Aiming for Success with Grants Tricks of the Trade By Rebecca White, Ph.D. Professor Organizational Development and Evaluation LSU AgCenter
Hitting the Mark with Grant Proposals Becky’s Top 20 Tricks of the Trade for Grant Developers
Trick # 1 As a grant developer your goal should be to seek funds that are supportive of your groups’ or organizations’ program priorities/passions/needs/values/ideals. Always, always, always seek funding ops that are aligned with your group’s vision, mission, goals and priorities. The idea is to obtain funding that will help you accomplish what your organization needs to get accomplished, not get more funds.
Trick # 2 I believe you have to BELIEVE STRONGLY in something to give it your best. I hear too often: I’m too busy I cannot find the time If I could just put something else on hold, while I get the grant developed I’m not sure I can do it I don’t know how I BELIEVE you have to be so passionate about whatever you think is important to accomplish, that you decide you cannot in good conscious NOT DEVELOP THE GRANT What do you care about? What do you think can make a difference? Take the time to hash this out in your mind. It will serve you well.
Trick #3 It cannot be overemphasized… FIND A MENTOR. Locate someone who will take the time to share with you the secrets, the tips, the successes they have had with grants. I did and I attribute my success with funded grants in large part to my mentors…. Dr. Tommy Grafton, Kathy Hayward and Dr. Sara Seals
Trick #4 LOCATE for yourself someone who HAS YOUR PASSION and your commitment to accomplishing a particular goal or goals. Ask them to work with you in developing a proposal. Several heads are better than one. Sometimes you can find someone who has skills that compliment your own. You may be best at program strategy development, or budgeting. They may be best at research and identifying the need for the project. In the best of grant worlds, you will find a committed, passionate individual like yourself and you will work together to get the proposal accomplished. I have been so fortunate. Sara Seals, Debbie Hurlbert, Diane Sasser, Cheri Gioe have all been a pure pleasure to work with on grant development.
Trick #5 I LIVE FOR NEW IDEAS. I love to go to conferences, trainings, gatherings where people share what they are doing. I have stolen so many ideas, thought about my passion, my organizations’ priorities, capacity and strengths and with slight tweaking come up with some really great program ideas. Not all have been funded. But many have been. I believe one of my most beneficial tips to you is this – be like a sponge for great grant ideas.
Trick #6 Ask people if they would be willing to share with you successful grants they have developed. Or perhaps a funder will share examples of grants they liked. I NEVER get rid of grant examples. You can learn so much from them. Another idea to gain insights as to excellence in grantwriting is to offer your time as a grant reviewer. I do this annually for the Children’s Trust Fund. I am on a church mission and outreach committee that awards funds to worthy groups with worthy requests. I know that in reviewing these requests, I will learn so much. So many great ideas. So many lessons to learn from them. Offer to serve on a federal grant proposal panel. Reviewing grants is a sure fire way to learn how to develop your own.
Trick #7 Explore the world of grantors… Government agencies Foundations Private philanthrophists Go to websites and study what they view as important, what they value, what they would like to see change. Identify those with similar values, goals, identified needs as your idea (your passion). Try to identify individuals at that funding entity that you could try to develop a relationship with. Begin to network with them. Ask them questions, LISTEN WELL.
Trick #8 A critically important facet that every grant writer needs prior to writing grants are sound relationships with those who have funds. Funds can come from private foundations, state departments and federal sources. Often it is a relationship with a representative of a funding group that makes your grant successful. Be sure you make yourself well known to colleagues and people in your area of expertise. Also consider networking with those in disciplines that are connected in some way to your field. An example of this is the current interest in preventing obesity and addressing overweightness. Ecological models are now being promoted as the solution to this tough societal challenge in the US. So to address this problem you need expertise in the areas of nutrition education, fitness, gardening and community planning. Therefore be sure to establish relationships and networks beyond your field of expertise.
Trick #9 It is critical that you know your organization or group, its strengths, its values, its purpose, its capacity. You will need to convince a funder that investing $ in your organization or group is likely to be successful. SPECIAL NOTE: GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE PARTICULAR STRENGTH IN RIGOROUS PROGRAM EVALUATION ARE SURE TO EXPERIENCE A SHARE OF SUCCESS WITH GRANTS. EVERYONE IS MOVING TOWARD FUNDING GROUPS/ORGS WITH PROVEN RECORDS. Consider contacting ODE to get assistance with your program evaluation design for your proposal.
Trick # 10 Read the request for proposal or guidelines for proposals several times. Use your highlighter and highlight the most important points. If they have a scoring rubric, be sure to include all components that grant reviewers will score your proposal on. Re-read the guidelines several days later, in case you have gained a new perspective. Follow exactly the guidelines for your proposal. If they have a contact for questions, be sure to contact them with any questions or to run an idea by the contact for input.
Trick # 11 After you identify your passion(s), research your topic thoroughly. If it has been a while since you were in college you need to spend the time searching for evidence found in journal articles and such to make the case for your project/program need. Example – say you are committed to improving the care of young children – what does research conducted by the best minds have to say about why this topic is critically needed, what the solutions to the problem might be. Say you want to prevent any young person from ever smoking. Study the research, find out what smoking does to a young person. Find out why it occurs, what research says can prevent the problem, and the solutions you need to include in your program. Say you want to revitalize the main street in a small town. Find out what works according to research and why it is important to do it a particular way. Discover how your approach can help a community. You can have these components developed and ready to go when you find potential funders and begin to develop a proposal.
Trick #12 In my experience this is critical. Be careful what you ask for. You may get funded and if it has not been thought through well you may have great difficulty accomplishing your goal (s). For me personally this is the most creative part of the entire process and the part I like the most. Creating a strategy to solve a problem is very fulfilling. The icing on the grant cake is to then get funded and the project is very successful because you developed a brilliant plan. It’s a great feeling!!
Trick #13 I am a great believer in this model. This simple, practical, sensible model helps you in developing your strategy for your project. You begin asking the question… What outcome or impact would we expect to happen if we conduct a child care provider education program… A home visitation parent education program A teen substance abuse prevention education program A date rape prevention education program A youth master of disaster education program A educational program working with parents to reduce childhood obesity A teen financial management education program
Trick #14 This is my personal challenge. In particular, I find it difficult to be concise and to some degree clear. I usually can provide details with greater skill. If you are great at this you will be a great grant development team partner. For grant reviewers it makes a very tough job soooooo much easier when a grant proposal is clear, concise and detailed.
Trick # 15 If budget development is your strength, good for you!! Many find this challenging. You need to be willing to research costs of your program components. Disaster looms for a grant proposal who has miscalculated actual costs of conducting a program, who gets funded and then has to try to accomplish the program in an inadequate budget. Avoid padding a budget. Experienced grant reviewers can spot this and from personal experience I can tell you leaves a bad taste in the reviewer’s mouth and may hurt your changes for funding. I Hint – if you have a support staff person or student who can do some budget research for you, I find this works well. I often elicit help from my secretary or student for budget development.
Trick # 16 Don’t give up! Don’t give up! Don’t give up! I have found that you will experience success if you keep at it. Rework a grant for another funder. I have ideas that I developed long ago, but I still am interested in obtaining funding for. They just kinda percolate in my mind. One example is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program. I fell in love with this literacy program that provided children 60 books (one a month received in the mail) for children. After Hurricane Katrina, a foundation that focused on providing new books for poor children who lost books in the storm made this dream come true for me and The Little Bookshelf Program was born. Another example I have is a RV unit called THE CLOVERMOBILE to showcase 4-H at fairs, festivals, events, to enroll children at malls and such OR An RV unit called a PARENT MOBILE that could offer parenting ed in specific communities where transportation is an issue for parents Or An RV called the AGCENTER ON WHEELS that could highlight some of the most innovative work by the AgCenter at fairs, festivals, LaFete, special events, with Police Juries and School Boards and such.
Trick # 17 Sometimes a person who is not that familiar with your passion, your work, your project can read your proposal and provide you great insight as to what may not be clear, things that because you are so familiar with the details that you overlook that it may not be obvious to a person without your exposure to the topic.
Trick # 18 A colleague that is not involved, but knows a great deal about your work, your values, your passion, your organization, can also provide great critique. A fresh eye can sometimes pick up on things that you overlook. It is very important to build in time for someone to look over your proposal with the purpose being helping you make your proposal stronger.
Trick # 19 The best proposals ‘give something’ to the community, or individuals, or groups. They help in some way to improve societal conditions or quality of life.
Trick # 20 Persistence pays. Never give up! If you are passionate about an ‘big’ idea, you can locate another appropriate or suitable funding source, then ‘tweak’ the proposal to suit their format and unique criteria. As the saying goes “There are many ways to skin a cat!” The important thing to remember is to keep trying, rework it until someone selects your proposal for funding your idea.
Aiming for Grant Success - Tricks of the Trade
Aiming for Success with Grants Tricks of the Trade Rebecca White, Ph.D. LSU AgCenter
Hitting the Mark Becky’sTop 20 Tricks of the Trade for Grant Developers
Grant Writing Trick #1 • Never write a proposal solely for funding
Grant Writing Trick # 2 • Develop your own personal passion
Grant Writing Trick # 3 • Find a personal mentor
Grant Writing Trick #4 • Find a grant development partner
Grant Writing Trick # 5 • Be like a sponge soaking up great grant ideas
Grant Writing Trick # 6 • Collect and study successful grant proposals
Grant Writing Trick # 7 • Know your prospective grantor!
Grant Writing Trick # 8 • Relationships and networking matter
Grant Writing Trick # 9 • Know your organization or group well
Grant Writing Trick # 10 understand and • Read thoroughly, follow proposal guidelines
Grant Writing Trick # 11 • Well documented need statement is critical
Grant Writing Trick # • 12 Build in time to put a lot of thought into your project plan
Grant Writing Trick # 13 to guide the • Use the logic model development of your project plan LOGIC MODEL PROGRAM DESIGN AND PLANNING INPUTS OUTPUTS OUTCOMES - IMPACT Activities Participation LEARNING ACTION IMPACT What do we need What do we Who needs to What do we How do we What kind of to achieve our have to do to - participate think the think impact can goals? ensure our - be involved? participants will participants result if the goals are met? - be reached? know, feel or be will behave or participants able to do after act differently behave or act the program? after the differently? program? Staff Workshops Number Awareness Behavior Social Meetings Volunteer Characteristics Knowledge Practice Economic Camps Time Money Reactions Attitudes Decisions Civic Curriculum Materials Skills Policies Environmental Publications Equipment Aspirations Social Action Media Technology Web site Partners Projects Field Days MEASURING PROGRAM IMPACT
Grant Writing Trick # 14 • Writing style should be clear, concise and detailed
Grant Writing Trick # 15 • Winning proposals present a detailed budget that match the proposed program
Grant Writing Trick # 16 • Persistence usually pays!
Grant Writing Trick # 17 • Get a friend to read and critique your proposal
Grant Writing Trick # 18 • Get a colleague to review and critique proposal
Grant Writing Trick # 19 • Winning proposals give something back
Grant Writing Trick # • 20 If not funded, find another funder, “tweak” and resubmit