Monday, September 8, 2008

Grant Writing Basics


Hopefully you have looked at the sites I recommended in my previous post (8.19.08 Grants for the Classroom) and have found some grant opportunities of interest. Now what?

Here are a few basics:
Make sure there is a good match between your project/funding needs and the grantmaker’s interests/requirements. Yours may be the best project ever, but if your classroom is in Georgia and the grantmaker funds only Iowa-based grant requests, you will be wasting your time to go for that grant. Find a good fit!

Make sure there is adequate time – 3 to 4 weeks, at least – to complete the grant application, get all the necessary administrative approvals and signatures, and submit the grant on time. Some grantmakers require that the completed grant application be in their office by a specific time on the date it is due. Others simply require a postmark (not a postage meter label) or proof of mailing through an overnight carrier on or before the deadline date. Make sure you know what is required and plan accordingly. If possible, request proof of delivery. Your carrier can tell you how to do that.

Make sure you set your personal deadline earlier – at least a week earlier – to incorporate additional time to allow for the unexpected. There are so many things that can go wrong: the copier breaks down; your car breaks down; a person whose signature is required is out of town; the Internet connection goes down; you run out of toner or ink for your printer or copier and all the stores are closed; etc. Never, ever, never plan to submit a grant application on the day it is due. Even submitting the day before can be risky. Grantmakers do not extend deadlines.

Make sure you have followed the grant application requirements exactly. Exactly. For example, if the grant narrative must be in 12-point type, don’t use a narrow version unless the grant guidelines tell you that is okay. One-inch margins mean exactly that – top, bottom and sides – not 0.9 inches. Is there a word or character limitation? Write and edit your draft in Word and check it against Tools>Word Count, editing until everything fits. And, yes, for “character count” include spaces.

And a few more words:
Collaboration! Funders love collaboration. It extends the impact and reach of their money. Find the right collaborator(s) – within your school or between schools – and you cut the work in half or better. The right collaborator(s) share your work ethic, your interest in the project to be funded, your attention to detail and your commitment to meet the deadline.

Checklists. Make two.
#1.) Go through the grant guidelines and list all items that must be included in the grant application package. Then prioritize and begin working your way down the list. For example, if letters of support are required, they should be high on the priority list to give your supporters plenty of time to write letters and get them to you.
#2.) List all narrative and budget requirements so you will include everything. Then check them off as you include them.

NOTE: Don’t skip this checklist creation step! Often grant requirements are buried somewhere in the verbiage of the guidelines and may be easily missed.

Correctness, completeness, clarity and coherence. Proofread to eliminate typos, misspellings, grammar and usage errors, etc. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is an inexpensive, invaluable little 56-page resource. Buy it. Use it. Then use Checklist #2 (above) to check for completeness. Finally, ask a friend or colleague who is not involved in the project to read the application for clarity and coherence. If that reader gets confused or lost in the application, so will the grant reader/evaluator who will be making the recommendation to fund or not fund your application. Re-write if necessary.

That’s all for now. More to come …

Sandy Spruill is the Grants Administrator for Georgia Public Broadcasting and a member of the American Association of Grants Professionals.

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