Grant Writing Tip #1 – Understanding Funding Announcements
When I was in college, I had a professor who would hand out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester and describe it as a “contract.” The syllabus contained an outline of the semester ahead – what the class could expect of him, what he would expect of us as students, key dates, evaluation criteria, and instructions on when/how to contact him with questions. It was very detailed, and it was very helpful.
Grant funding announcements are like my professor’s agendas. They outline what applicants can expect from the funder, what the funder expects from applicants, key dates, objectives of the grant program, evaluation requirements, contact information for when/how applicants can ask questions, among many other useful items.
They have many names and associated acronyms (NOFO, NOFA, FOA, RFP, etc.), but they all serve the same purpose. They announce the availability of grant dollars, and they detail everything a grant writer needs to know in order to submit a competitive proposal.
My tip for you is to familiarize yourself with funding announcements. Try not to “hunt and peck” your way through a funding announcement. Rather, read it... really read it several times to familiarize yourself with the requirements.
I get it. It’s not fun, and funding announcements are not known for their literary beauty. The writing is usually dry, and it’s hard to justify spending a lot of time reading when you’re on a deadline.
But the familiarity and confidence you gain when you thoroughly understand a funding announcement will save you time, effort, and (most importantly) stress as you prepare a proposal.
Grant Writing Tip #2 – Be a Trapdoor Spider
For this grant writing tip, we turn to the animal kingdom for a lesson on how to “hunt” grant funding.
There are two main hunting methods that correlate to grant seeking: ambush predation and pursuit predation.
Ambush predation is also known as the “lie-in-wait" method, and it is what it sounds like – predators stealthily hiding, waiting for unsuspecting prey to come close enough to ambush.
Pursuit predation includes a predator chasing its prey. Think of a cheetah chasing a gazelle.
Of course, this is a loose analogy. I want you to see grant funders as helpful partners, not as literal prey. But you get the idea – predators in nature need prey to survive. Non-profits need funding to serve their communities.
My encouragement is for you to incorporate an ambush predation method in your grant seeking. Take the trapdoor spider as a good example. The spider spends its time and energy getting ready for future opportunities. It creates a burrow, builds a cover for the entrance, and senses vibrations of prey as they near the burrow. When prey is close enough, the spider quickly throws off the cover and ambushes.
In grant writing, “building a burrow” looks like gathering documentation and planning a program. If haven't already, gather common documentation required for grant applications: contact information, tax IDs and SAM registration, your organizational history or founder story, organizational budgets, audits, board member information, your service population, etc. Then design your program. Define the need you seek to meet, gather data to illustrate your need, define your goals, determine your evaluation criteria, plan your budget, and plan a plan for sustainability.
Once you have done that prep work, your burrow will be in good order. You will be well-equipped to pounce on an opportunity when it arrives.
Pursuit predation, on the other hand, requires enormous amounts of energy repeatedly – every time a hint of an opportunity comes up. This method might work for a cheetah, but it rarely works for grant writers. Pursuit predation in grant writing – chasing every lead that catches your eye – leads to a low rate of success and a high rate of burnout.
For long-term success, take a lesson from the trapdoor spider. Prepare ahead of time and be ready for opportunities to come your way.