The key to successful grant funding is to send your proposal to a diverse group of foundations that make a good match for your project, and then keep at it. Though rejection can be very frustrating, it’s simply part of the process. Keep in mind that a rejected proposal is not a total loss–not by a long shot. All the hard work that you put into one proposal will only make the next one stronger.
Developing a system for your grant proposal writing will save you valuable time and energy–and that will allow you to make the process more efficient and effective than ever. Your system will depend on your organizational and personal needs, but it should be something that another member of your organization could step into and navigate fairly easily. Consider the major parts of the grant proposal process and develop a timeline, calendar, and checklist–then create a centralized inventory of resources.
Every time you draft a proposal down the road, your system will save you time and you’ll stress less. You’ll also be less likely to leave out important, relevant information.
Keep updated versions of your organization’s mission statement and history, including any organization charts and narrative descriptions.
• Maintain an accurate list of your essential staff and collaborators, your board of directors and donors. Including contact information, short bios, and resumes whenever possible.
• Assemble and maintain information on your target population, including reports, census data, statistics, etc.
• Compile descriptions of your key programs, including objectives and outcomes, with all related charts, narratives, reports, etc
• Keep folders for all your financial information, such as organizational and project budgets, your IRS 501(c)(3) status letter, your 990 form, audit reports, etc. (ideally you’ll want to have pdf versions wherever possible)
• Create a bank of testimonials from which you can draw–from donors, staff, and clients–including letters of commendation, transcribed messages, emails, etc.
• Archive complete grant proposal applications, including letters of acceptance and rejection and all related reports.
• Maintain research folders on foundations you’ve sent proposals to in the past, whether they were successfully or unsuccessfully funded; also keep folders on foundations you think make good prospects for future proposals
• Keep folders on your organization’s largest funders from the past five years
• Use an electronic database to more easily keep track of all communication between your organization and your funders.
It’s especially helpful to keep both hard copies and electronic forms of all of your documents–this allows you to more easily share, modify, and organize your files.
In addition to your inventory of resources, keep a centralized calendar that lists all the application and reporting deadlines of your grants. Staying ahead of the game with a timeline and checklist will allow you to pay close attention to each foundation’s guidelines and will help prevent you from forgetting any important steps.
A system for writing grant proposals keeps you from constantly reinventing the wheel and shuffling needlessly through reams of paper. Once you’ve done it–you’ll never go back.
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