Am I Grant Ready?

At Areeva, we are fortunate to have a diverse team of experts from various backgrounds that have played leadership roles in serving the grantee and grantor communities. Today we share a story from one of our leaders….

Recently, I was working with an organization to write a $5 million grant. As we went through the planning process, I realized that they had a concept of what they wanted to do but had not gone through the process of developing a detailed plan for their program. “We’ll work out the details if we get funded”, I was told. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have come across this belief.

Is this organization likely to be funded? No.

Nothing is more frustrating than watching a good organization not receive funding because they chose not to put the work in to create a well-defined program before they submit their grant application.

The first thing to understand is that applying for a grant is a highly competitive process. Some funding requests receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of applications. Of those, only about 10-20% will be funded. The question every organization needs to ask itself is “What will make my application stand out over everyone else?”.

TIP #1 – START EARLY

Most organizations that are awarded large government or foundation grants have spent months planning and preparing their application for submission. On average, it takes about 120 – 200 hours to write a government grant and 60-90 hours to write a foundation grant. That doesn’t include the time it takes for program planning, establishing partnerships, gathering documents, registering with the correct entities, and making sure your agency’s policies (including financial) and procedures meet federal guidelines.

TIP # 2 – CLEAR & DETAILED PROGRAM PLAN

Think about it from the funder’s perspective. They want to invest their money, whether it is $1,000 or millions, into projects that are well-defined and have a high likelihood of success. When a program they funded is successful, it makes them look good and often helps that funder secure additional funding in the future (we’ll discuss this in more detail in another article). So, when a funder begins to review a grant proposal, they immediately begin to evaluate if the program in the proposal has been thought out and clearly defined. If it is not, they will likely not even bother reading the rest of the proposal. Therefore, you must take the time to clearly define your program in detail well in advance of submitting a grant proposal. Things to consider:

  • Logic Model – Logic Models get a bad rap, but they can be very effective in developing and clarifying a program. They can also be very effective if you make them a ‘living’ document that is updated regularly. There are many resources for how to create a logic model (we will go into depth in another article), but for those who struggle with them, The Tearless Logic Model, created by a group at Wichita State University, might be a good resource for you.
  • Step by Step Program Mapping – This may seem tedious, but it works for both new and already established programs. Start by writing down every step of your program from the perspective of the people you are serving. For example, a client walks in the door to your organization – who greets them? Where do they go? What do they do? What happens next? – Continue this process until you are no longer providing services to a person, group, etc. This process will help you define a clear process and help determine what personnel and resources are needed to not only implement your program but measure its outcomes efficiently and effectively.

By starting with these two steps, you will be well on your way to creating a grant proposal that stands out and increases the likelihood of receiving a grant award. In our next article, we will discuss the importance of ‘organizational fit’ and creating measurable outcomes.