posts originally appeared on Anne Morais' website and are re-posted here with permission.

Getting the Grant: Introduction

You are an incredible organization with effective programs, great staff, super-human volunteers and you serve a community in need – all you need is a grant!

But before filling in that funding application due in a week, you need to take a small step back and first determine if a grant is the best source of revenue to support your program. If you determine that grants are appropriate, then you need to ask yourself if you are grant-ready?

There are multiple sources of revenue for charities which include individual donors, corporations, government, religious groups, foundations, and service clubs to name a few. Different kinds of programs speak to different kinds of funders.

In a nutshell...

  • Individual donors support programs people can easily understand, visualize, quantify and empathize.
  • Corporations support programs that provide them with a market or profile.
  •  Government or foundation grants support programs that address systemic needs and offer sustainable solutions.

While grants are often enticing, it is important to remember that grants:

  • are tied to performance outcomes;
  • have little flexibility regarding spending; and
  • require compliance and reporting.

So you want to move forward with a grant.....

It is a competitive process. Organizations increase their chance of being awarded funding when they are a grant-ready organization with a grant-ready project or program. Both require an investment in preparednes


Top 5 Tips for Writing a Successful Grant Proposal

Once you have done the research and assessed that it is appropriate and worth your while for your agency to apply for funding, your proposal needs to stand above the rest.

Here are five tips for writing stellar proposals.

1. Tri-alignment: Your project or program for which you are seeking funding needs to align with your agency’s mandate, the needs of your constituents (not the needs of your organization) and the grantmaker’s priorities.
2. Clear and Consistent Program Design: Your objectives address the need or problem; your outcomes follow from your objectives; your outcomes can be measured and you can measure them; and your activities are relevant, realistic and cost-effective. 
3. Clear and Consistent Writing Style: You have one chance to persuade the grantmaker with words- make all the words count. Less is more. Write for a generalist. Respond to an anticipated thought of the reader. Minimize absolute terminology. Include a connection to a current event. Incorporate grantmaker language 
4. Partnerships: Secure partnerships that strengthen your project, your agency and sector. Partnerships should not be a last minute thought but should be a necessity to bring the project to fruition.
5. Budgets: Make them real, cost effective for the grantmaker, worthwhile for your agency, and a reflection of the narrative.


Not too high and not too low- The Budget

How much should you ask in a grant proposal? There was a time when one would ask for the maximum allowable amount? The thinking was if a grantmaker likes the project, then the budget and grant amount can be negotiated later.

Maybe that was then, but not now.

Grantmakers have so many well-planned high-impact projects from which to choose – leaving them no reason to fund a project in need of a budget rework. Why is it that projects applying to the same fund, regardless of the activities, all have the similar budget bottom lines? Some grantmakers are getting savvy and not publishing the size of their grants. They want to see real budgets that reflect the real costs of the project.

It is the applicant's responsibility to craft a reasonable project budget. The key is to make the budget desirable for the funder and feasible for the organization. Asking for too little puts a burden on the deliverables and asking for too much may jeopardize your chances. The key is to find that sweet spot. Not too high and not too low.


That Pesky Sustainability Question 

How will your proposed project continue to have an impact after funding ends?

This is the dreaded sustainability question. The reading of this question is followed by an exasperated sigh, which is then followed by the all-too-familiar feelings of frustration of trying to deliver with little funding.

In reality, grantmakers are not expecting you to continue the project without funding. They are pushing you to capture the greater potential of your project - to imagine outcomes greater than the outcomes on the participants within a specified time frame.

You can ask yourself... How can the project impact the systemic problem affecting our community? Or how can the project move our organization forward to better serve the community? Or what learnings can inform current or future projects? Or what capacity-building outcomes will impact the on-going effectiveness?

Imagine each project leaving a legacy - both with the community served and in your organization. Articulate that legacy. You might end up being more inspired than you thought!


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