Guess what?! You are the new designated individual who gets to write grants for us! Isn’t that exciting?
If you’re like most of the people we work with, the daunting task of being the designated writer is getting everything and everyone organized. Everything is scattered all over the place and you have no clue where to start putting things together.
Our solution is to make sure you have everything in one place all the time so that you can build a process out of writing grants.
The biggest reason grant applications fail is due to disorganization. Plain and simple, most writers cannot find the correct information in a timely manner to include it in their application. Things come down to crunch time. Copy and content is thrown together last minute and often the requirements are not met and the grant application fails.
If this has happened to you, you are not alone.
Here are 8 things you should keep organized and easily accessible at all times:
Every grant application asks for at least one of these. Regardless of what is in the employee handbook, be sure that the most up-to-date mission, vision and values are at your fingertips in a file, digital folder or somewhere at your fingertips.
Include organizational charts, bios of staff and board members, too. These will be helpful in collecting information that you need at a moment’s notice for any grant. These may seem trivial to keep handy, but when the chips are in and you’re facing a deadline, you will thank me.
Tell me about each of these in a paragraph or less.
If you don’t have this, spend 30 minutes with the program or project manager. Just let them talk about the project and their team. Once you get them gushing about a specific volunteer, talk to the volunteer. Understand how they do their job, why, and what they enjoy most about it. Along the way, keep track of the specific stories that are shared. These can be powerful in the next grant you write.
Everyone knows that their organization is special and is the best at what they do, but often, they struggle to communicate it or understand the specifics about why it works. In this part of your file, understand what makes your organization uniquely successful in achieving organizational goals.
It could be your staff that has unique credentials or skills. Maybe it is a specific partner or board member. Even your location can be a factor! Just being in near enough to service a need or create change is a huge factor for many grants in their decision-making. Do some investigating and really dig into what your school or organization’s secret sauce is.
This might be the largest piece of your file. If you are doing a good job, the press, awards, social media engagement just tends to happen. I’m a big fan of having a scanner and a folder in Google Drive or Dropbox to keep track of all of this. This is your bragging/credibility file. Here are some things to collect:
You get the idea.
Did I mention that these are also great ways to find donors?
It’s all about numbers here. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding ways to measure impact in your community. Often, it is very hard to figure out what you are measuring, but you have to find a way to tie it to a number, even if that number is based on qualitative observation or estimates.
Maybe you are just measuring smiling faces in your school. Other times it is easy to track dollars put towards a project. But sometimes, you need to put some work in to follow up with those you serve by creating surveys, tracking tools, attendees vs. participants, etc. Take some time and dig deep as to what one thing you could measure in your next program that helps to quantify impact.
Look for anything that you make here. Just keep your file up to date with the most important items every year.
Take it a step further and really understand how the money flows at your school, department or organization. Talk to your supervisor, financial officer or department head to help you understand the financial underpinnings of your organization.
Get to know the people on the front lines of any project or program, especially those that have been around for a long time. Be real with them. Ask them to be honest about strengths and weaknesses of the organization or project. Ask them where they think the greatest needs are and what they would do if money were available.
Get to know their perspective of the school or organization’s history. Get a sense of how the mission or vision has changed over time. This will give you a good sense of whether your organization is really doing what they are setting out to do.
Lastly, get to know them. These are people who have stuck by you. They can be your biggest advocates in any scenario. Maybe they have connections or would be willing to supply or collect testimonials when needed. Keep them in a short list, Excel, or, even better, your personal CRM or contact management software.
Every grant you apply for, win, lose or no answer, should be kept organized. I suggest keeping a short sheet on the cover of each, so you can understand the basic goals of the grant you applied for, how much, time spent on the grant application, deadlines and other basic information. These details can be recycled on other grants. Trust me, many grants are more alike than you think.
If you can have these easily accessible, just think, you have a grant you nailed it on, just use the same information (if applicable) to snag that next round of funding.
It goes without saying that every grant is different and will require new copy, but staying diligent on your personal file organization when it comes to grants can pay dividends. I suggest making a goal of it. Every year or quarter, try to speed up your personal application process. After all, eventually you’ll win a grant.
At the end of the day, a big part of it is just a numbers game.