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The “G” in the G.R.A.N.T.S. Formula
By Holly Rustick
I am really excited to share with you my G.R.A.N.T.S. Formula that I created specifically for you! This will be in my revised Wish Granted! book, but I’m super happy to share this with you today before the book is even released.
The G.R.A.N.T.S. Formula is my proven framework for when you are writing a grant. This Formula will provide a foundation for setting up a competitive and winning grant structure.
I’ve received many emails from people saying that they’re struggling with the learning process of writing grants and gaining experience with grant writing. This formula will help you achieve exactly that! It will also help you go from staring at a blank page and being overwhelmed, to having a draft developed in no time at all!
Let’s get into some of those tricks with our “G” from the G.R.A.N.T.S. Formula.
“G” - Get the FOA or RFP and use it as a template
Here are the steps for the first letter in my formula:
- Read the entire FOA or RFP (Yes, I did need to write that )
- Every grant is different! Remember this!
- Keep all the items that are requested by the FOA or RFP and use the criteria as headers in your application. If it is a federal grant, use the scoring criteria (usually towards the back) as the framework for ALL your headers.
Just what the heck is an FOA? you may be asking.
FOA stands for “Funding Opportunity Announcement”. This is general lingo with federal grants, but other terms also include “Request For Proposal” (RFP) or “Request For Application” (RFA). Yes, as a grant writer you’ll be able to wrap yourself in a blanket of acronyms.
Now, we’ll cover each step in detail, including an example, so you can get a feel for the process.
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1. The first step you want to complete is to actually READ the entire FOA/RFP and use it to create the outline for your grant.
The good ole Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or Request for Proposal (RFP) is the information published by the funding source that tells you how they want you to write the grant! For federal grants, you can find these listed on www.grants.gov.
FOAs generally include the priority and mission of the funding agency (what they are looking to achieve with the grant funding), eligibility (who can apply), deadlines (when the grant is due), technical requirements (font size, margins, page number limitations, etc.), sections they want you to respond to (such as needs, budget, etc.), scoring criteria, attachments required, and contact information.
Now, this may sound pretty basic, but the simplicity can be overshadowed by grant jargon as well as pages and pages of government requirements. A typical federal FOA can be up to 70 pages because of required attachments and drawn out information. It can look and feel very complicated. Other times, some FOAs are only four pages, and you are dying for MORE information. Sometimes too little information is more confusing than too much information.
The good news is that there should be a point-of-contact program officer included in the FOA. You can contact these people (yes,they are real people!) and ask any additional questions if you have them. Be aware that there are usually cut-off dates for asking questions. That’s exactly why one of the steps is just to Get the FOA and read it.
Foundation grants are a bit different. Foundation grants are usually, but not always, easier to understand. For extra help, you can pay to use Foundation Directory Online, but you can also utilize GuideStar or Google.
More often than not Foundations are now putting their applications (FOAs or RFPs) online. This is great as it will walk you through the process of the application, but what I have found is that some of these are new processes and all the kinks haven’t been worked out yet. So, be sure to go through this process early!
In any case, be sure to read the mission and vision of the Foundation (which may be listed on a different page of their website) so that you understand the ethos of the Foundation.
2. All FOAs and RFPs are not created the same. It is up to the federal agency or the Foundation to create their own structure.
The FOAs are all EXTREMELY different. Each agency uses their own format. It is frustrating in the beginning, but as you write grants you will get used to it. Much of the information is similar, but the format of the actual announcement is different.
Some foundations will want you to submit via an online application and others (sigh, still) require a hard copy application be delivered. Luckily, most do ask for the same fundamental elements.
So, how do you save a jillion hours and actually be ‘on point’ crafting your proposal when all FOAs and RFPs are completely different?
3. Make the FOA criteria your grant application headers
Responding to an FOA or RFP can feel challenging. You’ve opened up a blank document, and now you’ve got to dissect the FOA or RFP. What do you do?
Well, the first step is to download the FOA or RFP and utilize it!
Let me give you an example so we have something to work with:
In the Changemaker Membership, my company has started to fund a micro-grant program where I am actually giving out a very small mini-grant that is ONLY available to the Changemaker Members. I created the grant so that members could test their grant writing knowledge, get feedback from an expert, and possibly win a bit of cash!
I wrote up an RFP and sent it out to all the members. For this RFP, I included:
- The mission of Grant Writing & Funding “To create effective systems that simplify the nonprofit process, grow capacity & increase funding for grant writers.”
- The background for Grant Writing & Funding and reasons why the micro-grant fund was created.
- The priorities to be toward programs that focus on innovation, diversity and sustainability.
- Details regarding eligibility, which is that they have to be a member.
- Submission deadline
Next, I laid out the funding criteria by asking relevant questions, such as:
- How does your grant project relate to the priorities, mission, and vision of Grant Writing & Funding?
- Showcase your need by including relevant statistics, documentation, and other information. What will the benefit be?
- What is the main goal(s), objective, and timeline? Include S.M.A.R.T. objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time-bound), and what the timeline is for each activity, who will implement the activity and by when?
- How will the project be rolled-out? Who will be in charge, are there any partners, or is there a selection process?
- Amount requested, including budget and budget narrative ($100 ceiling awarded for this grant, but ask for full amount needed): Create a budget using line-by-line categories and describe each element in a narrative form.
- Attachments: Include a minimum of a resume. Added points for letters of support, organizational chart, quotations, etc.
I then told them the formatting required:
- Use Times New Roman, 12 pt. font
- Graphs can be 10 pt. font
- One-inch margins
And finally, I gave them the scoring criteria:
- Relevance to priorities, mission, vision of Grant Writing & Funding: 10%
- Demonstrated need/benefit: 20%
- Project, Goal, Objectives and Timeline: 30%
- Project Design: 25%
- Amount requested, including budget and budget narrative ($100 ceiling awarded for this grant, but ask for full amount needed): 10%
- Attachments: 5%
This is basically what FOAs and RFPs request a majority of the time. I am being stringent on deadlines and formats because I am mimicking how other funding sources do this so that all members become better grant writers and learn how to write an excellent grant.
Now how do you go from a blank page to a grant draft that will give you the most competitive framework?
After READING the FOA or RFP and understanding the language that is used, as well as the priorities and mission, you can simply copy and paste it into a Word doc and use the scoring criteria for your headers.
Relevance to GW&F priorities, mission, and vision
Here review GW&F’s priorities, mission, and vision and align the nonprofit’s project with each of these items.
The Demonstrated Need and Benefits
Here do research and use stats to show the needs and also show the benefits to the community.
Project Goal, Objectives, and Timeline
Create a project goal that is related to a community goal. Create a S.M.A.R.T. objective and include a timeline graph
How will the project roll-out? Do we need to hire anyone, who oversees who? How will we select beneficiaries? Is there a sustainability model developed?
How much do we need? Does it meet the cap of the grant? Are we leveraging any funds?
Do we need to add any specific attachments such as resumes, letters of support, or IRS nonprofit status?
Ta-Da! You’ve quickly gone from a blank page to actually having the template to your grant AND you know what you need to do next.
This step may be a no-brainer for some of you, but I hope it has helped others out there. It is often the simplest steps that will help you become a competent and efficient grant writer.
You basically have a draft now, so what’s next?
Well, next week I’ll go over the R in the G.R.A.N.T.S. Formula: Research Needs and Target Demographic.