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Arkansas Community Foundation Guest Blog Post: The Top 10 Grant Tips
/ July 17, 2015

By Dr. Rich Redfearn

In my last post, I shared my list of “Top Ten Grant Proposal Mistakes” (June 18, 2015). But writing about negative things always is a problem for grant writers, who tend to be “glass half full” people. How else could we stand all the rejection?

So this post celebrates the Top 10 best practices for a grant writer to employ.

10. Get connected and stay connected.
Steven Johnson says in one of his books, “Chance favors the connected mind.” This is especially true in the grant game. Get connected to all aspects of the grants community, and it will reap dividends. Newsletters, RSS feeds, social media…it’s all about connections.

9. Search for new opportunities constantly.
Make time every day to search for grant programs that fit your organization’s mission. If you use a search engine that searches for you, in the background – then you really are searching 24/7. Remember to keep your mission foremost in mind while considering opportunities, and do not simply chase attractive opportunities with no “fit” to your mission.

8. Embrace new technology.
Always have an open mind to new technology. For example, perhaps Twitter seemed intimidating when you first signed up, but as you learned the technology you may have discovered that you could participate in an entire grants community on Twitter! Utilize the best tech tools for continuous improvement in efficiency and communication “reach.”

7. Set aside time every week for training and professional development.
If you stay in the same place, the rest of the grants community will pass you by. Join a professional association – Grant Professionals Association is great for professional development in the grants arena. Your grants professional network will provide many benefits, from improving your professionalism to giving you that inclusive, “fraternal” satisfaction.

6. Develop a strategic funding plan.
You can’t get on a solid financial footing without a plan. Decide how to divide up your organization’s budget into grants vs. gifts vs. revenue, and review this plan at least annually – a quarterly review is better. Your grant proposals will be better able to address project sustainability if you maintain a viable strategic plan.

5. Know who you are, and write confidently…repeatedly.
If you know your mission and really understand your capabilities and capacity for executing projects, your writing will reflect that knowledge. Replace the weak phrase “Our project could…” with the confident “Our project will…” Related writing tip: automate your proposal writing by saving and reusing oft-repeated parts of proposals, like your organization’s case statement.

4. Make sure that your organization is “grant ready.”
Be sure that you have everything you need to apply before you begin writing your proposal. Here’s a great infographic from #SmartEGrants that summarizes how to get your organization “grant ready.”

3. Read…and re-read…the guidance, BEFORE you start writing.
Let’s assume that you have killer writing skills and can execute a project plan to deliver your winning proposal on time. All of that skill goes to waste if you miss something in the RFP that relegates your proposal to the dreaded “unresponsive application” waste heap.

2. Contact the funder’s program officer(s) early in the process.
We talk about the grant cycle as “investigation, cultivation, application.” The “cultivation” part, for a proposal writer, is contacting a program officer at the agency or foundation. Send an email to the officer first, briefly describing your project, and ask for a follow-up phone conversation. This conversation will give you guidance that you can’t get from the RFP – but be careful! Do your homework first and don’t waste the program officer’s time with questions whose answers can be found in the RFP.

1. Feed your passion: periodically remind yourself why you do this.
A colleague (JM Grants) in my grants network has a consultancy with the motto, “Get Grants, Do Good!” All of us can be agents of positive social change by winning grant funding for projects that benefit our communities. It’s important to remind yourself that the goal really isn’t supporting your nonprofit organization…it’s improving your community, and what better passion exists? Your passion will fuel your persuasiveness and help you write winning grant proposals.

Dr. Rich Redfearn is the grant programs manager at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas & past president of the Grant Professionals Association Arkansas Chapter. For more information  about our grant opportunities, click here

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Sam M. Walton College of Business or the University of Arkansas.

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