Ten Tips for Effective Grant Writing
Carefully read the application information provided by the granting organization.
Basic questions are generally answered in a FAQ’s or “How to Apply” section. This is always a good place to start to learn about the organization from which you intend to request funds. Also review the organization’s “About” section, their funding priorities, and grants they have recently made for other projects.
Make sure you choose a granting organization that is a good match for your project.
No matter how great your project is, you are not likely to be funded if it is not in line with the interests of the granting organization. Sometimes it is possible to emphasize aspects of your project to make it align with priorities of the grantor. An experienced grant writer can help you determine how best to approach an application. Sometimes, it is just not a good match and your time would be better spent elsewhere.
Be clear that your project meets the eligibility requirements for the grant.
Many granting organizations require recipients to be legally established 501c3 corporations. Others may limit the types of applicants or projects they are willing to fund (example: only schools or libraries; only municipal agencies; no projects to pay for operational expenses; no projects focused on animal welfare, etc). This will always be addressed in the eligibility section of the organization’s grant materials.
Complete your budget before seeking any funds.
Know how much your project is going to cost. Is this amount in line with other grants made by the organization you are approaching? Are you able to pay for some of the costs locally? Will materials or time be donated by volunteers? Some funders will only pay a percentage of a project’s cost. Some will only grant funds if other granting agencies are already contributing. Some require a local contribution or specific match. If you have a budget in place first, you will be able to know whether a granting organization will be a good match for your funding needs. Grant funds may not be used to pay for previously completed work. So, do not add previously purchased items or materials to any grant you are seeking.
Be clear on your fiscal reponsibility.
Before you apply, consider how you will take care of the money you receive. There are legal and tax reporting requirements regarding money received through grants. At the end of your project, you will need to let the granting organization know the funds were expended according to the budget in your application. If it turns out your initial budget needs amending, you will need to request permission to make changes PRIOR to spending those funds. Will your group or agency be responsible for this fiscal accountability or will you need to establish “fiscal agency” with another organization to handle this requirement. NOTE: Grant funds should never go into a personal or private banking account.
Does the grant timeline work for your project?
The grant process takes time. You need to write and submit the application; the granting organization reviews the applications; a board of some kind usually meets to prioritize the applications and see how many requests can be honored by the available funds. This can take UP TO A YEAR depending on the funder. Additionally, be clear on the “grant period”. How much time will your project take and how much is allowed by the grantor? Many grantors require unspent funds to be returned if not expended within the grant period. Make sure your project fits with the funding timeline. NOTE: You may NOT use grant funds to pay for work completed before the funds are received!
Be clear on your responsibilities once the grant funds are awarded.
This very often includes some kind of reporting obligation. Depending on the granting organization, progress and financial reports may be requested quarterly, or only once at the completion of the project. Some organizations also request that you publicize the fact that your project was made possible by their grant. If your project includes construction or acquisition of items such as furniture or equipment, many funders require identifying plaques to be affixed.
Have clear support from your group’s authorized decision maker(s).
Sometimes great project ideas originate within a larger agency or group. Be sure the project has the full awareness and support of the “governing” part of your organization. This will make the project stronger and the application and reporting portions of the grant process easier. All grants will required an “authorized signature”.
Be sure you have not skipped any part of the application.
Remember that grants are competitive. If a funder requests a site visit, or if you are required to attend a funder’s board meeting, be sure these conditions are met. Additionally, if your application is hard to read, missing answers, or the information provided is incomplete, it will be scored lower or even rejected. Most grant applications include a “final checklist” to help you make sure it is complete.
If you have questions about the grant process or are unsure if your project is a good match, call!
Granting organizations want to help you be successful! Staff, board members or trustees are often available to help determine whether your project is a good match. It is always better to make sure you are going down a likely path before you expend a lot of time on a grant application. Finally, remember that even if your project is stellar in every way, grant funds are not unlimited. Great grants can go unfunded because there wasn’t enough money to cover all the great applications! Don’t give up, ask for feedback, and try again if you are encouraged to do so.
We hope these tips will help your project get the resources it needs to succeed. Whether you are applying for UCP funds or support from another organization, double check this list before submitting your application. Our aim is to help you bring more resources to our community and to your projects.
Have any questions? Ask in the comments.
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