We thought it was time to go back to basics in the Grants Republic blog. For those of you who are new to the world of grants, we’ll cover a simple question: what is grant writing?
Let’s start out by defining what a grant is. A grant is funding provided by a government agency, foundation, corporation, or other entity which is used for a specific purpose and does not need to be paid back.
Grants are usually sought after by agencies like nonprofits, government departments, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities. Some grants are open to for-profit agencies, but these are not as common as grants for nonprofits and public agencies.
OK, we know what a grant is now. So, what is grant writing?
The term “grant writing” can a be a little misleading, as there are many components to a successful grant proposal that may not be considered “writing.”
Grant writing is the process of putting together a grant proposal that requests funding for a program, service, capital campaign, or general operating expenses. The main part of a grant proposal is a written narrative, so this is why the term grant writing is generally used for this overall process.
We believe “proposal development” would be a more accurate way to describe what we do here at Grants Republic. Besides writing a grant narrative, our work includes meetings, brainstorming project design elements, conducting research on needs data and evidence, budgeting, and – most importantly – strategizing.
Let’s look more closely at what is involved in effective strategizing for grant writing.
There are multiple ways we strategize during the proposal process and this is always geared to one goal: what will best position this project to get funded?
We like to zero in on the funder’s priorities and make those the center of our process.
The funder’s interests are almost always pretty clear. For government grants, the funder’s interests will be articulated in a Request for Proposals (RFP) that specifies what sort of services they want to fund, which can often be very specific, even down to the type and number of staff needed.
For foundation or corporate grants, the funder’s interests may also be detailed in an RFP, but in many cases you’ll need to do a little more digging. You can start on their website, where you’ll find information about their top funding priorities, projects they have awarded grants to in the past, and levels of funding. You may also need to go deeper and review information in their 990 filing with the IRS or use funding search engines like Foundation Directory Online.
Strategizing around the funder’s interests means we need to figure out how to develop each and every component of the project to be in alignment with those interests. This sounds straightforward, but funders usually have pretty specific things they want to fund, while applicant agencies very often operate their program in a specific way already.
And these may or may not fully align.
That means our job is to work with the client to strategize around changes they can make to the program design to enhance their project’s competitiveness. This can include things like bringing in a subcontracted partner to fill gaps in capacity or meet all requirements. It may mean planning to hire staff with specific expertise needed for the proposed project. Or it may mean proposing new training and curriculum in a grant to build the capacity of an existing team.
Often this requires background research on evidence-based best practices that we can recommend. It also usually means some back and forth with the client to refine changes to the program design so we hit the right balance between competitiveness and what is feasible for a client to implement successfully.
We believe this strategizing is at the core of our success as grant writers.
When that is done well, the rest of the grant writing flows easily from a smart, competitive program design.