Simple 10 Step Checklist to Write Winning Grants
#1: Read the entire Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) / Request For Proposal (RFP)
This may seem apparent, but you’d be surprised how many nonprofits send me a FOA or RFP and request I write the grant for them, and they are not even eligible to apply. The worst thing is if you put together an entire grant application and submit it… just to receive a notice that you weren’t eligible to apply.
Other things you can catch by reading the entire FOA/RFP are priority areas of the grant program, what to include in the grant, what is allowable for funding, page limitations, if there is matching required, and much more.
Read it in its entirety before you go for it!
#2: Set-up a Grant Team Meeting
This team may even just consist of you, the grant writer. But pretend you have a team and delegate yourself to different responsibilities with different deadlines.
Why? Because you still want to make sure each part is completed! It’s like creating an operational manual for your company as a solopreneur. You still develop different job roles and tasks for each thing that needs to get done and sometimes it is YOU doing all of the roles. But somehow compartmentalizing it really helps!
If you have a team, even better! Your team is optimal when it includes your Executive Director, Bookkeeper/Accountant, Lead Grant Writer, Grant Coordinator, and a Specialist. For more extensive info on this, please refer to Podcast 003: How to Build a Grant Writing Team!
#3: Prepare Any Forms that are Required
That last-minute bio from a board member might throw you off and cut it too close to a deadline.
Last week, I had a client that could not get their bookkeeper to send their Annual Operating Budget to them on time for submitting a grant and they missed the deadline. This is after we had been asking for it for months. Needless to say, the executive director was bummed. The entire grant was ready except for that attachment that was required by the funding source.
Make sure you get all those attachments secured and put them in a folder early on.
#4: Identify the Specific Problem /Need for the Grant
What is really needed in your community?
Have you completed your due diligence and research?
You should really do this step even before you are looking for grants, as this step is primarily to make sure you have this information and indicate problems or needs for this specific grant project.
You may think that there is a high prevalence of poverty in your community, but do your statistics to support it? Where did you get the statistics? Are they from relevant resources within the last five years? For every problem or need that you want to solve, make sure that you clearly use evidence (i.e. citations) for these issues.
A clear problem could be, “According to the Post (2017), 75% of the single moms in the Post community earn less than the poverty threshold of $22,000 per year.”
You can utilize census reports, newspaper articles, published papers, interviews, surveys, focus groups, and more.
Once you know your needs and they are supported, you can then…
#5: Create the Goal
Okay, now how are you going to solve the problem?
These steps all kind of happen simultaneously and a rough draft can be created in one sitting.
For example, at your grant team meeting. What is the goal? Well, it should be to solve the problem you identified.
Example Goal: “For single mothers in Post community to earn a living wage.”
How are you going to reach that goal? By doing this next step…
#6: Create S.M.A.R.T. Objectives
You reach your goal through objectives. As you layout objectives, they should be:
Example objective: “By the end of 12 months, 50 single moms in Post community will graduate from the workforce training program with a certification in healthcare or construction management.”
Now, something to look at is, how do you achieve your objectives?
#7: Create the Action Timeline
Each objective needs specific steps or activities completed to have it fully executed. If your objective is: “By the end of 12 months, 50 single moms in Post community will graduate from the workforce training program with a certification in healthcare or construction management,” then you need specific steps, people responsible, and deadlines in which to roll out the objective.
Some examples of activities include the following:
A first activity could be to hire a program manager and program coordinator by the end of the first month; completed by the executive director.
The next step may be that the program coordinator will curate workforce trainers in healthcare and construction management by the end of month two.
An additional step could be that the program manager will start an awareness campaign to recruit participants by the end of the second month.
This would go into detail to ensure that the entire objective is completed. By doing this you have a chance to see if your project is realistic because next, you need to …
#8: Create the Budget
If the grant was for $200,000, do you have enough funding to get 50 single moms through this program?
This is when you break it down and examine each activity, under each objective, to ensure that you have adequate funding.
Do you have enough funding to hire a full-time program manager and program coordinator? Maybe they can only be part-time?
How much do you have to train workforce trainers?
Maybe you don’t have enough funding to hire the workforce trainers, but this grant would enable you to partner with an existing workforce training program by paying for stipends for the women to attend the training.
Have you provided funding and activities for success? For example, if you are serving single moms below the national poverty line, then are you providing childcare or rent?
Every objective needs to be fully funded! Now you created the action timeline.
#9: Create the Project Design
Time to pull all the sections of the grant together. This is where you make sure you have covered everything, give your organizational background, experience, resumes, job descriptions. And double-check to see if there is an abstract or project summary required!
#10: Review and Submit your Grant Application!
Okay, now you are ready. Give a final review and get ready to submit!
There you have it, your Simple 10-Step Checklist to Write Winning Grants:
- Read the Funding Opportunity Announcement / Request for Proposal in its entirety
- Set up a grant team meeting
- Prepare any forms that are required
- Identify the specific problem/need for the grant
- Create the goal
- Create S.M.A.R.T. objectives
- Create the Action Timeline
- Create the Budget
- Create the project design
- Review and Submit your Grant Application!
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