I was honored to spend the day last week with more than a dozen nonprofit professionals who came together to learn about grant writing. I facilitated a training through Spertus Institute for Learning and Leadership and led the group through the entire grants process – we discussed the funding landscape and general operating v project specific grants. We looked at 990s and spreadsheets for how to best organize and prioritize research. We talked about outcomes v outputs – about not measuring how many workshops you offered but what change came about as a result of those workshops. We dove into budget and tips for writing a successful proposal. And we heard first hand from an executive director of a private foundation what she looks for in evaluating funding opportunities. And through it all, one of the biggest themes that wove through all of these elements, is that grant writing is not a solo experience. It takes a team of people throughout your organization to participate in the process. As a grant writer, you may not be the person that is actually carrying out the program or collecting the data; you may not be the subject matter expert on the need your project seeks to address; and you may not be the one setting the funding priorities for your organization. Therefore, it is up to you to bring these folks together, as your grant team, multiple times, throughout the process, for input, expertise, guidance and agreement. I strongly suggest holding a grants planning meeting before setting out to write a grant. Below, is my version of the A-List for such a meeting…
A Grants Planning Meeting
- Attendance required – Executive director/senior staff, program staff, development staff, administrative and finance staff – all hands on deck
- Align project with priorities – Does this project fall under the organization’s funding priorities? Is this part of our strategic plan?
- Assign responsibilities – Who is responsible for the budget? Who is putting together the attachments? Who is gathering statistics?
- Agree on timeline – And build in extra time for review, feedback and editing (and then editing again!)
- Answer questions – At what point will we move forward with the new program? Where are the matching dollars coming from? Do we need additional staffing for the project?
Holding the planning meeting is the first step in working collaboratively with your grants team. It is your job to remind folks of their deadlines and keep them accountable. Communicate often and share your narrative for feedback. Building the collaboration at the beginning will help ensure a successful grant proposal and management of the project.
Next week Amy will be back to talk about the solicitation of major gift prospects. Until then, feel free to share thoughts and questions about grant writing, please contact us with any questions about your project, and enjoy our freebie this week!