Many of our organizations are vital. Most of our projects are critical. The majority of our staff work diligently to ensure organizational and project credibility. Then, why is it so difficult to be granted funding?
Do you relate? Have you worked so hard on a grant application that when you clicked the submit button, you just knew those funds were going to be awarded? Or, when you submitted that application did you know that you had not completed all of your due diligence, which, if you are being honest, decreased the probability of receiving funds to about 50/50? Well, most grant writer’s fall into these two categories. And, neither one is the right place for any grant writer. Why? Because, both discredit the real art in grant writing, which is due diligence. And, due diligence is the defining factor of success within any funding opportunity.
In the grant writing world, the words most feared are, “due to a large number of applications we were unable to fund each…” Or, “we will not be able to fund your request at this time due to the following determination…” Other denial statements exist, but you get the picture. A successful grant writer does not want to see the fruits of their writing and passion be diminished by a few lines of denial. So, how do we get to the grant award, or the funding stage? It takes hard work, more passion, and the acceptance that failure is part of the process. In other words, even the most stellar of grant applications do not get awarded. But, there are always steps you may take to improve your odds.
The very first thing you must do is remove the fear. It is a waste of time and energy. Replace fear with determination. And, again, learn that failures will lead you to improving grant award odds. Let’s review some flaws grant writers may possess.
Five Flaws to Fail You!
●Inappropriate Budget – Not providing enough financial information to illustrate how the money for your project will be spent. Also, not reviewing the funder guidelines on the appropriate financials to present within your application. Finally, your budget must also be addressed within your narrative. Remember, you are simply telling a story to the funder. However, the story must illustrate why, how, when, and why requested funding is critical, and how each dollar will be utilized.
●Not Addressing Sustainability – If you do not have a financial plan for raising dollars outside of the grant you are applying for, or do not have funding already in place for your project, stop the grant application. You will need to partially fund your own project, and be able to prove to the funder how this is occurring, and will continue once the funds they provide (if you are awarded) are spent down.
●Down Playing Significance of Evaluation – Every project must be evaluated. Every funder wants to know what that process looks like. Every organization should expend suitable staff talent, and resources, to ensure evaluations, with measurable outcomes, are in place for each project/service provided to the community.
●Unclear What You are to Achieve in Project – Being too vague is a grant application’s death sentence. Be precise, be concise, and know who your target populations are as well as social trends. Be able to wrap all of this data around the requested focal areas of the funder. What will be the impact to your community when this project is launched, when it reaches midpoint/endpoint, and what will be your outcomes?
●Not Following Funders Grant Guidelines – Being too busy or not having the proper personnel to properly read and follow all funder guidelines is not acceptable. Be sure and timeline all grant application deliverables, most importantly the due date and submission requirements, then follow all of these to the letter.
It is very important to be honest with ourselves in business, most especially in grant writing. If you understand the possible failures before putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, you will find yourself strategizing more about gaining that competitive edge where potential grant awards are concerned. Let’s now review some project thoughts.
●Project Application Lacks Detail: Did you spend time making sure the narrative speaks to the budget? In an effort to prove you were the only agency providing your type of project or service, did you forget to illustrate just how vital your project/service really is to the community?
●Project Does Not Align with Funder Values: Every funder has focal areas. These areas are those sections of the community where the funder has their greatest interest. The funder’s focal areas are always in line with their organizational or corporate values. It is the grant writer’s responsibility to create their application in synergy with the funder’s focal area (s).
●Projects SROI (Social Return on Investment) is not Well Articulated: Focal areas of the funder are social in nature. Knowing this, the grant writer should reflect all social outcomes the project desires to achieve, and illustrate how these outcomes will change the community for not only the targeted population, but with the social values of the funder in mind as well. The funder always wants a return on their investment. In this case, that return is social change.
●Project Budget Request is High: Just because you need $100,000 to complete the work of your project, does not mean the funder has that to give. It is imperative for a grant writer to speak to the funder and know how much money is available. Then, determine from the funder how much of that you should actually request within the grant application.
●Project Data Is Not Sufficient: We are a high technology society. No excuse exists any longer for a grant application to be deficient in data. That data proves why the project is significant and gives meaningful voice, with the appropriate back up data, to why the project will succeed and bring about social change.
Grant writing is an art; one that may be mastered. Having said that, it is also a technical journey that requires the writer to not only be the voice within the application, but also the illustrator of community change. Also, the writer will wear many hats in the areas of organizational representative, funder liaison, community ambassador, technical director, and data researcher to name a few.
kiisa corporation founders have spent over twenty-five years in the grant writing world. Within this journey, we have learned that nothing can ever be assumed or taken for granted. This is serious business, one that you will realize failure, and success. Fear is not a partner. The only real commodity that is tangible is determination. Just remember, never give up! Should you wish to learn more about successful grant writing, register for one of our courses with LSU Continuing Education. Please click below to register or to learn more information.