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6 Most Asked Questions about Grants

Preparing a grant proposal can be a stressful and complicated process. Thus, anyone involved in the production – whether a novice or sophisticated grant writer – has questions. These range from where to begin to how the new regulations will affect success, to how the review process works and what to do after a rejection. The six questions I get asked the most are:

1. What types of grants are available for my research and my institution?

Federal, state, foundation, and corporate grants are available to faculty, teachers, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities. The primary source of grant funding by far is the Federal Government, followed by individual giving, and foundation and corporate support. Federal funding includes both federal entitlements or formula funds, and competitive grants.

2. How much time does it take to prepare a grant proposal?

The amount of time and work it takes to prepare a grant application is a direct function of the number of people on your project team. Most grants have four to six weeks between the time the application is released and when the proposal is due. For larger, more complex grant proposals, this may not be enough time. Planning well in advance of the application release date can give you a head start and alleviate some of the pressure.

3. Who should I include on my grant writing team?

In addition to the content experts (PIs, Co-PIs, or Project Directors), every grant writing team should include key administrators. These are the people who have authority to make administrative decisions for the project, which can be invaluable during the proposal writing process. In addition, you may include personnel from the budget office, graphic designers, editors and grant reviewers, evaluators, technology coordinators, statisticians, and – in some rare cases – marketing consultants.

4. What are the key components of a grant proposal?

Competitive grants require a specific type of application. Although state and federal agencies and especially foundations have different requirements, the basic parts of a grant application remain the same. Those components are:

  • Summary or Abstract is the most important part of your proposal because it is the first impression you make on the reviewer.
  • Needs Statement/ Statement of Significance is the reason for your project and makes the argument for why the grant should be funded. Relevant data and research, such as surveys, preliminary studies, a literature review, and identified successful models of previous studies will all substantiate the needs of the targeted population or for your research project.
  • Goals and Objectives are your plan of operation, and must be aligned with the project’s identified needs. A goal will be the end result of your project or research, and the objectives will prove how the goal will be met in measurable and quantifiable terms.
  • Activities explain how each objective will unfold to meet the goal.
  • Timelines describe the project activities in terms of deadlines. These may include your plan of operation, evaluation, and budget.
  • Evaluation Plan is one of the most critical components for a project grant application, especially with the current heightened level of accountability. You must detail a comprehensive evaluation plan that incrementally tracks the effectiveness of your proposed objectives.
  • Outcomes are critical in all evidence-based grant proposals. Outlining the short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes with specific benchmarks for success is vital for the donor’s understanding of the ultimate purpose for the funding. A helpful tool in developing and demonstrating the process indicators for successful outcomes of your proposal is the logic model.
  • Budgets estimate as accurately as possible what the cost of each activity will be in personnel and non-personnel costs. Be certain to include a cost for each activity mentioned in your narrative, since it aligns directly with your budget.

5. What does it take to win a grant?

Many grant applications are accompanied by scoring criteria or rubrics. Read them carefully, because they will give you specific guidelines for creating a winning proposal. In the absence of a scoring rubric, read through the grant guidelines and make a careful list of all the items you must answer. As you fill out the application, check off each item so your proposal is in full compliance with the grant requirements. Aside from knowing the donor’s prerequisites to win a grant, you must have a well-crafted idea, excellent research, collaboration, innovation, and need for your proposed proposal.

6. What do I do if my grant is rejected?

This will depend on the scores of your application, rejection comments or letter. If your proposal has been rejected for a flawed idea or because you applied to the wrong donor, you should not reapply. However, if you have been rejected for defects in some of your activities, lack of examples, or a weak evaluation, you should speak with the donor concerning their recommendations on what needs to be fixed, and reapply as soon as possible.

As you develop the grant application, many more questions will arise. These can be answered by experienced colleagues at your institution or your grant administration office. Others, which deal directly with your expertise, can only be answered by you. The range of universal questions is wide; however, the ability to answer them effectively will lead you in the right direction for being funded. Most importantly, success depends on a well-crafted idea, extensive research, collaboration, innovation, and perseverance.

Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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