Proposal writers typically look forward to the summer months, because there are fewer grant deadlines in June, July, and August. For the most part, public funders hold few competitions during the summer, which lowers the number of proposals you have to write.

So instead of writing proposals, you could sit back, relax, and do nothing (very tempting, I must admit!)—or you could use the summer months to do some of those grant-related activities you never seem to have time for during the hectic months between September and May. Here are three suggestions for things you can do to fill any idle moments you might have this summer. As tempting as it might be to forget about grant seeking for a few months, if you take advantage of the extra time to prepare for next year’s activities, you’ll be glad you did come fall.

1. Brush up on your grant writing skills.

I’ve read several interesting books recently that contain helpful information about grantsmanship. Although much of the basic information in each book is the same, I still find it interesting to read other people’s suggestions about how to write a winning proposal and how to develop relationships with potential funders to increase your chances of being funded. I find books about specific sections of proposals to be helpful, too, especially on budgets, needs assessments, and evaluation—areas in which I always feel I could use some extra help.

Some books you might want to consider reading include “Storytelling for Grantseekers” by Cheryl Clarke (Jossey-Bass Publishers); “Grant Seeker’s Budget Toolkit” by James Quick and Cheryl New (John Wiley and Sons Inc.); “Winning Grants” by Mim Carlson (Jossey-Bass Publishers); and “How to Get Grants and Gifts for the Public Schools” by Stanley Levenson (Allyn and Bacon Publishers).

2. Take the time to study funded proposals.

Pull out the corresponding RFP (request for proposals), review it, and refer back to it as you read through each funded proposal. Study the information carefully, noting how the need was documented, the methodology was described, and the budget illustrated the methodology in terms of dollars and cents. Look also at the scope of the project that was funded, and check the formatting of the winning proposal for charts, graphs, and bulleted items. After you finish reading, consider how the writer used formatting to make the proposal easy on the eyes—and to help you, the reader, clearly understand the “story” it contained.

3. Create a grants calendar.

If you haven’t done so already, make a list of the proposals you submitted this past year along with their deadlines. Divide this list into two categories: “funded” and “not funded.” Under “funded,” write down the steps you still need to take in managing each grant, and under “not funded,” note which grants you plan to pursue again next year (assuming there will be another competition and you’ll be eligible to reapply). This is the beginning of your “grants calendar” for the 2003-04 school year. In addition, if you missed any deadlines this past year and you know these are grants you’d still like to pursue, add them to your calendar for the upcoming year. Then, think back to the amount of time you spent on each proposal and mark a “start” date on your calendar to help prevent those last-minute panic scenarios from occurring!

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or

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