Grant money is not necessarily fast money, but grants can be a great way to subsidize your education or fund your pet project. Here are 6 steps to help you begin your quest for all that free money.
- Know your project – This is the most important step in beginning to write grants. You must have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish with the grant funding you will receive. Knowing WHY you need the money will help you find the right grant, know how much you will spend and how, and help you to write a better proposal. If you only have a vague idea of what you want to do, your application will be vague and weak and will probably not be approved.
- Know your grantor – Private foundation grants are usually very specific about what projects they will and will not fund. Many have websites which specifically state what types of projects they fund. Do not bother to apply for a grant from a foundation if your project does not conform to their requirements. It is a waste of your time no matter how wonderful your project is or how perfect your application is. The federal, state and even local governments may have grants you can apply for. Most federal government grants are for projects that will improve the community or provide benefits to a larger portion of the citizenry, such as improving police or recycling services, but there are many federal grants for college tuition and scholarships.
- Know the deadline – Grant writing is not magical. Grant writing is not rocket science. But you do have to follow the directions outlined in the grant application. Deadlines are very important and non-negotiable. If you do not get your completed application submitted by the deadline, you will not even be considered for funding. Know and respect the deadline. Give yourself enough time to do a decent job of writing the grant application. If you don’t have enough time, don’t send in a shabby application. Many grants are offered yearly or even every six months on a revolving timetable. If you don’t have enough time to do a good job this cycle, just plan to do a great job for the next cycle. I cannot reiterate this enough: Know and respect the deadline.
- Read the directions – Grantors typically provide guidelines for applicants to help you fill out their application. These directions or guidelines should become your bible – follow them TO THE LETTER. If the guidelines say “provide 10 paper copies. No applications will be accepted online” then do not send it via email. Make 10 paper copies and mail it by the deadline; double check to see if it has to be postmarked by the deadline or if the grantor must receive it by the deadline. The instructions are there to help you put together a good, competitive grant – use them. If you have any questions there is usually contact information – do not hesitate to contact them to ask questions. In my experience, email works best because you have a written record of any clarifications. Responses are usually very timely and can be very helpful.
- Follow the instructions – Work your way through the grant application ONE THING AT A TIME. It may look very intimidating and have a lot of pages, but if you do one thing at a time eventually you will complete the thing.
- Read it over – Don’t think you will fill out the application once and be done with it because you won’t. You will read it over many times. As I said before, it is not rocket science, but you DO have to have everything filled out correctly and completely and you will not know the answer to every question first time through. This is when you realize how important it is to really know your project; because the grant application is a way of explaining your project to someone else and if you do not know it inside and out it will be harder for you to explain it. The better you explain it, the more likely you are to capture the grant funds.
The first time you go through the application, fill out the parts that are easy – the parts you know. The second time through, write down any questions you have about the questions you don’t know and ask the grantor for clarification; after receiving clarification, find the answers you need to fill in the blanks. Then, read it over again to make sure you have answered every question and make sure your spelling is correct and all dates are correct; in other words, proofread it. Then set it aside. After a couple of days go back to it and read it over again to make sure it is how you want it. Then prepare it for mailing or prepare to apply online using your application for reference.
If you keep these tips in mind when applying for a grant, the process will be not be overwhelming and you may get that free money you need to complete your project.