Fund Times

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Tales From the Funding Side May 6, 2011

Filed under: foundations,transparency,Uncategorized — fundtimes @ 1:29 am

The “overachiever” in me wants to always understand the entire process of things.  Not only do I like to eat (my family can attest to that), but I want to understand the seasonings that are combined to create a magnificent dish.  The same is true with my love of all things fundraising.  Dedicating my professional career to fundraising is only one way that I show my support for building the capacity of nonprofits.  What you may not know (if you haven’t read my “About” section, shame on you) is that I have moonlighted as a volunteer grant reviewer.  The things that I’ve learned from this process are enough to prompt you to want to take me out to dinner to hear all about it.

But never mind that.

This month’s post is dedicated to sharing the top four grant writing strategies that will make  a  program officer want to commit a “philanthropic drive-by” on your behalf (i.e., slide past your office with grant check in hand).

  • Understand the Process. Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), it’s important to review the entire Request for Proposal (RFP) or application guidelines.  Taking time to do this ensures that you gather all of the necessary information in order to effectively respond to each section of the application.
  • Grading on a Rubric. The strength of your application will likely be assessed using a scoring rubric.  While you won’t necessarily have access to the scoring rubric or know how many points each section is worth, it is important to thoroughly answer each and every grant question.  Which takes me to my next point…          
  • Don’t Curb Your Enthusiasm. When reviewing grant applications, there were many applicants that omitted the requested information.  They cynic in me likened this to laziness on the part of the writer.  Was the applicant tired of writing about their program or did they in fact, not have an answer to the question?  I can’t say, but it definitely impacted my decision to move their application forward.
  • Less is More.  It can be tempting to want to describe each and every detail of your program in a grant application, but don’t.  As a volunteer grant reviewer, I was tasked with scoring between five and ten applications.  That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that each was about 10 pages long, the process turned out to be rather lengthy.  The first thing I learned in my “Introduction to Grant Writing” class in graduate school was to sum it up.  Mastering the art of succinct sentences is critical in keeping a grant reviewer or program officer interested in reading about your work.

Have you ever volunteered as a grant reviewer or worked as a program officer?  What other bits of advice would you add about the review process?

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