The Grant Geek Blog

What We Know About Federal Programs/Grant Funding Under the Trump Administration

March 9th, 2017

What to expect under the Trump Administration

“Unpresedented” seems to be the word most use to describe both the presidential campaign and the new administration – and no other word can better describe what we’re dealing with when it comes to federal and state grant programs in 2017. It’s a Brave New World. We’ve all heard the rumors about federal departments having their funding stripped away or — even more unnerving — being abolished altogether (see list below). It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of fear and uncertainty, especially when everything is happening so fast and we’re all trying to make plans for the programs and projects that help those we serve. So, what should you expect?

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5 Reasons Why Hiring a Grant Writer is No-Brainer

February 28th, 2017

grant writing helpWhether you are new to grant writing and fund raising or whether it is “old hat” for you, there are lots of reasons that hiring additional capacity to assist you with applying for and winning grant applications can really make sense. Here are our top 5 reasons:

1. The cost

In almost every practical application, it is less expensive to hire a grant writer or grant writing firm on a case-by-case basis then it is to pay a talented writer a salary and benefits on an ongoing basis. When you outsource, you only pay a grant writer when that person is working. Also, a lot of similar grants are due around the same time … sometimes exactly the same time. It is very difficult for one person to write multiple proposals at the same time or even within a few weeks of one another. If you outsource this work to a company with multiple writers, they can typically handle multiple proposals at once so that you don’t miss opportunities or aren’t forced to choose only one opportunity when there are two or more that you should be applying for.

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Why We Think You Are Grant-Ready When Other Consultants Don’t

February 8th, 2017

John NawrockiBy John Nawrocki, Business Development Manager, Resource Associates

So, your community has a number of needs and you have some amazing ideas about how to address them. Maybe the river that runs through your town needs to be cleaned up. Maybe kids in your neighborhood lack positive things to do on the weekend and after school. Whatever these needs are, if your ideas to address them benefit the community as a whole in any quantifiable way, you should apply for a grant. You have heard about the millions of dollars in government grants that go to social causes every year and you’ve probably made some calls to grant writers and consultants. But unfortunately, despite your incredible enthusiasm and terrific idea, you may have heard consultant after consultant tell you that you have a lot of work to do before you even think about applying for a grant. There are a lot of consultants and grant “experts” truly and deeply invested in what they deem to be “the process.” And, if you haven’t followed it, they’ll tell you that you need to start from the beginning… their beginning. Before you know it, your idea isn’t the organizing principle, and the need isn’t the foundational cause. Rather, the consultant’s “process” becomes the focal point, and literal years will pass before your idea is funded.

I’m here to tell you that if you have the vision you are ready to get started. Grant writing can and should begin at the same time that you identify the problem you would like to solve and a grant could pay for your costs associated with solving the problem. There are a number of things that you need to do to prepare, but not having these things in place does not mean you are dead in the water, and it doesn’t mean you have to do them all one at a time, in a specific order. (more…)


3 Perks that come with Outsourcing a Grant Writer

January 25th, 2017

grant writing takes time and talent that you likely don't have on staff

“Just get a grant,” a Board Member says enthusiastically.

We’ve all heard these 4 little words and we silently think to ourselves, “If it was only that easy…”

If it was only that easy… then there would be an unending funding stream that allowed you to reach all your outcomes, hire all the staff you need for programming, administration and reporting, and there would be no “need” in your community because everything would be planned and executed with the utmost efficiency.

But… It’s not that easy.

Because along with trying to write a grant for a need within your community, you are already wearing too many hats, working the maximum number of hours and it’s creeping into your personal life.
However, let’s just assume that you have the time, why should you still outsource a Grant Writer? (more…)


Get Ready for your Best Grant Season Ever

December 19th, 2016

 

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.

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5 Ways to Thank Your Grant Partners

November 23rd, 2016

Close-up part of top view of group of four young people holding hands and showing their unity with smile while sitting on the couch at office

A strong component to your grant application is the inclusion of formal community partnerships to show the review board and funders that other community agencies are invested in the outcomes of the potential new project. So, once you are funded and begin implementing your program, how do you maintain partner engagement and thank your various community partners for their commitment and investment in your organization? Whether your organization is engaging with new agencies or maintaining a long-lasting partnership, it is vital to thank your partners. Thanking your partners does not always have to cost anything, but should be personal and sincere.

Although this gesture may seem small, a simple thank you card can go a long way to show your appreciation. Set aside some time to develop a unique and earnest message thanking partnering agencies for providing the various services, monetary contributions, and their time towards the success of your program. Sending out these thank you messages should not be a one-time occurrence, but should be issued quarterly or a couple of times a year to continue to show appreciation and promote multiorganizational cohesion.

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6 Spook-Free Tips on being prepared for a Grant Site Visit

October 28th, 2016

Dr. Deborah Montgomery

Hello all. It’s Deb Montgomery here again (Board Officer of Capacity Builders Inc. nonprofit and CEO of Resource Associates Grant Writing Firm). I’m blogging you today on the topic of site visit preparation. My nonprofit, Capacity Builders Inc. (CBI) is the recipient of approximately $3.5-$5 million dollars in grant funds at any one time. Nearly all of our dollars come from federal and state sources. We just had our last site visit from the State of Arizona this week and have had ongoing visits from other funders almost monthly throughout the past year. One thing that all of my Board and executive staff have learned is that being organized from the date of the award till closeout is vital to your site visit success. Any funder should be able to walk into your office at any time to assess whether your organization is on task or has fallen behind in accomplishing your goals, objectives, grant obligated tasks, and spending. There are many blogs online about site visit preparation so I really wanted to target this blog to those busy nonprofit executives whose life would be so much easier if they were to prepare for their site visits every day of their grant periods as opposed to scrambling right before the visit.

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Grant Evaluation: The Most Overlooked and Misunderstood Part of Grant Programs

October 25th, 2016

Evaluation is an essential component to any awarded grant, whether it is from a foundation, state or federal funder. Not only is evaluation important to you as the awardee in order to know if your program design and activities are being effective in making the changes in the targeted audience that you are concerned about, but it is important that you prove to the funder that you have succeeded, or are working to overcome the roadblocks towards achieving the outcomes that you proposed. A well designed program evaluation will also help ensure that you will continue to receive the specific grant funding for the remaining years of the award, and that the funder and others will have confidence in you to award additional grants in the future.

There are many elements that make up a successful evaluation, including having the right mindset or “buy in”, initiating evaluation at the onset of your program, and having a seasoned evaluator on staff or as a consultant. (more…)


Creating a Sustainability Funnel for Nonprofits via Aggressive Grant Writing – Part 2

August 31st, 2016

Dr. Deborah Montgomery

Dr. Deborah Montgomery

Hello again, grant fans! This is Deb Montgomery, CEO of Resource Associates grant writing firm. Today, I’m blogging on the topic of “Sustainability of Grant Programs.” This is the second blog of this series so I encourage you to read my prior blog on if this is a subject matter of interest to you.

As many of you know, I have worked as a grant writer for well over 25 years. Most of my career has involved full out grant writing for clients/employers in my immediate community. Although my organization, Resource Associates, offers grant writing services to entities throughout the world, it is much easier to identify needs and really talk from the heart when the grant impacts your own back yard so to speak.

The concept of sustainability to a professional grant writer can be vastly different than one of an executive director or nonprofit board member. As a grant writer, the easy solution to sustainability is just that…EASY. Simply write more grants! The higher quality of proposals written (including re-submissions after analyzing reviewers’ notes of non-awarded proposals), coupled with the higher volume of submissions, oupled with the discussion of proven outcomes and capacity one could demonstrate in a proposal after prior successful programming should lead to continued funding and long term sustainability. Right? An aggressive grant writing strategy would make up for any potential lapse in funding according to my grant writer brain.

After founding my nonprofit, Capacity Builders Inc., I realized there was a lot more to an effective grant program sustainability strategy than aggressive grant pursuit. The strategy needs to be comprehensive AND include what I call the “of courses.” Here are my “of courses:”

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5 More Questions you must ask a Grant Writer During the Job Interview

August 24th, 2016

Smiling woman having job interviews and receiving portfolios

Previously, in our Grant Geek Blog, we shared the top three questions you should ask a grant writer during a job interview. Those three questions were important open ended inquiries that will help determine a grant writer’s level of expertise and their work process. However, sometimes you have to go back to the basics and ask some very poignant and quantitative questions that will help you further determine a grant writer’s suitability for your organization. Here are 5 more questions to ask when interviewing a grant writer:

1. How long have you been writing grants?

It is imperative for a writer to have at least three years of experience. This amount of time allows a grant writer to go through the lifecycle of pursuing a grant. There are three stages to the lifecycle: the application phase, the outcome phase and the program implementation phase. Generally, this process takes about three years from beginning of the fiscal year of the application stage, to the end of the fiscal year of the first implementation year. Please note: it does not take three years to apply for a grant and determine the outcome, but three years is generally the amount of time that elapses from the time a grant proposal is identified to the point in time that the first year of implementation is complete. During this three-year period there are many opportunities to receive feedback. This feedback is valuable to the professional development of a grant writer. It is important to determine how this feedback was received and how changes were made to the grant writer’s process thus improving their most valuable skill sets.

2. How much time do you need to write a federal grant?

The answer to this question usually ranges from four weeks to three months and is usually heavily dependent on how much information is available to the grant writer to begin the grant writing process. Once a grant writer has become skilled in their practice, they can determine how long it takes to write 20-30 pages of narrative (60 in some cases) and how long it takes them to collect the additional information that is needed for the forms, budgets, and other attachments. When answering this question, the grant writer should be able to describe a situation that may take them longer versus a situation that may take them less time. The answer to this question will help you determine your grant writer’s ability to manage time and set a timeline.

3. How many federal grants would you like to write a year?

The answer to this question usually ranges from six to 12 for the most accomplished and professional grant writers. While some grant writers are comfortable writing multiple grants at the same time, some grant writers are not. Also, it is important to know that some grant writers like to have down time between grants to allow them to clear their mind and freshen up for the next project. The grant lifecycle sometimes has a “dead season” where not many grants are available. The answer to this question will help you determine if the grant writer is going to be able to meet your goal of the number of grants pursued per year.

4. What is your award rate with federal grants?

This is a challenging question that can be very subjective. Professional grant writers can have award rates that range from 30%-75%. We have found that most grant writers with over a 75% award rate are not writing a significant number of grants per year, either because they are choosing the grants that they are writing or they are refusing to provide services to clients that they are not confident they can get awarded. Of course, there are exceptions. We would all love to be able to say that all grant writers have a 100% award rate, but the number of grants awarded per competition show an accurate depiction of the competitiveness of grant funding. The fundability of most federal grants is 25% or less. Although it is nice getting a grant awarded on the first try, there is often a lot of beneficial feedback that is received from a denial. This helps to improve the success of your project’s implementation when you write and submit the grant for the second time. The answer to this question will allow you to determine your grant writer’s ability to apply for grants with an open mind and their ability to bounce back after a denial.

5. How do you improve your skills as a grant writer?

The answer to this question will help you determine the investment that the grant writer has in the industry and their profession. We have found over the years that the best grant writers are those that are continuously invested in developing their skills and are constantly seeking professional growth opportunities. The answer to this question is not always directly linked to the nonprofit industry. For example, grant writers can grow their professional skills by reviewing communication skills articles provided by Harvard Business Review or they can attend training sessions from The Foundation Center. There really is no right or wrong answer, but the answer will allow you to gauge the writers interest in growing their professional skills.


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