Thomas Jones Fundamentals Of Grant Writing


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Thomas Jones Fundamentals Of Grant Writing

  1. 1. FUNDAMENTALS OF GRANT WRITING presented at “Fueling Efficient Nonprofits: Michigan SuperConference 2009” hosted by Michigan Nonprofit Association held at Hyatt Regency Dearborn, Michigan May 5, 2009 Thomas A. Jones, Consultant East Lansing, Michigan Page 1 of 6
  2. 2. Here are some of the major steps you will need to know in order to develop a successful grant proposal. Searching for Funds The very first step in grant writing is to write a PREliminary Proposal (PREP). This preliminary description will help you to solidify your thinking about some basic features of your proposal idea. Writing it will force you to consider and decide what is the essence of your idea. It need not be lengthy - a page or less – nor detailed. PREP should describe the condition, problem, and need the proposal addresses; the improvements that will be made; what your organization will do to make the improvements; how success will be determined; how the Project will be continued if it is successful; and how much it is likely to cost. The next step is to browse the Internet for potential funding sources. Major sources of grant funding are the federal, state, and city governments, and foundations. The Internet is practically inexhaustible when it comes to information on potential funding sources. You can often access these sources with your search engine by entering key words or phrases from your PREP. Preparing to Write Once you have found a suitable Request for Proposals (RFP), you need to study it carefully and highlight frequently used phrases. If you do not fully understand something in the RFP, then ask someone who is likely to know or contact the funding source. Many funding sources hold a pre-application meeting or bidders' conference. If such a meeting is offered, go and be prepared to ask questions. Then, prepare a work plan to guide proposal development. Start by completing a checklist or grid listing the major sections of your proposal, as specified in the RFP. Finally, you need to organize the staff, materials, and data required to develop your proposal. One important decision is whether to use a writing team, or to go it alone. Grant proposals typically contain up to eight sections. Here are some tips on preparing them. RULE: Always start a section by reviewing the RFP, then follow the instructions. Page 2 of 6
  3. 3. Need Statement Need Statement answers the question: “Why are you applying for this grant?” This is where you define the conditions, problems, and community needs that your organization is committed to meeting. Analyzing community problems and needs is one reason that grant writing represents a journey of discovery – you start the journey by learning about conditions in your community that need improvement. Key steps in developing the Need Statement are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Describe conditions in your community Step 3: Describe problems created by the conditions Step 4: Describe what is needed to solve the problems Goals and Objectives Goals and Objectives answer the question: “What do you want to accomplish with this grant?” Goals are “end states.” They describe what the conditions or problems will be like at the end of the grant project. Goals are abstract, broad, and long-range. Objectives also indicate what you want to achieve, but in different ways. Objectives are concrete, specific, focused, subject to direct measurement, and short-range in nature. Like Goals, Objectives relate directly back to the Need Statement. Key steps in developing Goals and Objectives are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Review your Need Statement Step 3: Determine your Goals and draft Goal statements Step 4: Determine what Objectives will enable you to accomplish the Goals and draft Objective statements Methodology The Methodology answers the question: “How will you accomplish your Objectives?” The Methodology flows from the Goals and Objectives, just as Goals and Objectives flow from the Need Statement. The Methodology spells out the resources you will use and the tasks you will complete in implementing your project. Key steps in developing the Methodology are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Delineate tasks Step 3: Determine resource needs Step 4: Develop a timetable Step 5: Formulate a management plan Page 3 of 6
  4. 4. Evaluation Plan The Evaluation Plan answers the questions: “How well is the Methodology working? Are you meeting your Goals and Objectives? If not, why not?” The Evaluation Plan flows from your Methodology, and ties all the way back to your Need Statement, and Goals and Objectives. Evaluation involves a whole series of questions about the processes and outcomes of the project. Key steps in developing the Evaluation Plan are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Clarify who will be using the results Step 3: Develop a series of questions and evaluation measures Step 4: Determine how and when to collect data Step 5: Describe how findings will be reported and used Budget Plan The Budget Plan answers the questions: “What financial resources will be needed to implement the project and where will they come from?” The Budget Plan flows from the Methodology. The Budget Plan estimates the costs of operating the project, and shows your sources of project funding. Like the Evaluation Plan, the Budget Plan forces you to reexamine the Methodology, verifying whether or not it is realistic and doable. Key steps in developing the Budget Plan are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Estimate expenses Step 3: Determine expected revenue Step 4: Develop budget narrative Continuation Plan The Continuation Plan answers the question: “How do you intend to continue the project, if it is successful, after the grant funding ends?” If your proposal is truly rooted in your strategic and long-range plans, then the organization could convert the project into a regular, ongoing program and fund it as part of its annual operating budget. Key steps in developing the Continuation Plan are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Describe your continuation plans Step 3: Identify continuation commitments Step 4: Describe your organization’s record in continuing past projects Page 4 of 6
  5. 5. Introduction The Introduction answers the question, “Why should your organization be awarded this grant?” From reading the Introduction, reviewers should be convinced that your organization has the capacity, experience, qualifications, and record of achievement to successfully carry out the project. It should be clear that your organization has a history of providing needed services in the community and a reputation for meeting high standards of quality. It should also be clear that your organization is well managed and financially sound. Key steps in developing the Introduction are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Describe organization’s mission, strategic priorities, and goals Step 3: Describe history, target populations, programs, and services Step 4: Describe organization’s qualifications Step 5: Identify partner organizations and their qualifications Summary The Summary answers the question, “What is this proposal all about?” It may also be called “Abstract.” The Summary is a longer and more detailed version of the PREP you wrote while preparing to write. It is the last major component you write. It must capture the essence of all the thinking and all the work that has gone into the proposal. Key steps in developing the Summary are: Step 1: Briefly describe your organization Step 2: Describe the problems and needs Step 3: Describe how the proposal addresses the problems and needs Step 4: Indicate what results are expected Step 5: State the budget for the project Step 6: Briefly describe continuation plans Wrapping it Up This is the point where inexperienced grant writers often face real panic. It is the point in your journey where – having spent weeks writing the proposal, itself – you realize how much has yet to be done. But, if your work plan is comprehensive and realistic, then you should have little trouble pulling it all together and wrapping it up. RULE: Build in extra time to deal with unexpected events. Page 5 of 6
  6. 6. Key steps in Wrapping it Up are: Step 1: Review the RFP Step 2: Consolidate drafts; spell check and paginate proposal Step 3: Assemble appendices and draft Table of Contents Step 4: Conduct technical reviews Step 5: Revise proposal, obtain signatures, and make copies Step 6: Submit the proposal Five ways to continuously improve your grant writing are to (1) write grants, (2) study reviewer comments, (3) conduct your own review, and (4) become a reviewer yourself, and (5) get extra training. Thomas A. Jones, Consultant East Lansing, Michigan May 2009 Page 6 of 6