What ‘sequestration’ could mean for school grant seeking in 2013

You might already know that the Budget Control Act of 2011 created a Joint Commission of Congress that is charged with identifying budgetary savings of at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If a joint committee bill is not enacted by Jan. 15, 2013, an automatic spending reduction process will go in to place. Sequestration, or the cancellation of budgetary resources, will take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. Based on what I have read, I believe sequestration will have a dramatic impact on the grants field.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) already has stated that it expects fewer medical research grants, with approximately 700 fewer grant opportunities to be available in 2013. The National Science Foundation has stated up to 1,500 grant opportunities could be cut as a result of sequestration.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan presented testimony to the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Committee in July. He stated that sequestration would reduce spending on federal education programs by 7.8 percent. He said the following programs would be at risk:…Read More

Dispelling five common grant-seeking myths

Myth: Grant deadlines are negotiable. In plain and simple terms, no, they are not!

As I’ve talked with a variety of people recently who are looking for funding for their education projects, I’ve come to realize there are a few grant-seeking “myths” that need to be dispelled. Here are the most common ones that I have heard.

  1. Grants are the answer to every financial crisis. I understand that many people are now looking at grants as a solution to their budget difficulties, such as losing staff, ending programs, and simply buying day-to-day items. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of grants are intended to fund new projects, not supply new sources of dollars to cover existing expenses. There are a few funders who have made a decision within the last two years or so to change their focus and help organizations with their basic needs; however, for the most part, this is the exception rather than the rule. What’s more, receiving a grant award isn’t a quick process that occurs within a week or two. In the case of federal grants, six to nine months can pass before you receive notice of funding. Finally, grantors tend to fund grantees who have a strong record of being able to manage grants and who can show relative financial stability. Applicants who are facing a budgetary crisis are likely to find that grantors will see them as too risky an investment.
  2. Grants are easy to get. In today’s world, the competition for grants has become even more severe. Why? Because a larger number of schools and other organizations are applying for grants than ever before. (For example, a recent new grant competition in the healthcare field received 10,000 letters of intent and more than 3,000 applications.) Although some proposals are poorly written and are not very competitive in the eyes of reviewers, many of the proposals are high-quality and worthy of consideration for funding.  I would never say that getting grants is “easy,” and I’ve been pursuing them for a long time! If you have a good relationship with a funder, combined with a positive track record of carrying out projects successfully, you might find continuation funding is easier to achieve.
  3. Grant proposals take just a few hours to complete. Grant applications come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from online applications that contain three questions to 80-page proposal packages and everything in between. What I would say is that some applications do take a few hours to complete, while for other programs it might take weeks or months to put the entire proposal package together. It’s important to plan ahead and calculate how much time it will require to apply for a particular grant program, taking the following factors into consideration: How complex is the narrative? How much data do you need to support the need for the project? How many attachments are needed?
  4. Grant deadlines are negotiable. In plain and simple terms, no, they are not! If you cannot meet a funder’s deadline, your recourse is to wait until the next deadline. Contacting a funder to explain why you cannot meet the deadline is fruitless. Stop and think about it in these terms: If everyone asked for a deadline extension and it was granted, there would be no need for any funder to have set deadlines. Funders could simply state in their guidelines that potential applicants should contact them to negotiate a deadline that would be most convenient to the applicant. Yes, there are some funders who have “rolling deadlines,” meaning you can submit an application at any time—but if you see published deadlines for submission, take them seriously.
  5. There is a grant to fund everything. This one is somewhat related to myth No. 1. Although there are a plethora of grant programs and grantors, there really are not potential funders for every project—and the related expenses that accompany it. Remember, if you need equipment, nine times out of 10 it must be related to the successful execution of some type of project, rather than simply a “wish list” of what you want to buy.

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