Some thoughts about grant writing

Photo by Churl

When I wrote my very first grant, I had no idea what I was doing. I leaped at the opportunity to write a grant so I could have that experience under my belt. At I can honestly say that I probably didn’t do all that great of a job…I got the money…but I saw several typos and upon reflection, realized I had made numerous mistakes. I thought I would share some of my lessons learned, so maybe you won’t repeat my mistakes đŸ™‚

  • Proofread, proofread again, and when you think it is perfect, proofread one more time.

I can’t tell you how often I see grants with typos, errors, etc. My first grant had some, and it’s likely yours do too. It’s very difficult to get every single typo in a 10-20 page grant, but you should try, and proofreading is the best way to help avoid all those typos.

  • Don’t wait to the last possible minute to write the grant.

I have done this, as have most people. Waiting until the last minute guarantees you will be stressed as you rush to get your grant done in time. You won’t be able to proofread it as well or as much, people will be less willing to help you, and it overall won’t be as good as it could be. Plus, it doesn’t look that great to the funder when you call them the day the grant is due with a question about the application requirements.

  • Use other staff.

I often find that the grant writer (or whichever development staff person that gets stuck with/volunteers for grant writing) is a lone pillar. They write the grants on their own with minimal outside help. Often times they are using templates from past grants. Please try not to do this. While it is completely ok and often good to use templates/past grants when writing a new grant, don’t just copy and paste. Make sure to talk to other program staff. Sit in on your organization’s programming. Attend the class or day program. Experience it first-hand. This will make you a better writer. Plus, having an ongoing relationship with the program staff ensures that you have the most updated information on that program. Programs, especially new ones, tend to slightly alter themselves as they grow and develop continuously getting better. Last year’s grant may not have the most updated and relevant information.

  • Finally, use updated research!

Some organizations don’t use research period. You read their grant and they make their case, but don’t really back it up. Others do back it up, but don’t have the most relevant or recent research. This is important – particularly incorporating evaluation information. Funders want to know why your approach works, why it is best, and why it is needed. Including statistics like “One in three teens currently get no education about birth control at all, and of those who do, many do not get it when they need it most—before they start to have sex.” when writing an application for comprehensive sexual education, or “Children whose parents read to them tend to become better readers and perform better in school” for a family reading program, they can help build your case and demonstrate the need for support. But don’t only use this sort of research, use internal research and evaluations. Include evaluation information from your program, for example 90% of program attendees increased competencies after attending X program as evidence by pre- and post-test results (for this, you would need to be evaluating your programs).

If you have your own lessons learned or tips, please leave them below for others to learn from!


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