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Preparing Successful Grant Proposals

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... The grant process begins with identifying and prioritizing a project. Grant proposals should reflect regional or local planning priorities, and support identified planning goals and objectives. Funders want to see this connection in project proposals. Grant proposals are often unsuccessful when they are developed primarily to meet donor interests and requirements (i.e., just because there's a pot of money available).

Grant proposals reflecting "partnerships" with citizens groups, nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and other agencies should not be under-rated. Funders often look for proposals that take a collaborative approach, and show community-wide benefits that can be linked to other efforts. Funders want the most for their money, so emphasis on weaving together concurrent programs or studies, even of other organizations, is strategically important. By making the grant process inclusive, the merits of the proposal will be strengthened.

The (Hidden) Costs of Grants

The decision to pursue a grant should begin with an evaluation of not just the time and effort needed to prepare the proposal, but also what it will take to implement the project, and report back to the funding agency.

Partnership grants may require additional time during the proposal development process. During this process, a designated point-person should facilitate meetings and be in charge of writing and circulating the draft proposal.

It is always important to weigh whether or not the resulting funds, if awarded, are worth the time and energy required. Staff time does not end once the proposal is submitted. If grant funds are awarded, time and resources (beyond the grant award) will often be needed to support project implementation, monitoring, reporting, and evaluation. Poor reporting, often the result of staff time constraints, will likely impact future grant opportunities from that funding agency.

Especially relevant to new projects are the future implications of project funding once the start-up funds provided by the grant are exhausted. All these considerations should be evaluated before any substantial time is put into preparing a proposal.

Grant Preparation

The first step to building a strong proposal is to research the target funding agency. Often funders showcase past grantees on their websites, making this a great way to learn about the types of programs and projects that capture the interest of the funder. Reading successful grant proposals will also help newcomers to the grant process become familiar with the lexicon of grants.

The most important aspect of writing a proposal is to remember the "3 C's" -- be clear, be concrete, and be creative. Clearly presenting ideas is critical. Avoid long sentences. Also, steer clear of overly technical jargon and superfluous information that may lose the reviewer's attention. Be concrete in your presentation of need, goals, and the strategy to achieve the project's objectives. Finally, don't be afraid to be creative. This means thinking broadly when presenting the importance of both the direct and indirect impacts of your project.

End of excerpt

... the article continues, in its central section, with a look at eight basic componenets of a typical grant application.

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