Grant Writing 101…


Good Morning and Happy Friday!

The start of the weekend is here and time to reflect on how great this week has been. As we speed through August and prep for September, we are fully aware that the 4th quarter is upon us. Beginning the year hot is one thing but closing it out even hotter is even more impressive. So as you assess the year that was, make sure it is shaping out to being the year you have envisioned.

One of the things I want to talk about today and won’t have the ability to sum up in such a short post is GRANT WRITING. Grants can be the lifeblood to many agencies big or small. Grants provide needed capital and resources to organizations through the fiscal year and reporting period. So much so, that having a dedicated grant writer or development director is now a common line item in the budget. But the real quest is getting the grant!

I have the pleasure of sitting on a few committees that process and award grants to community agencies along with working with agencies that receive them and writing them myself. My experience with “soft-money” goes back over 15 years when I first began working at the Mecklenburg County Health Department and needed to provide monthly/yearly results to the State and Federal government so I could keep my 100% grant funded job!

Most people believe that grant writing and procuring those funds is an easy task. Just sit, write and tell the people how much you need their money. So not the case and you will fail each time. While there are no magic tricks or guaranteed theories that will work every time, there are a few things you can do to help your cause. Hence, GRANT WRITING 101…

Shall we begin? Let’s…

  1.  Pilot the program well before you ask for a grant: This step is often missed because many people believe that their idea is solid without proven results. Wrong! You will need to show the funding agency that you know what you are doing and how it will work.
  2. Documentation is key!: If you do not document it, it didn’t happen. And then you cannot prove to the funding agency that you did it or that it does work.
  3. Grammar and spell check: I cannot count the amount of times I have seen paperwork that had great programmatic ideas but terrible spelling and grammar. How can a funding agency trust you with starting an educational program when the organization starting it cannot even spell?
  4. Eliminate the high salaries: Point blank, period. Nothing evokes the ire of a funding body when they read your requested budget and see exorbitant salaries for the Admin Team. Is this about getting rich or helping others? Furthermore, the amount needed to run the program is excessively low. If your salaries are over 69% of your total estimated budget, trim it. Or best of luck next year!
  5. Find a niche program area or zip code: Everyone is doing mentoring. Everyone. So what else can you do that is different and set a part? Find an area of town that has been neglected and do your program there. Do a program that adds value outside of the normal categories. Get noticed by being noticeable.

While this is not the totality of GRANT WRITING, it is a good start. There is much more to the process before and after. Grants can be a great way to build internal capacity or expand programs. But do not rely on them for overall sustainability. A healthy agency knows when to wean themselves from the soft-money and develop hard-line items.

As always, thank you for reading and if you need further help, please contact me or JSW Media  Group for consultation. Have an awesome weekend.


Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]


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