Grant Writing

Grant writing falls under Rosman’s Universal Rule: Nothing is as hard as it seems but everything is harder than it looks.

Though each grant is different, many ask for similar information. The proper way to be successful at grant writing is to have most of the material prepared even before you receive the grant application. Most grants have eight parts; an introduction or cover letter, an executive summary, the problem or needs statement, a solution statement (usually involving the work schedule), budgeting information, qualifications, conclusion and appendixes.

However, there are some important things you can do today to get ready for that grant proposal you will be addressing tomorrow.

Request the Request for Proposals (RFPs) as early in the process as possible. The more time you have to put together your proposal, the more likely yours will be considered and awarded.

Following the Order and Providing Only the Requested Information of the RFP is probably the most important point of this essay. Each grant will want different information and in a different order. Some will ask for a summary of the company’s qualification, some a summery each of the principles.

Watch the Word and Page Count. One granting organization may wish you to limit your request to 1,000 words while another has no limitations. On a recent proposal, the grant writing team and I worked for three hours getting the word count from 1,200 down to the 800 word limit.

Other grants may ask that you limit your executive summary of the project to 2 or 3 pages.

When writing the summary, keep 1-inch margins on all sides and single space the lines. Use 10 or 12 point font limiting your proposal to Times New Roman, Arial, or a similar font. On multiple page proposals, put the page number in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

Accounting Information will be required on many grant proposals including government grants. The grant committee wants to make sure that they are not the only money being used for the project and how their money will be used. The money request will be either for a summary accounting, as a project specific accounting, and/or the annual report accounting.

Executive Backgrounds and Resumes will be requested for all grant proposals. The purpose is to make sure the nonprofit has the management capability to manage and complete the project at hand. The grant writer should have two versions available to her; a one page traditional resume and a three to four sentence summary.

The Organizational History should also be short and sweet. One does not have to know about the intricate details of the corporate history, but an overview. The granting organization does not need to know the intimate details of your project, unless asked.

Those things that will not be “standardized” will include:

The Cover Letter is the simplest of the required paper work. This is usually a summary of the information you are providing to the granting organization and a “thank you” for considering your application. Address it to the chairperson of the committee, if known. If not, to the members of the committee as a whole.

Rule of the Left Thumb: Your cover letter should take no more than one-minute to read. That means one page. The members of the granting committee do not have the time to initially read a four page cover letter. Remember the general K.I.S.S. Rule – Keep it short and simple.

The body of the letter needs to emphasize the important of and a general overview of your project. No details, just the 30 second elevator speech you have been working on. Try to keep this to two paragraphs at most.

The Problem and Solution Statements may be in the summary of the project or the grant may require that they are separate sections. Again, it is important that the need statement is clear enough for the reader to truly understand the problem(s) you are about to tackle.

The Executive Summary of the Project will be requested. This can range from one to 10 pages, depending on how intricate the project is and the requirements of the RFP. However, the summary is just that, not a detailed explanation of every twist and turn of the project. This is the body of the proposal and needs to be semi-technical so that someone not familiar with your business can understand. Use jargon and acronyms sparingly.

Read the Grant Requirements Carefully as you start to assemble the grant. Most will be quite specific as to what they want on what order and the questions asked.

Rule of the Right Thumb: Provide only the information you are asked for, nothing more and, most definitely, nothing less.

Here is where a set of outside eyes comes in handy. You may be good at writing the proposal, but a grant writing professional or communication consultant should give your proposal the once over to make sure it meets the requirements of the RFP.

This is also a good time to have the outside consultant do some basic editing of the proposal. Self-editing is important but you may not see the smaller details once you have read the same paragraph for the fifth time. I just finished a project requiring that a four-page summary be reduced to one page.

If your proposal is a one page application, do not staple the cover letter to the response to the RFP. If a multiple-page response, use a notebook binder to gather and hold the paper work. For larger applications, use an indexed divider so it is easier to find the sections that the committee deem important.

About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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