Grant writing | community foundations

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Grant training

Get a head start with these quick resources

The process of “getting a grant” or “writing a grant proposal” can sound mysterious, like an old family recipe with secret ingredients. For over 40 years The Grantsmanship Center has been helping people de-mystify this process and to understand that like a recipe, creating a compelling proposal simply requires common ingredients put together in a logical and understandable sequence using tried and true techniques.

First, let’s talk about what a grant is and is not. In most cases a grant is support that does not need to be repaid. Usually it is in the form of money, but it may be technical assistance or training. Grants are usually awarded after the submission of a written proposal. So, the “grant” is the funding or other assistance that is received as a result of a grant proposal (also referred to as an application). A grant is not the written document that we submit to a potential funding source!

Each funder sets its own eligibility criteria for grant applicants, and eligible applicants are typically nonprofit organizations or public agencies. Nonprofits are often required to be 501(c)(3) organizations under the IRS. Here’s a link to IRS information on nonprofits: Grants to for-profit entities or to private individuals do exist; however, they are far less common.

Each funder will also have its own application process and the degree of detail required will vary. Here, we’ll talk about the basic recipe for a grant proposal, understanding that some funders may require extra or different information—special ingredients.

Let’s take a look at the basic ingredients required in a typical proposal, and how to include them.

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Once you understand your organization’s mission and priorities, you’re ready to begin identifying funders that might be a good fit.

Let’s start with a few key points:

1. There are no shortcuts to finding the right funding source. Nothing can replace thorough research.

2. Look beyond the obvious funders to find a wider group of prospects.

3. Grantmakers can change interest areas, application processes, and staff. Always get the most up-to-date information.

4. Get strong community support before seeking funding outside your community. Local support can build a potential funder’s confidence in your organization.

5. Grantmakers receive tons of requests for funding. Don’t waste their time – or yours – with requests that don’t align with their interests.

Be Strategic

Your task is to identify all potential funders whose interests align with your organization’s mission, priorities, and program plans. Sometimes you’ll focus your search on grantmakers for a specific program. That’s fine. But to build a grant funding program that will be most productive over time, it’s best to explore the entire universe of grantmakers to find those that are the best fit for your organization.

Don’t approach this task in a hit-or-miss manner. Lots of internet sites provide lists of foundations and announcements of upcoming foundation or government funding opportunities, and you may run across some promising opportunities there. But browsing free sites and responding to list-serve announcements puts you in a disorganized, reactive position that won’t produce the best results. Learn about the serious research tools available then use them in a well-considered, strategic way to find appropriate funders.

There are two general types of grant funders: government and private.

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Everyone is elated! All the planning and research paid off and your organization has been awarded its first grant. Whether it’s a $500,000 grant from the US government or a $10,000 grant from a private foundation, now’s the time to lay essential groundwork to ensure grant funds will be spent and accounted for as required and that program obligations will be met. Welcome to the world of grants management.

The Initial Paperwork

As you might imagine, government grants come with more red tape than foundation or corporate grants. For government grants, your top executive officer or board chairperson must usually sign and return documents accepting the grant award and agreeing to reporting and fund draw-down requirements, as well as any other special requirements that have been attached to the funding. This is strictly a business transaction—there’s no need to send along a warm letter of appreciation. Be sure to return paperwork by the required deadline.

Corporations and foundations sometimes require that officers sign a letter accepting the grant award, but often they don’t—a check simply arrives in the mail with a letter of congratulations laying out the expected reporting requirements. If you’re expected to return a signed acceptance document, do so promptly and be sure to include a letter expressing appreciation, acknowledging any reporting requirements, and inviting the funder for a visit. While this is a business transaction, it’s also a starting point for building an ongoing relationship of trust, commitment, and support.

Establish both an electronic and hard-copy file for each grant your organization receives. Since so much business done electronically, be sure that e-documents and emails are organized for easy access–and be sure electronic documents are backed-up in case of a failure in technology.

Place copies of signed grant documents in a hard-copy file, and keep the file updated with subsequent correspondence related to the grant. When an e-document is of particular importance, print it out and file it here as well.

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grant proposal writing training, grant book; articles, grant management resources, training, workshops grant writing, grantwriting, grant book

Welcome!  Looking for info & tools to write successful grant proposals so you can help your community? You're at the right place. 

Want a quick-start guide? Read the 3 articles above: Getting the Grant 101, Where's the Money? & Managing the Grant. This infohere at your fingertipsgives you a solid start and it's free!

You want to learn fast, effectively and retain what you learn? Great! That's why we designed "Listen & Discuss, Do & Review®" our trademarked curriculum, used for all our trainingsbecause it works! This is training where your mind and body don't sit still. It's active learning with colleagues and it lasts a lifetime. 

Whether you want to write grant proposals, award grants, manage grants or create earned income so you're not dependent on grants, we're here to help you do your job. We provide trainings, articles, books, webcasts, and blogs. Many of these resources are free.

Looking for funding sources? Check out "Funding State-by-State." It's another free resource with info about top grant-making foundations, community foundations, corporate giving programs and more! Browse through our classic and new articles (also free) and you'll be ready to tackle jobs that had seemed daunting. Want food for thought? Check out our blog.  

The Grantsmanship Center is rooted in optimism—we believe that investing time and money in planning and people pays off. That's why we always try to give more than you expect and deliver more than you pay for. Let us know how we can help make your work easier, faster, better, more rewarding. We want you to succeed—and we're here to help—because we all have a stake in building better communities. 

Best wishes

Cathleen Kiritz
Cathleen Kiritz, President