Grant writing can seem like a daunting task even for experienced grant writers. Many organizations don't know where to start. When I work with businesses, groups, organizations, and individuals, I try to keep the process as simple as possible.
Where to start
Start with your need. Do you need equipment? Do you need supplies? Do you need technology? What are the basic needs? What are the ambitious wants? Don't be afraid to ask! Be careful, however, with paying staff or paying utilities, which most grants do not allot funds. Also, consider your timeline. When do you need these funds? As a general rule, give yourself six months to a year to go through this process.
Next, you will need to get estimates to have a better idea of how much you need. I always suggest that you get a local estimate (find local businesses and organizations to support) and a chain/corporate estimate (find larger companies that are often cheaper, including Amazon). Sometimes, you will not be able to find two estimates because a specific company may be the best place or have a specialized item that can only be found at this one very specific company. Save these estimates!
Finally, you need to search for the grant that's right for your business/organization and for your timeline. How much time do you have to dedicate to this grant? I suggest starting local. Local organizations (like Community Foundations) often have grants to support local businesses and organizations. Searching for grants is time-consuming and difficult.
I found one! Now what?
The first few steps sound simple enough; although, they take a lot of time. Once you find a grant to apply for, you have to really look closely at the guidelines. Look at the requirements. Is there a letter of inquiry required? Look at the language. Are they looking for service projects or action-based projects? Look at the stipulations. Do you have to be a non-profit or have a Board of Directors? Investigate. Check out the website of the grantor. Look at who is going to judge the your application. Find the mission and goals of the grantor. Use that information!
Next, you will apply for the grant. This process could take a while and depends on the complexity (and often the amount) of the grant. I've seen grants with 50 pages to the application! Go through it carefully. You may need to write a letter, requesting the funds for the first part but then need to go on a website, create an account, and apply online in one sitting. The process of applying for the grant correctly will take some time. Take the time. Do it right.
Finally, you will need to go through the final processes. Maybe you get the funds but have to do a follow-up. Maybe you get a check and have no other responsibilities. No matter what, always send a personalized thank you to the grantor. Make a big deal out of every cent a grantor gives you. They chose to give you, your business or organization those funds. Follow up as carefully and respectfully as you asked for the funds.
I'm overwhelmed. What do I do?
Feeling overwhelmed? Contact me. I'll guide you through the process for a consultation fee or apply for the grant for you or your organization!
Martha Warner has been writing grants for more than 5 years for various organizations. Additionally, she is working on creating 2 grant-writing courses: 1 for professionals who want to learn how to find and write grants and a credit-bearing course for university students.