Another “Best Opportunity” Kept Secret
Grant writing isn’t for everyone. It’s not even the perfect job for every writer. But for those of us who fit the mould, it’s an absolutely perfect career. If you can write in several styles in one document consider giving this field a try.
What’s Unique About Grant Writing
Grant writing require a lot more discipline than many other niches. We’ve all heard, “Cut, cut, cut until it hurts.” The grant proposal is one document that will require you to cut lots of your best lines. That’s because each section of a grant proposal, also called a grant application, usually has strict word limits. Run over and your proposal will be rejected immediately, and with no consideration to the value of your request.
You’ll also have to write in various styles. The executive summary requires formal presentation while the letter of inquiry should be more engaging. Not that your executive summary shouldn’t be engaging, but it is the formal summary of the NPO and the program for which it is seeking funding.
You’ll be writing the budget narrative. Can you see yourself discussing the mundane details of expenditures in a way that keeps the reader awake, interested, and moving ahead, while justifying each within a limited word count? If you can you may be suited to this career?
The various other sections of the proposal will, most likely, have a strict word count. Each is designed to give the grant maker a full picture of how their money will be used by each applicant. Can you convey empathy for the beneficiaries of the programs that need funding? Can you elicit compassion from the grant makers while illustrating how your no-nonsense program will help THEM reach THEIR goals?
Grant writing is a combination of fact-reporting, story-telling, and copywriting that substantiates the need as well as your solution. It requires technical writing to report the facts, and journalism to convey the benefits to people. It also requires some quality improvement skills. This means being able to do the measurements necessary to both justify your need, and to report measurable outcomes that prove the value of your program.
But Wait! There’s More
Most new grant writers are surprised when they run into non-profit organizations (NPO) that are so miserably unprepared to submit a proposal that they wouldn’t be likely to win an award. Would you know what to do? If not, don’t let that discourage you. Even seasoned grant writers want to know how to overcome this hurdle. Here’s how I did it.
When I started writing grant proposals in 1989, I was completely naive about the grant writing processes. I just jumped in and started searching for funding and writing proposals for a rural hospital district. Right away, I ran into problems.
Often, I couldn’t find key people who had critical information I needed. This may have been statistics that justified their program, budget information for the financials required, or even signatures.
Other problems came up because programs weren’t really ready for funding and program managers changed statistics and descriptions of need and amount. One program manager kept changing the details right up to the last moment, including hair-splitting ones involving which pronoun to use. Murphy’s Law was alive and well, as the main copier went down, and the little one in her office was barely adequate for the six copies of 75 pages that we needed, in addition to staff from all the other departments dropping in for “just one quick copy.” Our hopes for this $300,000 government grant were squashed when the post office refused to post our proposal because we arrived just a minute or so past five on deadline day.
In another situation, it was merely by accident that I found out that another department was writing for the same grant I was applying for. Fortunately, only one was submitted. Imagine what the grant makers would think while reviewing two applications from the same NPO, and clearly, neither knew about the other. One of the big assumptions by grant makers is that the applicants are well-coordinated with partners and other services offered in the service area. This would easily reveal that we didn’t even know what was going on within our own facility.
We needed a system, so I developed one. One of the biggest aids in developing our systems was our continuous quality improvement program. We had just finished implementing this system and were enjoying great success with it. It’s simple steps enabled anyone to identify the specific causes of problems and solutions that would resolve them. Often the solution were new, revenue-generating programs. In fact, the programs this system helped us produce were what led us to seek grant funding. And, using that quality improvement program, along with the lessons learned from our mistakes, I developed an early version of my Stress-Free Strategic Grant Readiness, Planning and Management system.
Initially, we simply figured out all the steps that needed to be done while writing and submitting an application, and wrote them up into a procedure that every department would follow. If they wanted to write a proposal they HAD to let me know so that no one else would write a competing one. Alternatively, we had an opportunity to combine programs into a single request, and further refine the programs that were developing. It was a pretty simple system, but it worked well.
Over the years, working for different types of NPOs, it was clear that this system wasn’t a one-size-fits all program, nor was it even complete, itself. Over the next ten years I developed forms and sequences that did make this program a one-size-fits all, as each of the elements are modifiable to suit large or small NPO grant funding needs; simple or complex organization structures; and many or few employees.
Grant writing is in constant change
One of the biggest changes that has been developing over the last 20 years is the concept of grant readiness. While this can mean different things to different people, we all agree that, at minimum, it means that the NPO is ready to implement its programs, knows the exact need for their programs, just what role they will play, and has criteria set to meet all of these requirements.
My original grant readiness checklist was just 1-½ pages long. It was pretty impressive for its time. But, in light of my current seven-page checklist, it overlooked quite a few important details. Even today many grant writers don’t know what grant readiness is, or how to determine whether their NPOs or clients meet that specification. Without being grant ready these days, it would be very hard to win a grant award. Would you like to be the grant writer known for your grant readiness expertise? Read on…
The point is…
As easy as it is to enter the grant writing field, you also will want to have the skills to assess whether your client NPO (or employer) is ready to take on this huge funding and reporting commitment.
If grant writing is your choice – it does pay very well, by the way – consider, also, learning, right away, how to manage the strategic planning, grant readiness, quality management and other organization skills that you will, eventually, have to learn. By knowing these skills before you approach NPOs, you’ll be armed with a billable service that you can use to help your client become fluidly organized and grant ready, while salvaging a client that you might otherwise not be able to work with. But there’s no need for both of you to lose income. My 4-hour, self-paced course gives you the skills to turn non-viable clients into revenue sources for you, while increasing their chances of being funded.
My Stress-Free Strategic Grant Readiness, Planning and Management course has been discounted 50% to just $75.00 for this combination of three separate courses. But this offer is only good until April 4, 2016. You still have 30 days to review it for a full money back guarantee. Otherwise, you will have lifetime access to this course.
Please decide soon. This course will be “unpublished” on April 4. That means that after that date it will be available only to enrolled students, but not for new enrollments. Udemy is making some changes that prohibit keeping this combination course live.
However, at present, two of the three parts are live on Udemy. The third is in development. Also, the entire course is also available as a home study course (no video access, just the manuals and toolkit.)
Here are the details of the stand-alone grant writing courses on Udemy:
Win More Grants by Becoming Grant Ready: $50, 1 hour, lifetime access
Learn to make your NPO Grant Ready. Includes editable checklist and rights to use for your employer or clients.
Click for special price of $39.00
CQI/TQM for the Rest of US: $50, 2 hrs, lifetime access
Learn a simple, highly effective quality management system that anyone, even a high school student can use to make improvements.
Click for special price of $39.00
Stress-Free Strategic Grant Planning & Management: $50, 1+ hrs, lifetime access
Learn a truly stress-free system of planning and managing your grant submissions, and rest easy.
This course is not yet live. Please Check Back.
In the meantime, get lifetime access to all three courses in one course, discounted to $75. Available ONLY until April 4.
Home Study Course
If you’d rather have the home study course, which includes the full text book (used for the video script) and all of the forms, data base and examples in a downloadable toolkit please visit our Grant Planning page at http://adhocgroup.net/AHG/Grants.html. Visit here to see the entire table of contents.
Image Credit: Title: How to run an effective meeting; Photographer: Nguyen Hung Vu; Minor changes made; License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/