Five Common Problems Facing Grant Writers – Part II

In my last blog, I outlined various problems that workshop participants mentioned as serious concerns in their grant writing process. In this blog, I will continue with additional factors they faced. Of equal concern and pertinence are the following:

  1. Planning Ahead: “What are the steps I need to take before I write?”

Grant writing takes time. This includes excellent research, exceptional writing, understanding the donor’s mission, making the match, collaborating with colleagues, planning strategically, and developing an outstanding business plan. If your proposal is prepared correctly, it will have higher chances of rising to the top of the competition and receiving the funds. In the planning process, laying out proposal steps clearly and realistically can be achieved by organizing the activities in terms of the time it will take to effectively accomplish them.

  1. Matching the Idea With the Donor: “How can you assure that you found the right donor?”

 One of the most fatal mistakes any grant writer can make is to ignore the interests of the donor. “Making the match” means aligning your mission and your funding request with the donor’s mission. The closer both of you are in what you wish to accomplish, the more likely you will be funded. Also, looking at funded projects will give you a very good idea of the donor’s interests and focus. Ultimately, donors do not care what you need or want funded; they care about what they wish to fund.

  1.  Being Concise and to the Point: “What steps will narrow the scope of my proposal?”     

 One of the major reasons for proposal rejection is that the request is overly ambitious and tries to tackle far more than can be accomplished within the timeline of the grant. Rather than trying to solve every problem related to your request, focus on one or two issues that can realistically be resolved within budget and time constraints of the proposal. Also, many grants require the consideration of various potential factors before concluding that the idea is doable, focused, and promising. You need to envision as many of these elements as possible to be certain that you are on the right path. Narrowing the scope of your idea to a smaller scale is often a much safer and more successful approach.

  1. Knowing the Review Process: “How do I understand the proposal review process?”

To successfully survive the review process, you must know the review criteria by which you will be judged and who is reviewing your proposal. In some cases this is easy, but in others, where the process is blind, it is extremely difficult. In the latter case, you can ask the administrator in charge of the process what the experience and expertise of the reviewers will be. Your reviewers have a very short window to review your proposal and worse yet, an even shorter window for the panel discussion. The easier you make it for the reviewers to understand your idea, the greater your chances of being funded.

  1. Networking and Collaboration: “How do I identify collaborators to strengthen my proposal?”

Creating effective partnerships requires collective vision, purpose, buy-in, and mutual respect. Without these elements, it is difficult to maintain the momentum of true collaboration. Each partner must be able to contribute knowledge and expertise that would be missing without their involvement. The complexity of many projects requires interdisciplinary efforts and networking. Understanding this, funding agencies now believe in the power of partnerships; and so should you.

At the end of the day, there are many components to a grant proposal. The first and most important is spending the time to understand the donor, then positioning all the pieces of the puzzle effectively together, and finally writing a stellar request. The pieces must include careful planning, focus, and collaboration.

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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