Top Tips & Best Practices for Grant Professionals
Tips provided by the following GPA members and Grant Professionals:
Jeanne Donado, GPC, Bernadette Hicks, Diane H. Leonard, GPC, Jodi Samuels, Olivia Smith-Daugherty, GPC, and Tammy Tilzey
Planning & Prioritizing
- READ the Notice of Funding completely and thoroughly; highlight it and make notes on it. This is your tool for writing the best grant proposal that meets funder expectations.
- Keep a library of answers to common questions easily accessible. Maintaining a content library helps save time searching for what you used on previous proposals and allows you to spend time tuning it to the funder and program you are apply to.
- Use data on past efforts to set and communicate expectations for future grant development efforts and resource needs. Protect your time and continue to revise your estimates on the time it takes to raise grant funding for your organization. Become the expert!
- Set an internal deadline for any proposal of at least one week prior to the “real” deadline. This gives you sufficient buffer time for any final review and revisions.
- Always aim to submit at least one day prior to the deadline.
- When you are not funded, use it as a learning experience! Contact the funder and ask for your scoring. Use this as a tool to improve so you can do better next time.
- Complete your GuideStar profile and keep it up to date. Funders often check public sources for information on their applicants. Make sure your external appearance is current, consistent and professional.
- Use social media to learn about funders and (yes) for your own professional development.
- Regularly schedule time to find and fill your pipeline of future funders. Find the best places and tools to use to search for funders that are a good match for you. (Foundation Center, GrantStation, local funders, social media, etc.)
- Always work to build relationships with grantmakers before applying (unless of course they specifically tell you not to contact them)
- Make sure that the grant that you’re writing is the best fit – not just for your agency but also for the funder.
- Seek out good partners to fund your mission and don’t try to appear like you meet eligibility requirements that are a stretch. If you are not a good fit – you are wasting everyone’s time.
Proposal Development & Submission
- If using an online submission portal, review all aspects of the system right away to ensure your browser and computer are compatible with the portal to avoid any last-minute technical glitches.
- Set a clear timeline for proposal development and submission, including tasks and assignments for other staff whose input and knowledge you’ll need.
- Involve the stakeholders – make sure that you are listening to their needs and are incorporating those things into the proposal.
- Develop “boiler plate” narrative that can easily be modified. It will save you time, especially when working on multiple proposals.
- Understand restrictions (character limits, file types, supported browsers, etc.) before you start working on the application.
- Ensure that all elements of your grant application help tell the same story – from the cover letter to the budget.
- Make your budget justifications as detailed as possible – explain your expenses in a way that it promotes the OMB’s basic cost principles and the funder’s guidelines – reasonable, prudent and allowable.
- When preparing an application, check your data. Then check it again.
- Don't self-edit. No matter how confident you are in your writing skills find a colleague that can critically review your work and compare the work to the grantmaker's guidelines.
- If a template is provided for any part of the application – use it. Using the funders budget format is a common request.
- Use the most recent version of an internet browser that is supported by their online system.
- Don’t feel you need to use all the character space you are given. Funders typically give you more space than you need and appreciate concise, complete responses.
- Even though you have limited formatting options, make your application readable. Use simple bullets, spaces and blank lines, limit your abbreviations, and don’t skimp on proper punctuation.
- Double / triple check your budget math. If it doesn’t add up – time is wasted trying to get the right information from you. Or worse yet, your application may not get considered.
- If applied to a funder before, use the same login and account you used previously. If you had turnover or do not remember, contact the funder to ask. Funders want to keep applications from the same organization organized together and creating a separate account causes issues on their side.
- Realize the risks associated with saving your drafts in an online form. Some forms are good about saving your draft work, others are not. If unsure, create your draft application elsewhere and then copy/paste.
- Take time to thank funders who spent time reviewing and evaluating your application, even if you did not receive funding. A spirit of gratitude is not as common as you might think and goes a long way in setting you apart.
- Protect your organization’s institutional knowledge regarding funders and grants. Funder relationships, grant history, and upcoming deadlines should be maintained in a system.
- Use the same format for follow up reports that you used for the original application to help the funders understand and digest your progress and results.
- Be willing to change. With the changing landscape of the grants “world,” grant professionals must be willing to adapt their methods as needed.
- Abide by the GPA Code of Ethics - www.grantprofessionals.org/ethics
- Join and get actively involved in GPA! Attend the GPA Conference, write an article, visit a Chapter meeting, become a mentor and/or mentee, and participate in GrantZone forums.