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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Nguyen

Preparing for Grant Opportunities – Three Steps to Stay Ahead of the Curve (or Deadline)

Most grant opportunities are by nature competitive, and applications can be complicated and time-consuming to prepare within what is often a tight window from the time funding is announced until the application deadline. It is not uncommon to have 30 days or less to respond to a request for proposals, and you will find that your anxiety and stress will increase exponentially if you wait until a grant opportunity officially opens to begin the proposal development process. By taking a few straightforward and proactive steps before a specific funding opportunity presents itself, you can put your organization in a better position to quickly respond and increase your chances of success.

 

Once you have identified a priority funding need for your organization, taking the following steps will help to ensure your general readiness for any related grant opportunity:

 

1. Sketch out a preliminary project/program concept and budget. In collaboration with your grants team (if this is not yet in place, work on convening the folks needed to apply for funding AND implement the initiative), consider key questions including:

 

  • Why is the project a priority now?

  • Do you have or expect to have capacity to implement it?

  • What evidence-based practices will be utilized?

  • What is new or innovative about this effort?

  • Is there the potential for replication?

  • Have you discussed the plan with all relevant staff?

  • How will you assess outcomes?

 

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin developing a brief summary (aim for one to three pages) of the proposed program, addressing key components such as overarching goals and objectives (try to use the SMART methodology – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, Time-Based); estimated project timeline; proposed key activities; identified project team members; anticipated measurable outputs (e.g., how many people to be served) and outcomes (what positive change will occur as a result of the program/project); a preliminary evaluation and reporting plan; a communications and donor stewardship strategy; and at least an outline of a line-item budget with personnel and key expenditure categories.


2. Make sure key documentation is available and up-to-date. While each funding opportunity will have its own specific application guidelines and requirements, there is standard content that will commonly be requested by funders that should be current and on file. If not, you’ll want to connect with operations, finance, and/or human resources personnel to request any of the following key information and attachments that will likely be need for a grant application.  It could take several days to several weeks to receive the information:

 

  • Organizational background/history

  • Mission/vision statements

  • Current client/service area demographics

  • Annual operating budget

  • Current audited financials

  • Business licenses/insurance

  • Relevant eligibility documentation (e.g., IRS tax-determination letter)

  • Governing board roster with affiliations

  • List of recent funders/amounts

  • W-9 and/or other standard forms


 3. Confirm active registration and access to online grant portals. If you are applying for a federal grant, your organization’s authorized representative(s) will need to register for and maintain an active registration in the System for Award Management (SAM.gov), which is the e-procurement system that collects, validates, and stores information from suppliers of goods and services to the federal government. In addition, you will need an active grants.gov account, through which you may apply directly for federal funding and/or submit validating information to another federal agency-specific grant system, for which you will also need account access to complete the application process (e.g., JustGrants for U.S. Department of Justice grant funding). Most private foundations also require registration in their online portals to apply for grant funding, so establishing these accounts ahead of time can save valuable time when you are up against a deadline.

 

We get it, you’re busy – and it is easy to push these necessary steps off to a later date when you expect to have more availability. But the relatively small investment of time and effort will better position your organization for consistent success in securing the vital funding needed to help sustain and grow your programs in fulfillment of your organization’s mission and service to the community. If you need assistance with any of these grant seeking preparation steps, feel free to reach us at 530-877-3426 or info@garybess.com.

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