JANUARY 18, 2018

In the grant writing world, there is understandably a huge emphasis placed on writing a compelling narrative. However, it is also important to think of grants as packages composed of several components, all of which call for careful thought, planning, and tracking.

First, there is the list of requirements for each submission – what information is required, and how it needs to be formatted and presented; there are the attachments, which often need to be gathered and updated from various corners of the office (see our best tips for keeping them organized); and even the narrative itself often includes sections written by several different team members. A process-oriented approach that treats your grant as a complete package with moving parts that all need attention will not only strengthen the grant’s narrative, but will lead to a stronger overall grant application.

Through the Grants Coordinator and Project Coordinator roles on our teams, Elevate adds a layer of project management approach to the grant writing process that emphasizes the creation, management, and adherence to internal deadlines. This more systematic approach to grant writing helps our teams manage multiple grant deadlines at once, which allows us and the nonprofit organizations we work with to build out robust, well-organized grants calendars.

Below are four ways to systematize the grant writing process to strengthen your grant package, and reduce stress:

1. Pull the application questions first

Before you begin drafting any content, pull the application questions from each specific funder’s website, template, or online portal – and save them in outline form. Though this may seem like a redundant or even unnecessary step, it allows you to see every piece you need to plan for, as well as which narrative components may require input from different staff members. Are there statistics or program outcomes that a certain program staff will need to provide? This step will help you plan ahead and build in enough time to collect the data you need.

2. Create an attachment needs table

Create a table that lists all the required attachment for the grant. This table should include a note of where the attachment can be found, and who may have it. Will you need a program budget? An audit from a specific fiscal year? Letters of support from partners? If the funder allows for supplemental materials, also include any additional collateral you may want to include in your application packet such as media articles, annual reports, and images.

3. Set a timeline for gathering all the pieces

Once you have listed out the various components of your grants package –and noted where to find them–it is time to create a timeline for the compilation of your grant package. Be sure to consider the following as you put together your timeline:

  • Prioritize any materials that you may need to procure externally. For example, letters of support from partners or a Certificate of Good Standing from your local government.
  • Assign tasks to appropriate team members well in advance.
  • Think about how long it may take for various team members to produce certain materials. Be sure to consider each team member’s schedule, workload, and work style.
  • Allocate ample time to assemble all the components of your grant package and double check that everything is up-to-date, present, and accounted for.
4. Have one person be responsible for the management and adherence to internal deadlines

It is futile to create a timeline if its deadlines aren’t closely followed. Adhering to internal deadlines is easiest when one person takes the lead on monitoring the timeline. This can be done through task management software (at Elevate we use Asana), project management tools such as Gantt tables, or something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. No matter which tool you choose, be sure to regularly check on your timeline and gently remind team members of upcoming tasks.

There is no worse feeling than realizing at the last minute that you may not be able to submit a grant because you do not have your adequate time to collect a required letter of support, or that your narrative could have been significantly strengthened if you had built in time to add a programmatic statistic or anecdote. The systematization of the grant writing process, and the implementation, management and adherence to internal deadlines, mitigates the risk of a last-minute grants-related crisis. It creates safeguards that allow you to thoroughly think through every aspect of your grant submission, and ensure that you deliver the strongest possible application to potential funders.

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