The Competitive Advantage and Head Start of Pre-planning for Large Grants

Imagine you are standing on the starting line of a running race. The race official says when my arm drops and the gun goes off, you all get to start. Then they point at you and say, BUT, before I do that, YOU get to start NOW before the rest of the field. After you get over the surprise of the unexpected head start, off you race. The rest of the field will be hot on your heels, and some may catch you, but definitely not all, and your competitive advantage by starting early is seen by all as you cross the finish line.


The analogy above makes a lot of sense to me, not only because I am a runner, but because I spend MANY hours each fall at cross country meets across New York State cheering for my youngest daughter. Yet, even if you are not a runner yourself, nor have ever been to a cross country meet or running race, the idea of having a head start in *any* type of competition is something I believe you can likely create a mental image for in your own activities.


These competitive advantages in grant-seeking for large grants (federal grants, state grants, and yes, even large foundation grants) are the act of pre-planning. 


Pre-planning activities are designed to help your grant team and your organization sort out some of the key details that are likely to be needed for a large and highly competitive grant application without as much pressure as the time period between when the grant application opens and when it is formally due. The application period never feels like quite enough, whether 30, 45, or 60 days, given all the other commitments that your key grant team members will still have on their plates during that time period.


The order in which our team recommends you approach pre-planning is to create drafts (not finalized, not set in stone, but working documents that are a starting point for the real application) of the three following elements:

  1. Logic model – A draft of the key elements of your program/project design. A logic model may or may not be required as part of the application, but having that blueprint for your application will allow you to answer a wide array of narrative questions you may be asked. You can use a logic model template if previously provided as part of the funding process you are planning for, or you can use a generic template to translate at the time of application, like the one available in our Logic Model Guide.
  2. Project budget – A draft of the broad strokes of the TOTAL cost of what you have laid out in your logic model, INCLUDING overhead/administrative costs, that is laid out in a format that makes sense to your organization. You can translate this into the grantmaker’s form once released and also customize it to request what are eligible and allowable costs. This step is to ensure that the program design you drafted in the first step with the logic model is potentially right-sized for the funding proposal that you anticipate opening and that your design isn’t too small or too large for the opportunity.
  3. Workplan – A rough outline of the key activities, who will conduct them, and when they will take place. Like the logic model, you can use a workplan template if previously provided as part of the funding process you are planning for, or you can use a generic template to translate at the time of application. 


Any progress you make toward having rough drafts of these items before the expected application opens is your equivalent of the head start in the running race. Therefore, any pre-planning work by your grant team should be celebrated as a great activity within the organization that you want to encourage to happen more in the future.


Do you want to learn more about pre-planning?

Join us for a brand new hands-on workshop our team is offering with CharityHowTo for three consecutive Thursdays in November for 90 minutes each session. Learn more here.

You can also mark your calendars and join us for our December Lunch and Learn introduction t pre-planning. Learn more about that 30 minute FREE session here.

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