All done! You’re finished partnering with a grant writer and successfully submitted a competitive grant application addressing funding agency priorities and requirements, solving a community problem, budgeting necessary costs, and attaching required documentation. Moreover, it was a smooth process, involving only a few minor hiccups and leaving everyone happy with the outcome. Obviously, you did it right—closely collaborating with your grant writer, project team and partners from the beginning, defining expectations and roles and establishing a realistic timeline.
Expectations and Roles: You are the expert, responsible to identify the problem, decide what needs to be done to solve it and line up partners or other needed resources. Your writer is responsible for putting it all together. Grant writing is technical writing, requiring clarity, organization and structure to give reviewers a complete picture of the size and nature of the problem in your community, a solid understanding of how the activities proposed solve the problem, and assurance that management and other resources are adequate. But this is a partnership, and in reality, you, the writer, your planning team and partners will work together to gather and organize information. Following are some guidelines to ensure that the process goes smoothly.
1) Read the Request for Proposals (RFP). Highlight priorities, requirements and evaluation criteria. Your writer will create a narrative outline around evaluation criteria, and the two of you will check and check again that the narrative covers every single requirement.
2) Work with your writer to prepare a problem statement. A good problem statement describes the problem from three angles—causes, consequences, symptoms—and sets you up for precise objectives and outcomes.
3) Prepare a submission checklist. Add a list of expected letters and/or Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to the checklist of agency requirements and evaluation criteria prepared by the writer.
4) Confirm the timeline and schedule all reviews. Check the schedule of anyone whose approval is required for submission and work that into the timeline immediately.
5) Help the writer compile needed information. In most cases the writer does not know your city/county/organization, and he or she will need lots of information:
- Your organization’s administrative structure, mission, vision, services provided, history of working with the target population, etc.
- Data describing the target population and depth of the problem being addressed.
- Web sites and research resources on city/county/state data related to the issue as well as research resources related to “best practices” your project will implement.
6) Design your plan. Work with your writer to design your plan around the following:
- Goals (broad statements that incorporate your vision);
- Objectives (specific, measurable, time-framed steps to goals) with related activities and resources;
- Management (personnel responsibilities and timeline—who will do what and when); and
- Evaluation. If you will contract with an outside evaluator, identify and involve them early in the planning process.
7) Build the budget. Think costs as you plan. Your writer will help by preparing a spreadsheet to total costs and calculate any required match as you go.
8) Start early on letters and MOUs. Decide who you will need letters from, ask the writer to draft or draft yourself and submit the drafts to partner/support organizations at least 4 weeks prior to submission. If you need letters of commitment, the letter should list services the organization will provide. If said services are to be included in a match, ask the organization to include an estimate of the value of the services. If MOUs are required, start circulating drafts at least 4 weeks prior to submission. Assign someone to collect signed letters and MOUs, convert them to PDF files and send to the writer.
9) Gather resumes and/or job descriptions. Send these to your writer as you collect them.
10) Check your application and submit early. Use your submission checklist to confirm that all information and documents are included and in the correct order. Submit your application at least 48 hours (preferably 72 hours) in advance of the deadline.