Dr. Angela Isom has received some of America's most competitive grants. In this article, she provides some keys to effective grant writing.
No two grants are exactly the same. The geographic locations of the applicants vary. Some grants are international, some are national, and some are local. The application deadlines vary. Some grants are offered annually, while others are offered quarterly. The number of times that you can apply may also vary. You can apply for some grants several times, yet some grants will only fund you once. Despite these differences, you can significantly increase your chances of securing grant funds from various types of funding sources by adhering to the following guidelines:
1. Be sustainable. Sustainability is one of the more recent buzz words in grant writing. In the past, some programs were dependant upon the same funding sources year after year. This was unfair to new applicants for the same funding sources because the funds were being monopolized by older organizations. It also allowed organizations to become overly dependant upon a single funding source. Some funding sources now require applicants to describe their plan of sustainability. In other words, “How will you sustain (keep your program running) if we never fund you again?” Will you train others to implement your program at their own location (for a fee)? Will you open a business related to the services that you offer?
2. Be able to inform the world about the results of the project. This can be done by your organization or an outside PR agency. If you don’t inform the entire world about your results, at least inform your community. This doesn’t have to be expensive. In the past I have done all of the following and more: distribute a newsletter (online and hard copy), join an association and share at the meetings, place press releases on my website, post flyers throughout my community, and sending emails to our business partners, past and present clients, and personal friends informing them of all current events. Funders want the world to know about them and about the good work they’ve helped you implement.
3. Be willing to collaborate. There are many reasons that funders would prefer that you collaborate. One: Collaborating increases the likeliness that you will not stray from what you said you would do in the grant application. Two: There will be more people working together to accomplish the tasks. Three: More clients will be served by the program. You will also benefit from collaborating because: you will have someone else helping you to recruit participants for your program, you will have someone else evaluating the effectiveness of your program, and someone else will share the burden of securing resources for your program. If you choose the right organization to collaborate with, it can be a win-win situation. Additionally, it could double or even triple your profits.
4. Be prepared to assess the program’s effectiveness. Evaluations help both you and the funder. It is important that you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your programs so that you can operate at your full potential and make any necessary changes. Offering anything less than your best is unfair to both you and your clients. Remember, a lot of agencies are competing for those funds. Therefore, funders want to ensure that they have chosen the best applicant. Outstanding results could lead to an increase in funds offered to your agency.
5. Grammatical errors. I am a witness. It is difficult to notice mistakes in a 5-30 page grant application once you’ve read it several times. If possible, have someone proofread your application before it’s submitted. Use spell check too! I have seen some organizations make very careless mistakes on their grant applications. When possible, put your application away for a day or two before reading it again.
Many grant seekers have excellent program ideas. However, they are still denied funding because of the aforementioned issues. Often this causes them to become discouraged and they do not reapply. Keep applying until you are successful. There is money available. It is waiting for you. I have made many of my dreams come true using funding supplied by the generosity of others; I invite you to do the same.
About the Author:
Dr. Angela Isom has worked in nonprofit management since 1994. She founded her first nonprofit organization at the age of 19. By the age of 22, she was studying for a Master’s degree in nonprofit management at Case Western Reserve University. She has also studied at Harvard University. Dr. Isom has received some of the country’s most competitive grants. In 2005, she spent the day with our nation’s President as a result of her outstanding courses in grant writing and community development. Dr. Isom teaches basic and advanced grant writing courses. In her spare time, Dr. Isom writes and publishes books on overcoming obstacles and Christianity. You can reach her at contactdrisom.yahoo.com.