The Art of Grant Writing

Like many things in life, writing grant applications is as much science as it is an art. Focusing specifically on the facts like budgets and project schedules will only get you so far. But writing all about the good will of your cause without any substance isn’t going to go anywhere with a judiciary panel. Striking the right balance between the two so you’re presenting the most convincing case you can is tricky. We have some useful grant writing tips to help you out.

In a recent project, we helped Nickel Plate Cross Country Ski Club in their efforts to replace an ageing piece of equipment. The club had saved a substantial amount of money but was still significantly short of what they required. The grant application we prepared was successful and earned the club the necessary $170,000 to cover their shortfall. That was a proud moment.

After editing applications for non-profits it’s clear where they tend to fall short. We’ve compiled a short list of tips to help new grant writers pursue their goals. 

Look At the Angles

Nickel Plate is a cross country ski club. Their purpose? Well, they provide a place to ski. The problem is that there isn’t much in that statement to convince a funding organization that they should bother doling out their cash to you.

When you dig deeper, Nickel Plate has a school program that services over 1700 student visits annually. They have a relationship with local Indigenous bands to provide free skiing, and also a program that specifically introduces Indigenous students to cross country skiing. Many of the members are seniors who visit for the sense of community. And to top it off, at 1900 metres above sea level the centre is often high above the valley clouds, a solution to dreary winters.

That’s the money. Dig not into “what” your organization does, but into the impact it has. A homeless shelter isn’t just a roof over heads, it’s refuge and community, it’s a reduction in petty crime or a stepping off point for people to get back on the right track.

What impact do you have?

Be Specific

We were recently asked to write a grant application for an electrical upgrade in the facilities of a non-profit. They provided quotes from two contractors that were not only wildly different, they also glossed over any sense of detail. It was almost as though they were bidding on two different projects. As a result, since nobody internally had the knowledge of an electrician, the organization couldn’t construct a clear scope for their project. Our advice was that they wait to apply until they had a clear scope for their project. They submitted the application anyway, and it failed.

Shortly after they contacted us again for a new grant, and they had managed to get expert advice to really narrow down their requirements. That was exactly the ticket we needed to put together a winning application.

Strictly define why you’re applying for grant funding and stick to it. Engage professionals who can give you expert advice on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Get Your Ducks in a Row

This almost goes without saying, but is important enough to repeat. Without absolutely perfect financial records, your application will fail. This applies to quotes from contractors as much as profit and loss statements. And each grant might have different requirements. If your organization is going to struggle to provide this information, you aren’t ready to submit an application.

Give ‘em What They Ask For

Referring back to grant requirements, be absolutely sure that you are submitting all of the documentation the funder is asking for. There are few things as disheartening as putting hours of effort into an application, only to have it rejected because you forgot to submit a document.

At The Write Cheese, we begin every application by developing a requirements checklist. This keeps us on track for two reasons. First, we can identify the items that are going to take the most time. Second, we know at a glance if we’ve collected the necessary data.

Grant writing isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t something you can do off the side of your desk either. Grant funds are an amazing opportunity for organizations doing good work to do more of the same.

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