Article: Get Ready for Your Best Grant Season Ever

 

Dr. Deborah Montgomery

Dr. Deborah Montgomery

Happy Holidays grant friends. It’s Deb Montgomery here again, writing this month’s blog on ways in which you can prepare for the 2017 grant season. Being a grant writer for over 26 years has provided me with a special vocabulary when it comes to grants. I just realized this and the fact that many novice grant professionals may not know what we – at Resource Associates – refer to as “grant season.” So let me give you a two second run down before I dig into tips and technique.

What is Grant Season?

At Resource Associates, we look at the 12 month/one year calendar in two segments. There is grant season and then there is award season. Depending on the passing of the federal government budget, these two segments can differ from year to year in context to the exact months that fall within each season, but typically, grant season takes place between January through the end of June. Grant award season occurs from July through October.

Grant season represents the time of year when the majority of Request for Proposals or Applications are released. Money has been approved by funders, RFP documents are being created, grant reviewers are being recruited, and proposals are actively being sought by funders.

Grant award season is the period when submitted grant proposals are being reviewed and funding decisions are made. For federal grants, most funding decisions are made before October 1. There are exceptions to these statements but all you need to know for this blog is that grant season is gearing up. For federal and some state grants, much of the funding that will be given will still be affiliated with the Obama administration and law that has already been passed. Keep reading Resource Associates’ blogs for updates on how the Trump administration will impact grant funding on various government levels.

2017 Grant Season

As you may have read in our “Preparing for Grant Season” email, Resource Associates recommends securing one or more of three different services to help your organization gear up to acquire as much of the Obama and private funding remaining for 2017. These services include:

  1. A Grant Opportunity Report (GRO). A small investment of $500 will provide you with a detailed overview of high potential grant opportunities that your organization is eligible to apply for and likely to be awarded along with a statistical assessment of your award probability.
  2. Strategic Planning Session. Resource Associates customizes all of its sessions to the specific needs of your organization. The session could act as a forum for your leaders, stakeholders, and partners to establish funding priorities for the next year (or up to ten years). It can also act as a work session where open MOU’s, letters of support, and other partnership documents are created and signed to include in grant applications for the upcoming year. There are many more content options on top of these suggestions for you to talk about with your Resource Associates’ outreach member (505.326.4245).
  3. Program Planning Session. These sessions can range from two hours to two days depending on your needs. During our face to face or video-chat time together, we will meet with the staff, stakeholders, and partners of your choosing. We can conduct a needs and resource inventory and analysis to assist with program content planning. This is in addition to Resource Associates’ being able to create a scope of work, business plan, and/or logic model of the initiatives you intend to pursue in 2017.

I will be blogging about each of these services over the next few months, but for this blog, I am going to focus on the Program Planning Session. This is one service we don’t talk about a lot so I hope you will find this information useful even if you decide to conduct such a session on your own.

As mentioned above, a needs and resource inventory is often delivered to the session participants (or other community entities at the request of our clients). For school district clients, these entities are usually school principals, school nurses and counselors, community based organizations that work with the schools, etc. For nonprofits, these entities greatly depend on the type of work the nonprofit is doing and who the work is serving. Although the content of the needs and resource inventory differs for each of our clients, the document is designed to gain the same information – information that is needed to form a grant program or initiative. This information includes but is not limited to:

  • Personnel available (time/in-kind vs. grant paid compensation) to dedicate time to the program. Fringe benefits needed.
  • Materials, supplies and building space available for the program either donated or paid for by the grant. This includes computers, phone systems, publicity materials, desks, curriculum, etc.
  • Professional development, staff incentives, and/or other contractual resources needed for the program as donated or compensated by the grant.
  • Travel resources and needs.

When considering these same categories (personnel, materials/supplies, contractual, and travel), the inventory will ask stakeholders for needs specific to the programming that is planning to take place. If no discussion has occurred regarding the type of initiative(s) the host organization will pursue in 2017, it may be best to hold the planning session first then conduct the inventory. Click here to download an example inventory that Resource Associates uses with clients. Some inventories can be very specific to one specific initiative, others can be broad, asking the stakeholder for an account of all community/organizational resources and needs. The downloadable example is broad in scope.

I will get into the depths of grant program planning in the coming months, but for now I am going to provide you an action item list of what Resource Associates does when it conducts the Program Planning Session:

  • Conduct the resource and needs assessment inventory among all stakeholders and partners selected by the client.
  • Develop a spreadsheet that lists all inventoried organizations in the top of the columns of the spreadsheet and all specific needs indicated in the far left rows. If using a broad inventory tool, the needs will become abundantly clear. When I was a grant writer for a school district, almost all of my teachers and principals indicated they needed an additional copy machine, toner, and paper. I was really surprised by this as well as their indication for the need of additional school counseling staff. Take a wild guess what every grant budget contained that I wrote from there on? FTE’s, toner, and partial rent towards copiers. By the time I left that position two years later, every school in the district had an extra copier, a stockpile of toner, and four new school counselors. (I am patting myself on the back in my mind right now.)
  • Start creating your funding constant spreadsheet. A funding constant represents a budget line item that is absolutely necessary to implement a grant program. Resource Associates’ consultants will build your initiative budget of in-kind and needed grant dollars by analyzing the inventory results. We then review the information as a group during the Program Planning Session so that nothing is missed. The planning group will then make additional recommendations of evaluation tools, curriculum, technical assistance needs, and other “wish list items” that they would like to see incorporated into the ultimate grant program.
  • When I conduct a program planning session, I will have already familiarized myself with the organization’s and stakeholders’ needs and will have conducted the $500 GRO report for the main client entity. This report offers a forecast of the federal, state, and foundation grants available now and in 2017. As new grants pop up from time to time, being a GRO report client places you on the list for Resource Associates’ automated grant alerts. With this, you will be sent free notifications of grant opportunities throughout the year when grants are available. We can also include your partners and stakeholders on the dissemination list.
  • When a grant looks like it is a good fit for your organization and partners based on the program planning session, Resource Associates will begin to build the proposal. This includes the creation of a scope of work or logic model – detailing the who/what/where/when/why of the program as well as a detailed budget. For those partnerships and organizations who already have pieces of their initiative and partner focus in place, we are able to create templated memorandums of understanding and letters of support that can be submitted with upcoming proposal(s). I will talk in more detail about how we do this in my spring blog.

I hope this information was useful and, of course, wish you the very best of luck, joy, and happiness in the 2017 grant season and new year!

Deborah Montgomery, CEO Resource Associates

 

 

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