10 Keys to Writing Successful Grant Proposals
by Gina Beckles
Dr. Gina Wilson Beckles
Let’s say you’ve been given the task of writing a grant proposal, even though you are basically a proposal “virgin.” You have no idea where to begin. Don’t throw you hands up in exasperation! Just take a deep breath, relax and exhale. Then sit down an formulate a plan regarding how you will accomplish this task. Just take one step at a time remember that getting a grant is doable and the first key to successfully securing this grant is having an award winning proposal. In order to increase the likelihood of your grant being awarded, just remember the following 10 basic rules.
- Give them what they want. Follow the application guidelines exactly, especially all deadlines. Granting agencies write their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in specific ways, for specific reasons. Therefore, if you really want to be awarded a grant, you must follow the instructions to the letter.
- Be very specific about which targeted population and/or community you will be serving. It is impossible to help everyone and grant reviewers know this. Therefore you must identify which population you are going to serve. For example, it is much better to apply for a grant that helps homeless children in the city of Orlando or battered women in North Brevard county than it is to apply for a grant that will be used to “feed the people”.
- Apply for your grant through an existing organization as opposed to a start-up. It is very important that a track record be established, even if it means partnering with another organization so that they can bring their reputation and experience to the table.
- Seek funding for new programs or new components of existing programs, not routine operating expenses. The purpose is to serve the targeted population, not to supplement your organization’s budget or do things such a buy your church a new van. Therefore, the more resources you come to the table with, the better.
- Present you idea as an idea that prevents or reduces a community-wide problem. Grants are awarded for the betterment of society and the more people that are positively impacted by a grant, the higher the likelihood that it will be funded.
- Often involve community partnerships or collaborations. It is much better for two or more organizations to collaborate on a project than it is for one organization to take it on all by itself. Of course, there are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances where one organization would be better equipped to handle a program. By the overwhelming majority of programs really need plenty of support in order for them to run effectively and efficiently.
- Be very explicit and specific about all key aspects of the grant (i.e. who you will be serving, how budgets will be expended, etc.). Once this proposal has been accepted, stick to it to the “T” unless you get written authorization from the issuing agency permitting you to deviate from the originally agreed upon proposal.
- Be realistic in designing the project. Granting agencies have a lot of experience therefore they can easily determine which proposals are unrealistic and undeliverable. If your agency is unsuccessful in reaching its program goals, then everyone looks bad, including the issuing agency. Therefore, if you want to be taken seriously, make sure that you proposal is sound and well thought out.
- Specify how and when your program is going to be evaluated. Granting agencies usually have specific requirements regarding how and when each program must be evaluated. Spell out how you are going to accomplish this so that the agency will know that you will take their reporting requirements seriously and that you are going to follow through on all requirements of the program from start to finish.
- Finally, re-read rule #1. I can’t emphasize how important it is to follow the application guidelines exactly. I had to repeat this because it is very important.
Good luck grant writing!