Most of Grant Writing Is Not Writing: My Process

The term “grant writing” is a bit of a misnomer, as it makes the process of developing a grant application sound limited to typing up a draft. In reality, crafting a grant proposal is a complex process that involves many steps before real writing takes place.

Here’s my process:

1) Research (~30%)
Research includes finding a Request for Proposals (RFP), a document which announces a grant opportunity and the amount of money available; the RFP also lists the requirements for applications. Once you have a funding opportunity identified, the real research begins. I like to gather demographic information to show the need for grant funding in a particular geographic area. Some of the best sources to use to gather this information are the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Key Questions:

How much funding is available?
Are we eligible to apply for this money?

2) Planning the Project (~30%)
The planning stage is when you meet with all stakeholders, articulate the needs of the population you intend to serve with the grant money, and develop a plan of action.
Once you have a clear plan in mind, it’s best to collect time-sensitive documents, such as signed letters of support, so that you don’t end up waiting until the last minute to submit the grant.

Key Questions:

What outcomes do we want to achieve?
What goals do we need to set in order to achieve these outcomes?
What documents do we need to draft, distribute, and collect before we can submit the grant?

3) Budgeting (~25%)
This step somewhat overlaps with Step 2: Planning the Project, because it’s unrealistic to plan without keeping the cost of your objectives in mind. Depending on budget constraints, large portions of the plan may need to be revised.
Key Questions:
How much is this thing going to cost?
Do we need to match grant funds with external dollars?

4) Actually Writing (~10%)
Now that the foundation has been set up, it’s time to write the grant. During the initial draft, I like to jump from section to section, adding in bits of information as I go.

Key Questions:
Am I fully responding to every aspect of the questions?
Am I showing that we understand the requirements of the funding opportunity and have the capacity to meet key outcomes?

5) Revising and Editing (~5%)
This involves restructuring sections, reworking paragraphs, and trimming the fat from the application.

Key Questions: Have I fully answered the questions in the application?
Is the application formatted according to the specifications in the RFP?

(I should’ve allocated 1% for actually submitting the thing. A completed grant application is worthless if it’s never turned in!)

Of course, it is also important to note that some writing takes place at all stages of this process, but most of it is not writing that will end up in the final grant proposal–at least not without some serious modifications. Finally, I don’t mean to suggest that excellent writing is not required for grant development; I simply mean that grant writers are professionals with many talents.

Fellow Grant Writers, what is your process for preparing a grant? Is it similar to mine, radically different, or somewhere in between?

Federal Funding Friday

We highlight a federal awards promoting the development of new technologies for science, health and security.

via Funding Friday: Federal Grants for High-Tech Research and Development — Community Blog

I’m a #Griffin. What Are You?

I love Nonprofit AF (formerly Nonprofit with Balls). Whether you work at a nonprofit or not, you should take this quiz to find out if you are a Griffin, Dragon, Phoenix, or Pegacorn: go do it now!

I see quite a bit of myself in the Griffin description:

Griffins are diligent, careful, logical, and accurate. They take time to do their work, so it is usually high quality. They are detail-oriented, often picking up stuff that other people miss. They love processes, data, and well-reasoned arguments. They bring grounding and balance to any team, encouraging everyone to pay attention to boring technical crap like objectives and timelines and data. They are not sure this description of them is accurate; they need more time to think about it first.” —Nonprofit AF

I have been called detail-oriented many times, and I often wonder how people can overlook small things. Does the character limit include spaces or not? I need to know.

These quizzes are fun because everyone wants to know more about themselves. I remember reading that it’s easy to see versions of yourself in generic descriptions like those for Zodiac signs and aura colors, but they don’t really tell you much. I can’t help it; personality quizzes are my guilty pleasure.

3 Things You Learn After Adding Chat to Your Website

I work for a large nonprofit that recently added a Chat feature to its website. In the past, clients in need of information that wasn’t on the website had no choice but to call. Our Marketing Director saw a need for a more modern way for our clients to reach out to us. Here are some insights I’ve gained from the first few weeks of Chat:

1) Don’t call it “Chat.” There’s something that sounds very professional about saying, “I’m on the phone.” If used correctly, it can send people quietly scurrying away with whispers of “Oops! Sorry.”

However, “I’m on Chat,” doesn’t carry the same connotation. It sounds frivolous.
Stick with, “I’m helping a client navigate our services.”

2) People get impatient.giphy
You can buy yourself some time with strategic responses. My agency uses LiveChat, which allows users to create shortcuts for “canned responses”; for instance, typing “#please” generates the response, “Please give me a moment to check on that for you.”

3) Those hesitant to call will use Chat.
Adding a Chat feature can attract questions that people might have been nervous about asking over the phone. Chat puts people at ease.

4 Ways to Stay Motivated as a Nonprofit Professional

“Sacrificing one’s health in service of a cause is a common narrative in the nonprofit sector.” — Beth Kanter & Aliza Sherman

  1. Get out of your head, and your office. I’ve discussed some ways for nonprofit employees to engage with their communities. This client engagement is precisely what makes nonprofits, and especially community action agencies, great. Not only will interacting with those you serve remind you why you’re doing this, it will inform you of your audience’s needs.
  2. Practice self-care. Do yoga in the morning, drink hot tea, or read a book. Turn off your cell phone for a while.
  3. Unless your job requires it, don’t check your email on your days off.
  4. Organize a wellness team at your nonprofit. Convene a group of employees with the goal of organizing fitness classes, hosting healthy potlucks, and making recommendations for policies to improve employees’ wellbeing.

Top Dogs: 5 Nonprofits Focusing on Animals

  1. Guide Dogs for the Blind

    At Guide Dogs for the Blind, volunteers raise puppies that are later trained by the organization as service animals for the visually impaired. It makes me so happy to see the human-animal bond put to such good use.

  2. The Marine Mammal Center
    Employees at The Marine Mammal Center rescue and treat wounded sea creatures, focusing on California sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals.

  3. Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado
    Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado provides counseling with teams of therapists and therapy animals.

  4. The Wild Animal Sanctuary
    The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescues “exotic and endangered large carnivores that have been abused, abandoned, exploited or illegally kept” throughout North, Central, and South America.

  5. Endangered Species International
    Endangered Species International conducts research on habitat destruction and endangered species, such as the bluefin tuna and the mandrill.



Via SEA: Catering with a Purpose

Via Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA):

CENTER TABLE, Catering with a Purpose is a social enterprise catering company using its profits and culinary training programs to provide a path of self-sufficiency to women overcoming homelessness or addiction.

CENTER TABLE catering company was developed to support women in recovery as they prepare to re-enter society post-addiction. They offer full-service catering of delicious and fresh food, while also teaching culinary skills necessary to help participants gain employment in the food industry. Totaling about 34 hours per week, the 6-10 week training includes educational classes, life skills and a full culinary curriculum including food preparation and service. The hope is that after graduating the recovery program, the women can use their skills to obtain an income and support themselves and their families.

These food training classes work as a segment of the Brighton Recovery Center for Women (BRC), in Florence, Kentucky, in cooperation with the state’s Recovery KY Initiative to end chronic homelessness and combat substance abuse. The holistic recovery center helps women make these necessary, long-term behavioral changes via four components:


  • Safe Off the Streets (SOS) – Provides safe, non-medical environment to begin deciding on a plan of recovery
  • Motivational Tracks – Provides a low-pressure environment for committing to the process of recovery so that participants can experience the hope of change
  • Phase I – Provides effective solutions to the problems of addiction. Programs are more focused and intense than the Motivational Tracks. Goals are increased social wellness, economic independence and ultimately recovery from addiction
  • Phase II – Provides a means of reintroduction back into society. Participants obtain employment or participate in educational/job training programs, pay rent, work on maintaining sobriety, attend self-help meetings and prepare a plan of action for living sober as productive members of society