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Time-consuming, Possibly Frustrating and Worth It
In these tough economic times, grants enable organizations to develop projects, programming, technology and facilities. Grants are sums of money awarded to finance a particular activity or facility and most do not need to be paid back. While all come with rules and expectations, and some require matching funds or maintenance of effort activities, grants can help any organization, especially a non-profit, afford programs that would be impossible without outside funding.
Writing a grant involves advance planning and preparation. It takes time to research funding sources, understand the grant maker's guidelines and ensure the grant maker's goals and objectives match your grant purposes. If your project does not match their guidelines, you are wasting your time and theirs. Most grants have guidelines that detail funding goals and priorities, submission deadlines, eligibility requirements, required proposal formats, the evaluation process and criteria, the review timetable and contact information. Failure to follow any of the guidelines may be grounds to disqualify a grant proposal, so be sure to ask the funder to clarify any questions.
As a general rule, clear, concise and specific writing is best. Grant reviewers usually scan text, particularly summaries, to get a quick overview of your project. If you are to the point and you have answered the key questions, your grant will be viewed as comprehensible and fundable. If they have a hard time understanding your proposal, it is likely to end up in the "NO" pile.
Most funders want the same information, even if they use different words or ask questions in a different order. Sometimes they will be listed as several items, sometimes they will be asked as questions, and sometimes you will need to cover them in a written narrative. Here are the standard building blocks of a grant:
Before you put your grant proposal in the mail, proofread everything. Make sure you answered all the questions and are sending all the required materials. Make a copy for your files and mail or deliver it in plenty of time to meet the deadline.
If your grant proposal is rejected, ask the funder for feedback about your proposal's strengths and weaknesses. Also, objectively review the funder's guidelines. If you still believe there is a match, apply again in about a year. Many applicants are only successful on the second or third try.