I was asked recently to define what was included in the work I was doing as a contract grant writer. Since sometimes what we think is obvious is actually invisible to others I thought I’d detail it for future reference.
A typical grant writing process involves:
- Researching funding opportunities relevant to your field, request, and or specific project
- Gathering data and stats to bolster your argument through a survey of the literature and or looking at your own data and analysing/formating it for effective presentation.
- Reviewing the funder’s guidelines to ensure you have the information necessary to answer all questions thoroughly and succinctly and are actually qualified to apply. This can include contacting the funder and or attending information sessions to better understand the program and its fit to your funding needs.
- Building a balanced budget for the project according to the funding guidelines and format and consistent with the organizations overall budget and working project budget.
- Collecting, scanning or creating any required attachments for the proposal, including photos, videos, letters of support, etc. This can involve and demand considerable expertise with photo editing, desktop publishing and video-editing software to prepare/edit support materials.
And much of this work must be done before the writing even begins. Trying to skip or minimize these steps can backfire if you try to pay a grant writer “only for writing the grant” and you later discover your organization is not qualified, your organizational profile was not submitted on time, or you don’t have the support materials needed. It also can make the writing process take longer than expected if work is stalled as staff and managers work to respond to the grant-writers questions, most of which would have been more efficiently dealt with through an initial process of research.
Once all the preliminary work is in place the writing can begin.
You can expect your grant writer to:
- Adapt the style and tone of your material and new material to reflect the funder. What works for a highly technical professional grant program is different than a community board with no specialized knowledge in your field so submitting identically worded documents is not advisable.
- Create backgrounders to augment your case
- Keep the voice consistent and the focus on where your priorities align with the funder’s priorities.
- Cut jargon and redundancy for succinct and readable copy.
- Proof-read and format as needed after all copy-editing is done (don’t expect to waste time in mid-edit on this).
If you want to keep a contract grant writer working with you need to assure the following:
- Your organization and/or project is grant-ready and worthy. It isn’t just good writing that wins funding. Your project needs to be able to demonstrate impact, have good records (financials, incorporation papers, Board lists, Minutes, etc.) a strategic plan and clear Mission in line with the funding program’s priorities. There are many organizations and projects that don’t deserve to be funded and good grant writers will decline to write applications that are based on incomplete plans or poorly aligned projects.
- The scope of the grant-writing work is clear and not a duplication with other organizational efforts. You will not retain a professional grant-writer for long if she/he keeps finding their work being handed to a staff member or volunteer Board Member to complete or where “who does what” issues continually cause bad feelings.
- The grant writer has all the permissions, passwords, authority and information needed to accomplish the task. No grant writer feels secure about having someone else enter the application in a funding portal, having second-hand communications with a funding officer or being left out of meetings with the funder for whom they are preparing an application.