Posted on 9/16/2015

Grant Writing: 5 tips that might seem obvious but are commonly overlooked

When you’re competing for funding dollars, it’s important to dot the i’s and cross the t’s when writing and submitting a grant proposal. On this week’s blog, Automation Alley Grants Manager Lisa Stief breaks down the grant writing process and offers up tips for grant writing success. 

1.    You might think you’re almost done…
When writing a proposal for a grant, we commonly carve out enough time to write the nuts and bolts of the proposal. We tend to solely focus on making sure that the objectives are clearly stated, the background is laid out, the project details are organized, the budget is justified and so on. You’ve written the first draft, reviewed it, edited and re-written.  You feel like you are in good shape and just about done with the proposal. I have learned the hard way that although it feels like you’re almost done, there are still a lot of time consuming components that must be taken into consideration before the proposal can be submitted.  Many times, proposals require supplementary documents, such as biographies of the team, letters of support, funding agency templates and forms, and various non-narrative materials. Compiling these peripheral documents into a single document, formatting all pieces of the proposal so that it is cohesive and visually consistent, and making sure that all of the required templates and forms are filled out in their entirety takes time. So when you think you’re almost done, set aside some time to make sure that you can focus on the details of the supplementary documentation, the format of all pieces and ascetics of the proposal.

2.    Website registrations and submission process
When starting down the path of a new proposal, it is best to know right out of the gate what registrations are required. For example, do you need a Dun and Brad Street number, do you need to be registered with, do you need to have a registration, and are all of your passwords current? It’s also smart to understand what format the information is submitted online. You don’t want to spend a lot of time converting a bunch of documents to .pdf files and combining them into one file in preparation to upload only to find out that the submission requires you to copy and paste text into text fields. Reviewing the format for submission will save you a lot of time during your preparation.

3.    Through the eyes of the reviewer
It can be very hard to objectively review a grant proposal when in the trenches of writing it. If resources allow for it, it’s great to have a third party read through the final draft prior to submission. Proposals are commonly written by multiple parties and combined into one proposal. Quite often, you begin to review, edit and re-write so many times that you tend to only skim the parts that are most recently edited. A third party editor will have the ability to have an unbiased look at the feel and flow and cohesiveness of the proposal, and confirm that the proposal follows the guidelines and answers the questions that the funding agency is asking.
4.    No need to reinvent the wheel
The grant reviewer doesn’t know who you are so the boiler plate content does not need to be written from scratch. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that you copy and paste your website into a grant proposal, but spend your writing time wisely and try and utilize previous written boiler plate material as much as possible to save you time for the parts of the proposal that need to be thought out and planned.  

5.    Answer the question  
You might have the best project ever and feel strongly that your project deserves funding more than any other project out there. That is great and I am happy for you. However, if the project that you outline in your grant proposal is not in line with the funding agencies mission or funding guidelines, then don’t waste your time putting together a proposal. Funding agencies are usually very specific to what they want to fund. It’s always smart to contact the funding agency prior to putting the work into a grant proposal and give them a brief summary of your project. Ask for feedback so that you can qualify your chances of success. Once you get positive feedback, gather your team, assess your resources and time commitment, and go to work.  Good luck! 

About the Author

Lisa Stief | Automation Alley


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