Excerpts for Grant Writing for Dummies

Grant Writing For Dummies

By Beverly A. Browning

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-1180-1387-8

Chapter One

Grasping the Nuts and Bolts of Grant Writing

In This Chapter

* Boning up on grant basics

* Planning the grant-seeking process

* Connecting to public and private sector grants

* Looking at the paper and e-grant submission processes

* Keeping tabs on submission statuses and moving forward after a rejection

Anyone can attempt to write grant requests, but what makes an award-winning grant writer? A curious, needs-driven, community-connected person who's willing to approach the grant-seeking and grant-writing process one day or task at a time. To become a crack grant writer, you need to understand grant-related terminology. You want to organize the grant-seeking and application processes and familiarize yourself with the different types of potential funding sources. You also need to note how each potential funding source wants you to submit your request for funding and then track that request after you submit it.

In this chapter, I start you down the right path to grant writing success by opening your mind and abilities to understanding grant language and how to match needs to available bucks.

Getting the Lowdown on Grant Basics

Before diving into the wonderful world of grant writing, you need to understand a few essentials, such as exactly what a grant is and who qualifies for one. Additionally, being able to understand what grantors want to fund is critical to crafting the right proposal for the right grantor. I explain all these topics and more in the following sections.

Grants, grantees, grantors, and more: Defining common terms

Basically speaking, a grant (or, federally, a cooperative agreement) is a monetary award given by a grantor to a grantee. I use these terms throughout the book, so understanding them is important. Here's how I define them:

  •   Grant/cooperative agreement: The distinguishing factor between a grant and a cooperative agreement is the degree of federal participation or involvement during the performance of the work activities. When a federal agency program officer participates in funded project activities, it's called a cooperative agreement. When the grant applicant is the sole implementer of project activities, it's called a grant.


    A grant award can be used for whatever the grantor wants to fund, which is why reading the funding guidelines is so critical to your chance for success. (Refer to Part II for tips on poring over funding guidelines from multiple types of grantors.)

  •   Grantor: A grantor (also known as a grant maker or funder) is the organization or agency that receives your funding request and decides whether to fund or reject it. Grantors include the 26 federal government grant-making agencies; tons of state and local government agencies (including the U.S. territories); nearly 100,000 foundations and corporate grant makers; and individual philanthropists who opt to write business or personal checks for charitable causes.


    Some grant awards come with basically no strings attached, but many others require you to use the funds in a certain way. Grantors with lots of strings attached to their monies are almost always government grant-making agencies (local, state, and federal public sector funders). Grantors with few strings attached are referred to as private sector funders. These grantors usually include corporate and foundation grant makers.

  •   Grantee: A grantee is the organization or individual designated to receive a grant award. (So, hopefully, the grantee is you.) Remember: Up until you're awarded the grant, you're a grant applicant; you become a grantee only if you receive an award.

    So how do you get a grantor to give you a grant and make you a grantee? You send a grant application or proposal (also known as a funding request). A grant application is an advance promise of what you or your organization (the grantee) proposes to do when the grantor fulfills your request for funding. I tell you more about the pieces or sections of a grant application/proposal later in this chapter.

    Outlining the pieces of a grant application

    A government grant or cooperative agreement application is a written funding request that you use to ask for money from a government agency. Government grant applications are all individualized by each of the 26 federal grant-making agencies. Each federal agency has dozens of agencies under its wing that release Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) or Request for Applications (RFAs). Each NOFA or RFA has different funding priorities and guidelines for what you need to write in order to submit a responsive and reviewable grant application. Government grant applications generally require that you write narrative responses for these sections (which I cover in more depth in Part IV):

  •   Executive summary or abstract

  •   Statement of need or statement of the problem

  •   Program design or methodology

  •   Adequacy of resources or key personnel

  •   Evaluation plan

  •   Organization background/history or organization capability

  •   Sustainability statement

  •   Budget

    A foundation or corporate grant application typically takes the form of a proposal. A proposal is a structured document that must follow each grant maker's specific guidelines. Writing a proposal to a foundation or corporation requires the same adherence to the guidelines and incorporation of relevant information as completing government grant applications does. Some foundations and corporate grant makers accept the Common Grant Application formats (see "Getting your request in the door at foundations" later in this chapter for more details).

    Determining who can apply for a grant

    The types of organizations or entities eligible to apply for a grant vary from grantor to grantor, and in the case of government grants, often from NOFA to NOFA or RFA. Each type of grantor (government, foundation, or corporate) always includes clear, published grant-making guidelines that indicate who or what type of entity is eligible to apply for those specific grant funds. (See the grantor's website or request a paper copy of its grant-making guidelines by phone or e-mail.) Government agencies typically include one or more of the following types of grant applicants in their eligible applicant language:

  •   State government

  •   County government

  •   City or township government

  •   Federally and nonfederally recognized Native American tribal governments

  •   Independent school districts

  •   Nonprofits with and without IRS 501 (c)(3) (nonprofit) status

  •   Private, public, and state-controlled institutions of higher education

  •   Public and Native American housing authorities

  •   For-profit businesses

  •   For-profit organizations other than businesses

  •   International nonprofits, called nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

  •   Individuals

    Most grants go to organizations that have applied to the IRS for nonprofit status and have received the IRS's 501 (c)(3) designation. Foundation and corporate grantors focus predominately on nonprofit organizations and aren't inclined to fund for-profits. However, a few grants are given to individuals (see Chapter 7 for details).

    Since I've been writing grant applications, I've seen a growing number of grant awards made to cities, villages, townships, counties, and even state agencies. Although none of these governmental units are IRS 501 (c)(3) designees, they're still nonprofit in structure and can apply for and receive grant awards from the federal government, foundations, and corporations.

    Knowing Why You Need a Plan


    If you're looking for funding to support an organization or a specific program, the first rule in grant seeking is that you don't write a grant request without first completing a comprehensive planning process that involves your organization's (the grant applicant's) key stakeholders: administrative staff and the board of directors.

    Without key stakeholder input on what your target population (the people your organization serves) needs and the plan for closing the gap on these needs, you're fishing without the right bait. You must have an organized funding development plan to guide your organization in adopting priority programs and services and then identifying all potential grantors you plan to approach with grant requests. A funding development plan answers questions such as

  •   What programs are strong and already have regular funding to keep them going?

  •   What new programs need funding?

  •   What opportunities exist to find new funding partners?

  •   What existing grants expire soon?

    When you answer these questions, you can begin to look at the multitude of areas where grants are awarded and begin to prioritize the type of funding you need. I write more about funding development plans in Chapter 2.

    Investigating Different Grant Types

    Every potential grant-funding agency publishes specific types of funding it awards to potential grant seekers. When you know what you want to use grant monies for (see the preceding section), you can evaluate whether your request fits with the type of funding the grantor has available. For example, if you want money for an after-school program, you can skip applying to a grantor that's awarding building/renovation grants. The following list gives you the scoop on the different categories of funding offered:

  •   Annual campaigns: Grants to support annual operating expenses, infrastructure improvements, program expansion, and, in some cases, onetime-only expenses (such as a cooling-system replacement).

  •   Building/renovation funds: Grants to build a new facility or renovate an existing facility. These projects are often referred to as bricks-and-mortar projects. Building funds are the most difficult to secure; only a small percentage of foundations and corporations award grants for these types of projects.
  •   Capital support: Grants for equipment, buildings, construction, and endowments. This type of request is a major undertaking by the applicant organization because these types of large-scale projects aren't quickly funded. An organization often needs two to three years to secure total funding for these projects.

  •   Challenge monies: Grants that act as leverage to secure additional grants from foundations and corporations. They're awarded by grant makers that specifically include challenge grants or challenge funds in their grant-making priorities. These types of grants are contingent upon your raising additional grant funds from other funding sources. Typically, a challenge grant award letter directs you to raise the remaining funding from other grantors; however, the category "other grantors" typically excludes government grants.

  •   Conferences/seminars: Grants to cover the cost of attending, planning, and/or hosting conferences and seminars. You can use the funding to pay for all the conference expenses, including securing a keynote speaker, traveling, printing, advertising, and taking care of facility expenses such as meals.

  •   Consulting services: Grants to secure the expertise of a consultant or consulting firm to strengthen some specific aspect of organizational programming. For example, if you bring in a consultant to do a long-range strategic plan or to conduct training for a board of directors, you're paying for consulting services.

  •   Continuing support/continuation: Grants the grantor awards to your organization after you've already received an initial grant award from that same grantor. These monies are intended to continue your initially funded program or project.

  •   Employee matching gifts: Grants from employers to match the monetary donations their employees make to nonprofit organizations, often on a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1. If you have board members employed by large corporations, have them check with their human resources departments to see whether their employers have such programs.

  •   Endowments: Grants to develop long-term, permanent investment income to ensure the continuing presence and financial stability of your nonprofit organization. If your organization is always operating in crisis-management mode, one of your goals should be to develop an endowment fund for long-term viability.

  •   Fellowships: Grants to support graduate and postgraduate students in specific fields. These funds are typically awarded to institutions. However, some fellowship grants are awarded by federal agencies; independent organizations such as foundations or associations (for example, the American Psychological Association); and academic, research, or policy institutions. Portable fellowships are awarded to students to study at an institution of their choice. Institutional fellowships are awarded to individuals by universities and other institutions to support the individual's study or research at that institution.

  •   General/operating expenses: Grants for general budget line-item expenses. You may use these funds for salaries, fringe benefits, travel, consultants, utilities, equipment, and other expenses necessary to support agency operations.

  •   Matching funds: Grants awarded with the requirement that you must match the grant award with your own monies or with in-kind contributions.

  •   Program development: Grants to pay for expenses related to organization growth, the expansion of existing programs, or the development of new programs.

  •   Research: Grants to support medical and educational research. Monies are usually awarded to the institutions that employ the individuals conducting the research.

  •   Scholarship funds: Scholarships awarded to individuals. Remember that when funds are awarded directly to an individual, they're considered taxable income (that is, the recipient owes taxes on them).

  •   Seed money: Grants awarded for a pilot program not yet in full-scale operation. Seed money gets a program underway, but other grant monies are necessary to continue the program in its expansion phase.

  •   Technical (consulting) assistance: Grants to improve your internal program operations as a whole (versus consulting on one specific program). Often, this type of grant is awarded to hire an individual or firm that can provide the needed technical assistance. Alternatively, the funding foundation's personnel may provide the technical assistance. For example, a program officer from a foundation may work on-site with the applicant organization to establish an endowment development fund and start a campaign for endowment monies. In some instances, the funding source identifies a third-party technical assistance provider and pays the third party directly to assist the nonprofit organization.

    Connecting to Public Sector Grants

    I probably receive more than 100 e-mails daily and just as many telephone queries weekly. Everyone wants grants! If you're feeling clueless as to how to find potential funding for your organization, you simply need to use the Internet. You can search for potential sources that are interested in what your organization needs in the way of goods and services. Fire up your computer and start searching for the monies that may be waiting for your organization. One of the largest grant-making entities is the U.S. government. If you want to score big in grant awards, start with Uncle Sam.


    Conducting a funding search leads you to the money. But before you start your search, you need to know what type of grant money (or grantor) will pay you to implement your idea, project, or program. I introduce you to your options in the following sections.


    Excerpted from Grant Writing For Dummies by Beverly A. Browning Copyright © 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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