Dear Experienced Grant Writer:
I have four years experience in grants and I joined a new company where the expectations for completing a proposal are a bit unrealistic. I plan and wrote a federal cooperative agreement a couple of months ago in just three weeks. This took me at least 2-3 hours each evening of the workweek and some hours each weekend just to complete the proposal and the proposal was not strong in the end. I have similar expectations for private/foundation grants, completing most of these proposals for a 2 or 4 year project period in 2-4 weeks. Then another tight deadline right after submission of the previous proposal. Project team members also just provide me with a PPT slide, direct me to the company website, or provide some data but don’t seem to understand that a grant writer doesn’t plan and write award-winning proposals independently. I’m very concerned about quality, burnout, and how to communicate to leadership that I need more time and commitment from the project team to plan and write proposals. What would you recommend?
Dear Heroic Grant Pro,
Congrats on the new job! Being the new person can be a stressful time, especially when you are unfamiliar with the territory. However, this is a great opportunity for you to get to know your supervisor, your co-workers and your organization. First, review previous proposals, if available, to understand the programs, previous methodologies, and budget aspects the organization utilizes. Determine any lapses or inconsistencies in the information available. Second, express to your supervisor that you want to produce your best work and increase your chances for being funded. Review the information lapses you have gathered and let your supervisor know that you need this information to complete grant proposals. Be very specific about the information you need, the approximate amount of time it will take, and identify the co-workers best suited to provide the information. Seek feedback from your supervisor on additional ways to obtain the information you need.
Once you and your supervisor have agreed on who from and how to get the information you need, start reaching out to the appropriate co-workers to start setting meetings to get the information you need. Provide as much context and information about the request and meeting upfront so that your co-workers can come prepared. Create the environment for a collaborative relationship by coming prepared with as much background information as possible so that it can be an exchange of information.
Last but not least, build a toolkit from all the information that you gather. You should have a template for every program that you write grants for so that you do not need to recreate the entire proposal from scratch every time. This will save you some time and effort in the future. As you progress through this process, be sure to be patient with yourself. You won’t know everything on your first day or potentially even your 30th but eventually you will.
All the best,
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