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Prioritizing Prospects for the Overworked Grant Writer


We have all been there: “Deadline Season.” There are too many deadlines, too little time, stress is high, and the pressure is on. How do you prioritize which proposals to move forward? 

These are just a few suggestions to help you build your framework, or to help a resistant executive director, supervisor, or program manager understand why you are advocating for stepping back from a proposal.
 
Timing: Is this a hard deadline, or one that you have set for yourself? Are there other opportunities to apply this year? If you have a chance to put off a proposal in the face of other high priority asks, give yourself the space to focus on crafting a fabulous proposal for those funders with set deadlines.
 
Fit: If this one feels like you are twisting yourself to fit their criteria, consider letting it go for something better suited for you and the funder. Arguing that your project fits within a certain category or that your organization is right-sized for their interests may not be worth your time compared to other opportunities.
 
Likelihood: Is this a long shot or a funder you are certain will come through? Many of us have had an unlikely proposal come through to our pleasant surprise, but if you have too much to do, plan on going back another time.
 
Amount: If your plate is overflowing, set aside the low asks. I am a big fan of small asks to local businesses and banks, but you must consider the comparative return on your investment when capacity is limited.
 
Urgency: If the project you are pitching needs the money right now, or is projecting a big gap at the end of the fiscal year, it may be worth pushing through to get proposals in more quickly.
 
Strength of proposal: Do you have the time to put together a solid collaborative proposal when the funder requires it? Would you be slapping together a new project without enough time to flesh out the challenges, opportunities, and demands on your project staff? Is it worth the potential headache in post-award management if you do get it, with the time you have to write what you can? These are particularly powerful arguments with program managers: the promise of funds on a quick timeline, while tempting, isn't usually worth the pain of trying to follow through on the deliverables and outcomes if put together too quickly.
 
In the end, it comes down to you, your organization, and your boundaries and preferences. Our job is to raise funds for the important work our organizations or clients do. It is not to run ourselves into the ground, write too many proposals that end up half-baked, or create more problems than the money was worth.
 
Please remember: even when the deadlines are coming fast and furious, taking a quick self-care break will help you write a stronger proposal and stay productive.
 
Do these ring true for you? What other criteria have you used to prioritize grants? Share your comments below!
 

Kat Champigny writes grants for marine research, science education, and community programs at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, ME.
 

GPCI Competency(ies): Knowledge of how to research, identify and match funding resources to meet specific needs


 

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