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Grant Writing Tips and Best Practices
The Accidental Grant Writer

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17 Apr 2015

What is a Grant Writer?

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What is a grant writer? Does a grant writer “just” fill out forms all day? Or “just” spend their time writing all day?

It is always an interesting conversation when someone has not met, worked with, or interacted with a grant professional before to explain to them what a grant writer, or as many of us now prefer as members of the Grant Professionals Association, what a grant professional is.  I had the good fortune to have that conversation again the other day. I will admit, I always enjoy these conversations as it gives me the opportunity to understand how our profession is viewed by the public. (Everyone knows what a teacher is, what a doctor is, what a lawyer is…not everyone knows what a grant writer is.) It also gives me the opportunity to explain what it means to be not just a grant writer, but a grant professional, and one step further, not just a grant professional, but a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) through the Grant Professional Certification Institute.

In this specific conversation, it was a pleasant dialogue about the work that I do, the variety of clients that my team and I work with, and the success that we have for our clients. However, the acquaintance surprised me at the end of the conversation by saying, “You know, you shouldn’t be called a grant *writer* or a grant *professional* but rather a grant *getter.*”

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Letter writing may seem like a lost art, but done well, it has the potential to open doors for funding opportunities. Our last few posts talked about celebrating successes, managing grants, and tracking.  Often the first step in being able to do any of those activities is writing an effective letter of inquiry.  Many funders prefer to get a letter of inquiry in order to learn more about your agency, understand your ideas, and determine if it is a good fit with their mission.  Letters of inquiry can serve multiple purposes including saving time for both funders and grant seekers and building relationships. Your letter of inquiry should be a brief, clear, concise description of your agencies strengths, knowledge, and abilities that leads the funder to want to request a meeting and/or invite you to submit a full proposal.  The following describes points to consider including in your next letter.

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14 Nov 2014

Plan, Track and Manage Your Proposal

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From my perspective, one of the main challenges of being an accidental grant writer is learning how to balance both the before and after of a grant.  What does it mean to plan, track and manage your proposal?  How do you find a balance between these critical tasks?  How do you prioritize?  In theory if you plan and track well, then management should fall into place.

Planning:  As the cliché goes, Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  The first step in writing and managing any grant is planning.  Effective planning involves time management, seeing the big picture, as well as understanding details.  Planning is involved in finding funding sources, building funder relationships, and engaging in a grant writing process – all best practices we have discussed before.  Not having a plan can lead to missed deadlines, unorganized proposals, and missed opportunities.  On the other hand, proper planning can lead to a concrete road map to meet your organization’s mission and goals.  Use calendars and task lists to ensure everyone involved understands the plan and moves forward together.  These tools can also be helpful for the next task at hand.

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31 Oct 2014

You Were Grant Funded – Now What?

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We have all been there, you read an RFP, put together a strong application, send it in by the deadline, and…move on to the next task. This is the way of the world – until you receive the good news – your proposal was approved! You are now grant funded! This recently happened to me and I had a realization that I only had a general recollection of what we actually proposed to do. Along with the congratulations came many questions, such as how many staff will be hired and what is the sub-contract budget – questions I didn’t have concrete answer for. This time of year is crazy for many of us as grant and programming worlds collide. We are wrapping up programs and documenting outcomes, while simultaneously starting up new programs and implementing plans to achieve outcomes.  A systematic plan will ensure a smooth start and ultimately impactful programming.

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17 Oct 2014

Sustainability For Grant Projects

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The DH Leonard Consulting team has written about grant ethics several times, obviously a topic we hold in high regard.  My last post provided an overview of the Grant Professionals Association Code of Ethics, which led me to think about the part of a grant application I find the most difficult to write – the sustainability section.  Grant writing is not fiction writing – a fact that is important to keep in mind when putting together information on project sustainability.  It is often too easy to say what we thing a funder wants to hear.  In order to put together a compelling, fundable proposal, yet remain ethical in our practices, it is vital to be logical and realistic, while being positive and hopeful.  Funders want to know how these activities will be supported after the grant ends.  Sustainability describes a plan for continuation and/or the availability of other resources necessary to implement a project.  During the initial planning phase, the following questions should be asked.  Affirmative answers demonstrate the need for a strong sustainability plan.

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