No, it’s not the holidays. It’s grant writing season.
Many nonprofit organizations write grants year round to fund special ventures, fill unanticipated gaps, and to address emergent client and community needs. This time of year, however, is special. It is time for the rush of reapplications for continued funding, as well as new Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from a variety of Federal, State and foundation sources.
Writing a strong grant is not a complicated process, but don’t be fooled. Uncomplicated doesn’t mean easy. A good grant application starts with an innovative, research supported, cost-effective program idea that meets an identified need. If you try to apply for something you’ve always done using strategies you’ve always used, it is unlikely you will be funded. After you have the groundbreaking idea which uses your creative and conceptual skills, you need to switch gears and focus on the concrete components. This involves thorough and repeated reading of the request for proposals. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Requests for proposals are filled with details. Some of them will surprise you. (Why is the same question being asked 12 times when there is a 10 page limit?) Some of them will result in your application being disqualified if overlooked. (Submit 17 copies, collated but not stapled with a sheet of colored paper between every other copy.)
Once you are certain you have a handle on the particulars of the RFP, it is time to stretch those keyboarding muscles and compose the grant. When asked for my advice about how to write a winning grant application, my answer is always the same. “Answer every question that is asked, and answer it directly, completely, and succinctly.” If the application asks, “What color is the sky?” the answer is “The sky is blue.” It truly is that simple. However, in the midst of composing the application it is often difficult to see it as anything other than complex and a little aggravating. .
The problem is that we are so deeply envisioning the project. We know, for example, that there are many shades of blue. There are variables that may make the sky seem red, or purple, or grey. Sadly, to wax poetic about the impossibility of anticipating the color of the sky on any given day will likely not result in a positive response.
Happy Grant Writing Season. Merry Applications. And remember to be innovative, detail oriented … and just answer the questions!