Sunday, April 11, 2010

Top Ten Solutions For Issues That Might Arise While Writing A Grant Proposal

Top Ten Solutions For Issues That Might Arise While Writing A Grant Proposal
10. Did you miss a deadline?  If you were so diligently working on a grant proposal that the grant proposal submission deadline came and went there is still hope.  First, look at the grant donor's current giving guidelines (often on their website) and confirm that yes, you have indeed missed their deadline.  Sometimes I panicked only to discover moments later that I had only thought I'd missed the deadline, but really had not.  If, yes, you missed the deadline, then (if the potential grant donor allows phone calls to their office) call them.  Do not demand anything as you are the one who made the error, but rather be honest, and also ask if they could accommodate your submitting late.  Some might.  Finally, if you call their office but they can not allow you to submit late, ask them when their next giving cycle deadline is.  Larger grant donor organizations often have a grant giving cycle, once a quarter.  It might only mean that your organization has to wait another three months for the next giving cycle (and submission opportunity).

9. Having a difficult time getting key program or even organization information from colleagues?  Sometimes grant writers are just that rather than programs staff, executive directors, etc.  When this is the case, we rely on our colleagues in programs or running the office to get key information, such as financials, program designs, or even evaluation methods' descriptions to us in a timely manner.  Yet, even the best meaning co-workers, who promise to get specific information to you by a certain date can miss that deadline.  You'll want to remind them that you need the information in order to effectively work towards raising money for their program.  We can go on, in our grant proposal and finish most of the document, but at a certain point we must have the key content that we require.  It is true the squeaky wheel gets attention.  Be squeaky.  Or, does someone else have a copy of the very document or information that you need?  Ask them for it.  Afterward, be proactive and work with the colleague that missed getting information to you, so you two can determine how this will go better next time.

8. Not feeling inspired?  Writer's block?  Take a break.  I know that a deadline is looming - that's part of the job.  Yet, if you don't writer a strong grant proposal the deadline is the lesser of your worries, really.  The key to good writing, or writing quality content, is knowing what you're talking about.  Take fifteen minutes with one of the nonprofit's key programs staff and ask questions about the organization's work, the beneficiary(ies) of its work, and the intended outcomes.  Ask a board member or two why they personally volunteer as a leader with the organization.  Look at the nonprofit's current strategic plan, its current organizational goals (program goals), and its recent mission successes.  If it's ethical and the nonprofit's leadership is O.K. with it, even speak to people who have benefited from the nonprofit's work.  Ask for their personal experiences.  Ask what they would have done without the organization's work.  Ask what they avoided by the nonprofit doing its work.

7. Feeling overwhelmed?  Take a break from everyday work, tomorrow morning, and do the following.  List out every project you have pending this month, next month, and for the next three months.  Take the time to map out on a calendar what is coming down the line.  List all deadlines next to each project.  Next, list all "To Do's", keep this handy, and then check them off as they're accomplished (also called an Action Item List).  If you know you aren't good about looking at your calendar or paying attention to Outlook or other automated calendar alarms, ask an organization-nut colleague to note only your very key important dates on his/her calendar and tap you on the shoulder about them the day before.  Often, getting organized and knowing that you can relax because you've noted what you need to have done by when helps alleviate being overwhelmed.

6. Have key information that you left out of an already submitted grant proposal, or are you missing key information and about to submit the proposal to be on time?  Don't fret.  If the donor allows applicants to phone their office, call them, and tell them what has happened or what is going on.  Depending on the circumstance the grant donor will often try to help you as much as they can (even if grant applications are submitted to them, online, through prompts that take you through the submission process).  If the donor does not allow phone calls, pull the information together as possible and submit it including a clear and honest explanation, with it, why the information could not be included as it should have been.

5. Have nervous superiors or co-workers anxious to learn whether anyone has heard if the grant application that you submitted for their project was awarded the grant?  'Heard anything?  Now?  How about now?  Now?'  I know.  By virtue of working in fundraising, one of the tough aspects of the work is feeling others' anxiety about getting funding raised, and grant writing is very much included.  If you can, sympathize; promise to let them know as soon as you know anything; and possibly be proactive such as e-mailing once a morning everything new going on in the grant office.  Being confident for the nonprofit, even when others are not (with reason), helps, too.  Another option is to create and maintain a regular communication protocol between your office and the programs' peoples' office or your leadership and keep it up.  Make sure that they know, before you submit a grant proposal how and when you will notify them, either way, after you hear back.

4. Tired but up against a deadline and need to finesse a proposal?  It is O.K., if you have a grant proposal in it's mostly final draft, to ask a colleague to look it over for you to help you smooth out any rough edges. I urge you to use a proof reader, always, for each grant proposal, anyway (and ideally at least two different sets of eyes who write well, themselves, review each final draft before you submit).  But, this is a little different than asking someone to proof read.  You're actually asking someone, at the end, to collaborate with you in a minor roll.  I know what it's like to have written a document and be so familiar with the content and many sentences that I'm no longer objective, enough, to put final touches on it without another day (or at least a good break) from it.  Sometimes, I don't have that time.  So, asking someone else who writes well, too, to come in and back me up by finishing the unrefined wording, long or unnecessary sentences, etc. is very helpful (and time saving).

3. Need a typewriter?  I know.  In this day and age it doesn't seem possible, but some grant donors require that applicant nonprofits fill out a paper application that it be included along with their application.  In this case (if the application is not online or something that you can't fill in online) you do want the application to be filled in, and filled in looking professional.  If your nonprofit does not have a typewriter on hand, and doesn't want to buy one, call your nearest public library branch and ask if they have one available for the public.  If they don't, call a local community college, ask for their library or also try their computer center, and ask if you (as a nonprofit and fellow community member) could use a typewriter.  In a real emergency, call local government or other local nonprofits' offices that your agency has partnered with, recently, and ask if any of them has a typewriter.  One will.  Community partners are valuable for so many reasons!

2. Can't find a quiet spot at work or even at home to get the writing done?  It can be tough.  Nonprofit offices might be wide open or small offices with a meeting room in the middle.  Maybe there's construction next door.  Try listening to music, in headphones, while you write.  It may seem contrary to your goal for solitude, especially if you don't typically write while listening to anything, but try it.  You might like it.  It's actually not distracting (especially if the music is relaxing, ambient, mellow, or anything that you don't find terribly stimulating).  There's something of a rhythm that can get established, too, when writing to music.  Many headphones, today, are noise suppressing or noise canceling.  While you don't quite hear, in them, as if you and the music are the only things in the world; they really do quiet ambient noise while listening in them.  If you don't own any of these, maybe a colleague or co-worker does and as long as you promise to clean the headphones' cans after each use, they'll let you borrow them (clean them before you use them, each time, too)!

1. Need assistance with the work load?  Especially right now, in this difficult economy, many nonprofits have more work to do (including in the grant writing office) and less resources to get it all done.  Ask your nonprofit's volunteer coordinator if they know of a volunteer who is interested in doing office work, and maybe has research, writing, or even grant writing experience.  If none exists, train a volunteer.  Or, contact your nearest university, community college, or vocational technology schools and find out how to go about interviewing potential interns.  Finally, there are always adults who are switching careers or are maybe new to volunteering with nonprofits and are interested in learning about grant writing.  Finding someone who is committed, has a regular schedule that makes them available to you, and is grateful for the opportunity will probably be a great prospect.  Help is out there and the better help is the more dedicated, committed, and available help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lots of good stuff here - As far as a noisy office, after a few years of distraction in our cramped office I learned a desktop fan does wonders for drowning out the bulk mail team and volunteer office, etc etc.