Grant Writing Basics – Tips for a Rock Solid Grant Strategy

Wouldn’t it feel great to be more confident about meeting grant deadlines? Using a grant seeking strategy will set you up with a solid plan. And, it’s something that can be used over and over again. Preparation is key!

Chess pieces. A game of strategy, just like Grant Writing

You’ve got a great project you’d love to bring to life, but money is tight.  

Maybe you’ve thought about applying for a grant to help you achieve your goals but don’t really understand the landscape.

You would know that most grants are competitive. And that you’ll need to allow a decent amount of time for your staff to complete a grant application. Are you worried there’s not enough time to do it well?  

Add to that – if this is your first time, you may not even know how or where to start the process.

That’s where I can help. I’m here to give you some advice on all of that (and a bit more). In short, it’s rarely about what you do during the grant application period and more about what you do before the opportunity becomes available in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Read on, fellow grant seeker.

The “False” Start to Grant Seeking

I call it a ‘false start’ when it’s clear you’re not prepared for the process ahead in applying for grants. 

There’s plenty of stuff that should happen before you start looking for grants. Like any business, you need to know what you’ve got and what you need for any given project. An inventory, of sorts. This narrows down the types of grants you’ll seek, as they’ll be more aligned with your cause. Your tie is valuable, so use it wisely by putting the pieces of the puzzle together in advance. 

By that I mean – have a grant strategy. Rather than searching for a grant and mashing all the information together on the fly, you can stay one step ahead by knowing what’s needed, and when. Putting together a grant application takes planning, foresight, and knowledge of the process.

A strategy is especially important if you know you have more projects in the pipeline, or if the current project will need an injection of funds at different stages. It really is worth your time to develop a solid grant strategy that you can use for all future grant applications.

The advice contained here will give you some idea of the flow of work, and what kinds of things you can have at the ready before you start grant seeking.

Ok, where should I start, then?

Well, first up, you’re best off developing a draft project plan. This document will be worth its weight in gold going forward. Writing out a project plan clarifies your goal while making it easier to tell when something is missing or not quite right. Highlighting those things in the very early stages can save massive headaches if you’re left scrambling for information while staring down a deadline. 

You’ll never regret putting a project plan together because it will be used in numerous ways throughout the grant process. Plus, it has a life beyond the grant it was written for.

At a minimum, your draft project plan should contain things like:

  • Preliminary scope, including aims and objectives
  • Resources, human or otherwise, and expected capabilities
  • A ballpark budget (min-max) for the project overall
  • Some preliminary quotes to give you ballpark figures to work from
  • Notes on the quality of items/ level of service
  • Some forethought to risk management/mitigation
  • Other considerations like marketing, volunteers, dependencies, or collaborations

Having a draft project plan at the ready means you waste less time searching for grants that don’t align with the funder’s intentions. Your project plan makes it clear what you have to offer, along with the who, when, why, how, and where. It will also save time because you can cross-reference with the eligibility criteria and see at a glance if it’s a match. The questions in the grant application ask for exactly this type of detail, you’ll have it all to hand when searching and applying for grant opportunities online.

The "Actual" Start to Grant Seeking

This is the step where you actively start looking for grants you could be eligible for. You’ve done the groundwork with your project plan, so you know exactly what the goal of your project is. Now you need to find a funder who aligns with those project goals.

There are many online resources for grant seeking. If you’re brand new to this, do a Google search for the terms that suit your project, e.g., “funding for capital works”, “funding for startups”, or “funding for women in business.” From your project plan, you’ll have some idea of the resources needed, along with the kind of budget you’d hope to be working with, and this will likely point you in the direction of funders who can help.

If you know of similar projects that have been funded in the past, you could start there by looking to see who the funder was, which business was awarded previously, the amount of funding provided, and how it was used by the recipient. 

Getting your ducks in a row

Using information from your draft project plan, you’re ready to find funders who align with your values and goals which will give you the best chance of success in gaining a grant.

My advice for this is to set up a simple spreadsheet, showing:

  • The amount of funding required for the project (from your draft project plan)
  • The funder’s details e.g. State Government, Australian Research Council, Environmental Trust
  • The minimum and maximum amount of funding on offer
  • The dates on which the grant is available (including closing dates)

Any other details you find helpful can also be included. For example, if you’ve been able to look at the grant documents and know in advance which types of attachments will be required, pop them into the spreadsheet so everything is immediately visible.

There’s no limit to how many opportunities you can add to your spreadsheet. In fact, the more the merrier, especially for funds that are seasonal or always open until funds run out. Keeping a record like this essentially gives you a grant calendar, showing you when your next opportunities are coming up and giving you plenty of time to prepare.

And as we all know – preparation is key.

Guidelines and Eligibility

It cannot be stressed enough – thoroughly read the guidelines and eligibility criteria. A lot of time and money is wasted when people don’t pay enough attention to the criteria, or they believe being ‘close enough’ to the criteria is good enough. It’s not, and it’s always an immediate ‘no’ for those who haven’t followed the guidelines or met eligibility requirements.

If you’re not sure about your eligibility you can always call the funder to ask for advice.

Remember, it’s in your best interest to follow the guidelines closely. The funder is actively looking to give money to those who can show the viability of their project, so make sure you meet all of their criteria.

Guidelines commonly contain information about the grant itself, including:

  • The grant amount and the period of availability
  • The eligibility criteria
  • What the funds can be used for
  • How your project will be assessed, via your proposal & attachments
  • How to apply for the grant
  • How they select & notify grant applicants
  • Your reporting requirements during and at the end of the project

While specific eligibility criteria change with each grant, some common requirements are:

  • History and status of the business or entity, relevant to the grant opportunity
  • Ability to meet financial & staffing requirements for the project
  • Location, if relevant to the grant opportunity
  • Project scope must fall within the stipulated financials and expected outcomes
  • Capability and merit in the use of resources, including the expertise of staff allocated to the project
  • Some encourage partnerships to bring the project to fruition

So, there you have it. It’s both that easy and that hard.

This list may have helped you decide that preparing to write a grant application is something you can handle on your own. If so – Bravo!

However, if you decide it’s too time-consuming and you’d like to outsource (in whole or part) to a grant writer, or you’d like to talk about your application process, you can always contact me here.

Did you find this guide helpful? Do you use a different process?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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