Fact: Grant writing is a worthwhile process.
For many charities, large and small, grant applications are one of those key funding streams that can contribute to organizational success. While the process may seem daunting, there are several tricks and tips that work to keep things organized, streamlined and simple.
Those who forego the preparation it takes to save time often find themselves completely overwhelmed. Worst yet, ‘lack of time’ is the main reason for missing key details on applications, or why some just give up on the process entirely. Unfortunately, ghost writers are not a standard position in small to middle-level organizations. Most non-profits and local charities simply do not have the resources to house grant writers and researchers. This task is often left to program managers or administration staff who fit writing gigs into an already jam-packed work schedule.
Keeping this in mind, there are standard practices that take limited resources into account. These proven tools and habits not only give busy people better chance for securing much needed funds, but also prevents burn-out and fatigue that cripples the writer process altogether.
1. Organize all materials before getting started…
Start your writing process by organizing your documentation! The first and foremost effective way to complete your grant is by beginning the writing process well organized.
Essentially this means that there should be little to zero time spent on searching hard-drives, computer folders and filing cabinets for information. No writer has time to be looking for much needed information when in the thick of presenting information into an appealing story to funders.
All writing material should be easily accessible and in easy to find locations (no guessing). Some writers prefer to have hardcopies for quick editing, while others may work strictly from computer. Whatever the preferred method is, creating file folders (on the desktop or cabinet) with clearly labeled titles helps to avoid workspace and mental chaos.
Organizing the funder information, grant application questions (with word/character counts), organization background and budgets stored neatly and efficiently allows the writer to focus on the details and making connections in the narrative visible to the funder.
2. Create a supportive team around you…
Whether your team is large or small, capitalizing off the assets and talents of your colleagues can go a long way in making proposals more palatable to funders.
Everyone brings something to the table, even if just a fresh pair of eyes. Take advantage of the talent around you. Designate tasks, proofing deadlines, and gather useful contacts.
Depending on the size of the grant you are applying for, more human resources and additional support in the writing process, including editing, structuring and even pasting pieces into an online application, may be essential.
Proofing may seem like an informal task, but when one person has been working on the same proposal for days, weeks, or even months, it is easy to lose sight of details of the message and miss obvious mistakes.
Quick Tip: Create a Grant Calendar that is visible and accessible to all team members and label tasks with clear deadlines, so application priorities are clear. And don’t hesitate to ask colleagues or friends with experience for a quick run through of your drafts – keep in mind that people generally want the organization they work for or support to be successful.
3. Stick to a firm, rigid timeline:
There is no room for procrastination here!
Set your deadlines much in advance. No exceptions! For example, if your application deadline is set December 1st, your personal deadline should be 3-5 days before then. Why? Because life happens. Also, grant applications are made up of many moving pieces. Break apart the grant process. Not everything should be done or is even possible to get done in one sitting (letters of support, first draft, editing session, second draft, editing, acquiring supporting documentation, final draft complete, send in).
Quick Tip: Set your own deadline much in advance. As soon as you’ve decided to apply, start requesting your letters of support, building your key partners and community networks.
4. Communicate consistently:
Communication with colleagues, team members and funders ensures no stone is left unturned. Generally, funders expect questions from applicants and are relatively helpful. What better way to take advantage of the golden opportunities your grant may produce.