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{Article} Advice from the World’s Most Successful Grant Writers

When it comes to writing grants and getting awards, you could read thousands of pages of information and still not have enough. That’s because the best advice you will ever get is from the people that have written grants. A lot of grants for that matter. After writing thousands of grants over the last two decades, we have found that there are a few things you can do that will instantly increase your chances of an award. Here are a few pointers to get started:

  1. Know how long it takes you to read and write– This may seem like an odd one, but time management is often one of the main issues that grant writers face. You will need to know: How long it’s going to take you to read the grant guidelines? How long does it take you (on average) to write a page? Do you have templates for letters and MOUs created? If not, how long will it take you to develop them? How much time will you need to research evidence-based practices and curriculum? The list goes on and on but knowing “how long” will make the entire grant application development process easier and allow you more time to spend perfecting the details.
  2. Know the grant guidelines and read them multiple times– The first time you read the guidelines you will be familiarizing yourself with the program and the requirements. Make notes and highlight important parts to cross reference. The second time you will find information that you passed over. The third time you will start to truly absorb the information. You will be surprised by how much information you find during your third review, that you missed during your first and second reviews.
  3. Start writing nowDon’t wait until you have everything ready. Begin your narrative outline as soon as possible and start writing. A bad first draft is still a first draft (note, this doesn’t mean share it with anyone. It just means start writing. Make sure you have thoroughly proofread it before sending it to anyone). If there are sections that need more information add notes in the draft narrative. You can type “need more information….” into the document and highlight it for reference later or you can add a “comment” using the Review Tools in Word.
  4. Check your registrations early– On day one, you should make sure that you have all the necessary registrations to submit the grant. Do you have an active SAM account, grants.gov, and DUNS number? If it’s a foundation grant, do you have the online portal login that is required for submission? The registration process for some of these can take several weeks to complete, so get started on them as early as possible.
  5. Get your forms and letters out of the way– If there are required forms for the application that need to be signed, get them signed as soon as possible. There is nothing more frustrating that running around last minute ahead of a deadline to get forms signed and it can be very frustrating for the signor to have to stop what they are doing to meet your deadline. Make sure that you get the forms to the authorized signors as soon as possible. Also, try to make it as easy for them as possible. If there are parts of the forms that you can fill out, fill out those portions first. Then send the form to the signor, so they can easily sign it and send it back. If you need letters of support and/or MOUs make sure to customize them for the appropriate parties and if possible, create complete documents so they can easily copy the text from your document onto their letterhead, sign, and send it back to you.
  6. Double check your eligibility– When you apply for several grants a year it is easy to assume eligibility, but it is essential to make sure that you are eligible for the specific grant, otherwise  you might be wasting your time applying. Some grants require additional partnerships to be eligible, while others may have a very broad definition of eligibility (example: eligibility listed as Community Economic Development Agency or an Alaska Native Organization rather than 501c3 nonprofit). If a partnership is needed, make sure to work on securing that partnership as soon as possible. In the meantime, continue working on the narrative. You don’t want to put off developing the application only to be scrabbling to put everything together once you finally secure the partnership.
  7. Get appendix items together early– You will need to include multiple appendices in your grant application. These appendices include resumes, job descriptions, organizational charts, legal status documents, financials, etc. If you get these required items together early, then you can review them for content and format. For example, you will want to make sure that the resume your colleague sent is up to date. Are the financials the most recent available? Does the organizational chart represent the current structure and program? All these things are issues that need to be addressed early.

There are hundreds of tips that the World’s Most Successful Grant Writers could give you, but these simple tips will get you started down the road to success. Just remember when you look back at your application, did you follow the rules? Does your project make sense? Are you writing to the funder’s priorities? If you move your grant writing efforts in this direction you will eventually get awarded. It’s just a matter of time.

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