Last week we highlighted the importance of addressing required attachments as the beginning of the grant writing process, not at the end. We explored work plans, resumes, cost estimates, and architectural and engineering plans. Here are some more attachments that you may encounter:
List of Services – Recently the team wrote a healthcare grant and the applicant was required to submit a list of services to be provided. Developing something like this early, with the work plan, provides a framework for the narrative, and ensures consistency with the narrative. It is a basic yet critical question for any healthcare program: what services will you provide?
Financial Analysis – A few months ago, the team wrote multiple NYS grants for healthcare system transformation projects intended to improve providers’ financial sustainability. One of the required attachments was an extensive spreadsheet requiring an analysis of costs and the financial impact to be created by the project. Something like this would be very important to complete early, not only because of the time and personnel required to complete it, but because it informs the narrative discussion of the project’s financial impact. You can’t write about the financial impact, and “sell” it to the funder, if you don’t know what it is or how it will happen.
Letters of Support or Commitment – Letters of support (“I like this project!”) and letters of commitment (“I will help fund, implement, or do something else for this project!”) are notoriously difficult to collect. The people who write these letters often serve at the executive level of their organizations and they are busy – they love your organization, but spending an hour writing a letter for a project they may not know much about is probably one of those tasks that gets moved on the calendar from one day to the next for several weeks (we all have those tasks). As soon as possible in your application process, make a list of who you want to collect letters from. Draft a template that includes the funder’s name and a project summary, and indicate where a few sentences could be added to make the letter their own, should they choose not to write one from scratch. The easier you can make this task for them, the better. Send this to everyone who you want a letter from, and give them a deadline at least 1-2 weeks of when you actually need it.
Photos – A photo is worth a thousand words. If you have the option to submit a few photos with your application, do it. Show the funder the poor conditions at the rundown animal shelter that you are going to renovate with their money, or show them the happy and engaged youth doing science experiments in your summer program.
Basic Organizational Documents – Most of the time you will be required to provide proof or your organization’s 501c3 status (your IRS letter), and often you will also be required to submit financial information such as your annual operating budget and several years worth of 990s and audited financial statements. These do not always take much time to get, as they are internal to your organization and you should already have them. However, if you do not have these documents – you are not a 501c3, you don’t have an annual operating budget, you have never filed a 990 or 990-EZ because your organization doesn’t have any revenues, or you have never had an audit, you may want to consider your organization’s competitiveness for that particular grant program (i.e. you are small and new, and have some organizational development tasks to address before you are grant ready).
How do you ensure that attachments aren’t an afterthought in your grant process?
We’d love to hear from you!
Revising your attachment completion strategy yet?
Join Diane for How to Knock Your Grantmaker’s Socks Off on CharityHowTo to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how reviewers are using the elements beyond your narrative and budget to judge your application.
11 Jun 2018
Many grant applications require attachments in addition to the narrative and budget components. It can be easy to overlook addressing the attachments when faced with larger, more pressing tasks of developing a program and writing a lengthy narrative. However, the attachments often help inform – not just substantiate – the application’s narrative and budget. Additionally, some attachments take time to collect or complete. When planning the work of completing a grant application, it is advantageous to plan on completing or collecting attachments as early as possible in the process.
Some attachments you may be required to submit include:
Work Plan – If you are applying for a state or federal grant, you are usually required to complete a work plan. Depending on the agency, sometimes the work plan is a form that you must fill out and upload as an attachment, and sometimes it is integrated into the application. Regardless of the format, it can be tempting to save this for later, especially if it is only a few pages long – however, don’t do it. The work plan, often including major tasks, timelines, and deliverables, is the big picture of what you are going to do with the grant funds, and provides an excellent framework for the narrative. You will save time by developing and finalizing the work plan – what exactly you are going to do – before you start writing a long, detailed narrative. For this reason, the budget should not be an afterthought either – do you want to spend 30 hours writing the narrative for your perfect program, and then have to delete it when you put the budget together and the program is no longer financially feasible?
Note from Diane: The third post in our series about how grant writing is not a solo sport, but rather a team endeavor when looking for the greatest level of success, it’s time to look at more analogies for grant teams. Did you miss the previous posts? Check out Nicole Sibilski, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: When Life and Deadlines Compete and Bethany Turner, GPC’s post, Grant Writing Isn’t a Solo Sport: It’s a Lot Like Volleyball.
“We’ll give you all the written materials and attachments, we just need you to quarterback the project.”
These words were spoken by a project director who brought me in to help her organization apply for state funding for a capital project last year. Written materials from a previous funded grant application were available, extensive attachments would be provided by architects and environmental firms, and another consultant experienced with this grant program offered to walk us through the application.
What does collaboration with a grant professional look like when there isn’t much to write? What exactly does it mean to “quarterback” an application? Can a “grant writer” not write?
“Grant writing” is a misnomer. Preparing a grant application is not *just* writing – it often includes research, program/project design, budget development, and project management. These elements are also essential parts of an organization’s grant readiness and grant seeking strategy before there is an application on the table. Given the variety of activities necessary to identify and prepare competitive applications, it is understandable that sometimes the collaboration between an organization and a grant professional, including internal grant professionals, will focus on project elements other than writing the project narrative.
Quarterbacking a grant application means serving as the project manager, a role which may include:
- Overseeing progress towards completing the many parts of the application, including facilitating meetings, keeping the grant team on track, and motivating and supporting the grant team during what can be a stressful process;
- Reviewing application and project components as they are developed to ensure that they meet the funder’s criteria;
- Adapting existing written materials to fit the requirements of the application – recycling narrative responses from previous grant applications or other written materials often still requires editing or rewriting to address the funder’s specific criteria or questions
- Monitoring the status of attachments that must be created, completed, or located;
- Helping the grant team understand grant requirements and processes;
- Ensuring consistency between the project narrative, budget, and attachments; and
- Communicating with the funder.
Grant development is a collaborative process, and “writing” is just one of many skills in grant professionals’ toolboxes. Having a grant professional manage the grant application, or “quarterback” it, can save busy organizational staff time and energy, share the responsibility of putting together the application, and bring knowledge and experience specific to the grant development process to the table.
What are some of the tools you use as a grant professional to help in quarterbacking a proposal?
Recently while working on a large foundation grant application, my client remarked that she was so glad to be going through the grant writing process, because she realized that additional fundraising was needed for her organization’s project. Not similar or quite so happy, but important, is the Executive Director who, a few years ago, was speechless after hearing “If this doesn’t get funded, you’ll still get something out of it.”
We all want our projects to be funded, and it’s not easy to look on the bright side of the potential of not getting funded. However, there is still a lot of value in the grant writing process and in the product, regardless of the outcome – especially if your organization is committed to the project, no matter how much fundraising you have to do, how many politicians’ doors you have to knock on, or how many grants you have to apply for until you are successful.
A grant application is a project plan. Going through the process of preparing an application requires you to think about project details that you may not have considered when developing your project idea, which provides insights that help to develop, refine, and improve the project. In preparing a grant application, your idea is transformed from a basic framework to a detailed plan of action. Details that you may think about for the first time include:
- How much will this *really* cost? Developing a grant budget often uncovers hidden costs. Have you considered all the personnel who will be needed to implement or oversee this project or program? How much time will the Executive Director spend on this project? Have you accounted for expenses such as fringe benefits (this is not just health insurance!), supplies and materials, and new technology needed to support new staff? Do you need to hire outside vendors or service providers? Do you have vendor quotes to justify your budget?
06 Apr 2018
*Note from Diane: DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC does NOT endorse any specific research tools. We subscribe to and use numerous databases ourselves in our work for our clients. The decision about which tool is the best fit for a specific grant seeking organization is based on numerous factors.
The Foundation Directory Online (FDO) Professional is considered by many grant professionals to be the gold standard for grant research – although, not the only tool that should be used. Funders are indexed by facets such as Subject, Geographic Focus, and Support Strategy. There are thousands of specific search terms that can be used to identify funders. For example, I can search for funders who are located in Buffalo, NY (or I can expand it to Erie County, or expand it more to Buffalo-Niagara-Cheektowaga), make cash grants, fund capital projects, and support children and youth. Results can be broadened or narrowed by removing or adding search terms.
If you are learning how to use the FDO, here are two tips that may be very helpful in quickly finding exactly what you need:
Use the Visual Navigator
The Foundation Center provides an explanation of how information is indexed in the FDO, here. This is well worth the time it takes to read, especially to learn the definitions of the various facets and how they are applied to grantmaker profiles, recipient profiles, and grant details.
However, the part of this page that I return to every time I do grant research is the Visual Navigator, found near the bottom of the page under the heading EXPLORE. The Visual Navigator allows you to drill down into five facets – Transaction Types, Support Strategies, Subjects, Population Groups, and Organization Types – to find specific search terms and definitions. For example, in Subjects, you can select Human Services, and see narrower terms such as Basic and Emergency Aid, Shelter and Residential Care, and Family Services. Each term is defined, allowing you to ensure that your research strategy uses search terms that match exactly what you need. You may find that sometimes searching by a broader term is more fruitful than searching by a narrower term, and some facets are more important than others.