Why is it that proposal writers begin writing before designing their grants? I ask this question at the beginning of each workshop I teach, and for most people, it is a revelation. It amazes me that while engineers or architects design before building, grant requesters do not do the same. Once the grant is designed and the pieces of the puzzle come together, the path for implementation is clear. I have noticed the high level of interest and demand for grant writing tools that work. Therefore, I will dedicate several of my upcoming blogs to designs and blueprints for success. These will include: designs for grants, evaluations, and budgets, and the logic model approach to writing proposals.
Click here to access a fillable grant design chart and use the rest of this article as a guide to it’s components (you may need to save the chart to your hard drive to make it fillable).
Goal: What will be achieved
The goal is the frame for the entire project. It is what you will get after all the money has been spent. For example, a certain group of beneficiaries will have the skills to accomplish a particular task, per your request in the grant. For researchers, proving your hypothesis is your goal.
Objectives: How the goal will be achieved
Unless a donor requests a certain number of objectives, limit yourself to three per grant proposal. Biomedical researchers will know this section as the Specific Aims of a proposal. Your objectives are the promise that you make to the donor. In other words, you will be able to achieve your goal by augmenting a certain skill via a particular teaching method for the beneficiaries over a predetermined period of time. Your goal and objectives are the most important part of your proposal; you should begin with these before you tackle any other part. These four sentences – the goal and three objectives – are the heart and foundation of what you want to accomplish. Once you define them, the rest of the proposal follows.
Activities: How each objective will be achieved
Activities specify what needs to take place in order to accomplish each of your objectives. If you are writing a research grant, these will be your methodology and the activities you will undertake to prove your hypothesis. Specificity and focus will be your best friends when you address this area. Thinking of the timeframe for your grant will be extremely helpful for getting a realistic perspective on what you can accomplish over a given period of time.
Timelines: How long it will take
Use Gantt charts throughout both the preparation of your proposal and implementation of your grant. The former will help you understand how long it will take for you to put your proposal together. The latter demonstrates to the donor that you understand how long it takes to traverse each step of your implementation. Timelines can be simple or extremely complex. Choose the easiest template to convey your plan and goals with the review panel in mind.
Outcomes: How you will know you were successful
Planning the short, mid- and long-term outcomes and their process indicators translates to success. The outcomes are what will change due to your implementation of the grant. For example, if you were to receive a grant to teach negotiation skills to a group of adolescents who only know how to solve problems through violence, your short term outcome might be that they can deal with problems via strong and loud arguments. Your mid-term outcome could be that they can speak about problems without losing their temper, and the long-term outcome might be that 90% of these adolescents have learned to negotiate problems.
Evaluation: Finding out if you were successful
Evaluations can be multifaceted and complex, depending on the request. Most grantees find it helpful to include a trained evaluator, who can ensure the development of correct instruments to measure changes. True indicators of change will be incremental and ongoing. Understanding this is key to figuring out if you are on the right path or if you need to find alternative approaches.
Personnel: Who is doing what
Who will be in charge of the project and why they have been chosen are critical points. Donors want to know that the ideas they fund are led by experts. Specifying expertise in the area for which you want funding is the key to success. Equally, if the proposal involves several institutions or experts in the field working together, each of their functions will need to be spelled out along with their expertise.
Budget: How much it costs
If your activities have been carefully charted, the budget can be one of the easiest parts of your proposal. If you know the amount of time each team member will spend on each activity, and what the cost of each objective is, you can easily calculate the personnel and non-personnel costs. Accurate and non-inflated budgets are what donors are looking to fund.
Please stay tuned for additional helpful charts, tools, and approaches for other components of your proposals in the coming weeks.
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