Six questions to ask before applying for a grant

It is can be very hard to apply for a grant when you have questions and there is no one available to answer them.

In last month’s column, I highlighted a paper entitled “Right-sizing the Grantmaking Process,” which was written by Project Streamline, an initiative of the Grant Managers Network. In that paper, there is also a list of suggested questions that grant seekers should ask themselves before applying for a grant, which is the focus of this month’s column.

These six questions will help you determine whether it’s worth your time to apply for a particular grant. I think these are excellent questions; I find that people often want to jump right into applying for a grant, when in fact, it’s not a program they should consider. I believe these questions raise issues that many who are new to the grant-seeking field will find particularly helpful.

Is your work aligned with the funder’s mission, goals, and objectives?…Read More

Four ways funders can help grant applicants

The document also includes a checklist of questions that applicants can ask themselves before applying for a grant.

Recently, I read an article that answered several questions I’ve had about grant makers for a long time. Not only that, but the article also addressed several questions that I often get from participants when I’m presenting my grants workshops.

The article is titled “Right-sizing the Grantmaking Process,” and it’s one in a series from a collaborative initiative of the Grants Managers Network. The network is made up of small family foundations, prominent national foundations, grant-making public charities, and socially responsible corporations. The documents were created by a group of individuals known as Project Streamline, which is an effort of funders and nonprofits to improve grant application, monitoring, and reporting practices.

The purpose of “Right-sizing the Grantmaking Process” is to help funders understand that one size might not fit all when it comes to grant applications and reporting requirements for grantees. Funders are encouraged to look at four core recommendations:…Read More

How to disseminate the results of a grant-funded project

Think at a local level, a state level, a national level, and even an international level.

Seasoned grant writers might notice that some funders, especially for major grant programs, ask for a dissemination plan in their request for proposals. That is, applicants are asked to describe how the results of their project will be shared after the grant period ends. Funders ask for a dissemination plan so that others can learn from the results of grant-funded projects and can replicate successful projects in their own institutions.

Developing a dissemination plan is not very difficult, but it might involve researching some potential avenues to distribute the information if you are unfamiliar with doing this. Look at dissemination as a circle that starts small and then widens out more broadly. In other words, think at a local level, a state level, a national level, and possibly even an international level for ways to disseminate the results of your grant-funded project.

Here are a few general suggestions to help guide the creation of a dissemination plan:…Read More

Seven strategies for successful grants management

Don’t agree to overambitious goals that can’t be met during the funding period.

The current economic situation has prompted many entities to apply for grants they’ve never applied for in the past, which has resulted in even more competition for grant funds. One of the possible by-products of this increased competition is that applicants might make promises in their proposals that they would be unable to fulfill if funded. Unfortunately, mismanaging grant funds can lead to negative publicity, the revocation of grant dollars, an adverse effect on future prospects for grant funding, and—in the worst case—criminal prosecution.

It’s important to submit any grant proposal with the best of intentions, so make sure you read the RFP or guidance carefully to ensure that you can meet the funder’s expectations if you receive an award. For example, do not agree to overambitious goals that cannot be met during the funding period—and don’t accept an award if you do not have the internal financial capability to track the use of funds.

Before accepting any grant award, review the grant agreement carefully to make sure you completely understand the expectations for accepting funds and can meet these expectations to the best of your ability. It is wiser to pass on grant funds rather than accept them knowing that your organization is not capable of carrying out the project as stated.…Read More

Death of a grant proposal: Six lessons learned in post-mortem

Following certain steps can help grant seekers complete grant proposals.
Following certain steps can help grant seekers complete grant proposals.

As I write this column, I’m mourning the death of a grant proposal that, after many weeks of discussion and hard work, did not get submitted. I’m conducting a post-mortem examination to determine what went wrong, in hopes of identifying these potential red flags in the future before it’s too late. I hope my analysis will help you recognize these warning signs, too, so you can get your proposal back on track before the deadline if you find yourself in a similar situation.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest mistakes the project’s collaborative partners made over the past five to six weeks, when we were meeting to develop the project and work on the proposal. I should explain that this was a large federal grant project we were working on, and I was not the lead grant writer on the proposal. Although we met weekly, there was little or no contact among partners outside of these meetings.

Here are the major mistakes that I believe led to the proposal’s demise:…Read More

Eight essential skills for school grant seekers

Grant seekers can develop skills to aid in grant-getting.
Grant seekers can develop skills to aid in grant-getting.

I recently had dinner with two grants professionals in Florida. One of them was quite upset, because someone she knew had remarked that the role of a grant writer was simply to “collate paper and submit an application.” If only it were that easy!

The conversation brought to light the common misconceptions that exist about just what grant writers do, and I’m going to try to clear up these misconceptions. Before I begin, I should state that not all grant professionals have the same responsibilities, and these depend largely on the organization they work for. That said, here are the key skills I think an effective grants professional must have, in no particular order:

1. Research skills. These involve two types of research: Looking for available funders, and being able to identify pertinent research to support a needs statement in a proposal. Grant writers need to be able to search the internet and find web sites that provide current information about grant opportunities. In many cases, this will include the web sites of both public and private funders. Grant writers also need to be able to locate research studies that support the existence of a need or a problem, and the possible solutions to solving this problem. Today, grant writers also need to be able to identify “best practices” in the education field in order to support why a specific solution is going to be effective in meeting a need or solving a problem.…Read More

Five key ways to evaluate grant projects

(Editor’s note: This column is an excerpt from Deb Ward’s latest book, Effective Grants Management, 2010: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Mass., Reprinted with permission from the publisher.)

Following specific guidelines can help you evaluate grant programs.
Following specific guidelines can help you evaluate grant programs.

The following information regarding evaluations was provided by Dr. Matt Rearick, an evaluator who is currently an assistant professor of education, health, and human performance at Roanoke College in Virginia. Dr. Rearick has experience conducting external evaluations for several grant-funded projects.

Q: What are [some] of the most common types of evaluation tools included in proposals?…Read More