grant writing

How To Manage Grant Time

Time is an important factor for a grant writer.

First is the figuring when to look for grants. I start with when a nonprofit is normally low on cash. I look over the nonprofit’s bank account over the last three years that shows cash flow and I take out unusual events like a natural disaster. Next, I average out the income and expenses on a monthly basis.

There will be times throughout the year when more cash is coming in and expenses are low and vice versa. For example, soup kitchens feed fewer people in November and December when churches provide food. This is also when donations run higher. During the summer, donations are typically down while there are more people to feed with school being out.

Once I establish a cash flow schedule, I mark out six months before cash is needed and look for grant opportunities. Six months is usually how long a foundation takes from a grant deadline to handing out the check.

Second, I create a schedule when grants open and close. I keep it simple by putting the schedule in an MS Excel spreadsheet (I do this for the cash flow, too). Even MS Word is good. Everyone is familiar with Excel and Word and these documents can be sent to anyone because everyone has the software. (Of note, do not use complicated formulas in the spreadsheet.)

This grant schedule tells me when to collect documents, update data, and write the grant. (I always try to finish a week before the grant deadline.)

A cash flow and grant schedule helps me be organized with grants. More importantly, having an easy to read, easy to upkeep, and easily transferable schedule lets everyone be involved in finding and writing grants.

After all, grant writing should be about sharing and managing time together.

Getting Help Writing Grants

What I’ve learned from self-publishing my book is for me to stop trying to do everything myself and get help. The same applies toward grant writing.

Grant writers need writing skills to complete a grant application. Yet, there are other parts to an application besides the summaries, narratives, and other written sections. Grant writers should take advantage of not knowing everything and ask for help.

For example, it is better to use a photographer when providing photographs. Clear, professional images can be a great way to highlight the application. Also, the grant application may require specific performance measurements. Instead of learning what these are, the grant writer could contact an expert in these measurements.

Another example could be when restoring an historic building. Sometimes an historian familiar with the time period and restorations can provide details that highlight knowledge of the project.

Still another example is when looking for grant opportunities. Searching the internet for a grant takes time. It is faster and more efficient to use a grant database that someone developed having exact parameters.

Of course, grant writers could rely on the nonprofit’s expertise. Yet, I found it is sometimes better to get information from an outside source. This gives a different perspective and allows for more diversity in the information. Using other sources can add detail I do not have.

Also, information from an outside source can create a grant application that looks more professional. This makes foundation board members happy. We want the money people to be happy.

Finally, I like to contact people with different expertise than myself. It lets me learn something new, explore other fields of community engagement, and gives me the chance to meet new people.

Many authors who self-publish have learned to outsource (like me). Grant writers should, too.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I know, the title is an old cliché. Don’t worry, I won’t use any more clichés. This blog is about adding photographs into a grant request.

Many grant applications have an “other” category, meaning the applicant has the option of providing additional information. (If given the opportunity to provide more information, always provide more information.) I add pamphlets or posters or something linking back to the project. I always try to include at least one photograph.

The photograph(s) should involve people doing something directly related to the project. If requesting money for a product, show how that product is helping people. If needing funds for a service, show people receiving that service. The photograph should show the nonprofit making an impact to those in need.

However, be careful with photographs. Everyone looks at them differently. Some photographs can hurt the grant request.

For example, a service like a soup kitchen should show many people being served and not an empty cafeteria with one person. If asking money for a product, show it being used and not sitting on a table where it could look insignificant.

For a renovation project I’m helping with, I show contrasts of what the building looked like and the progress being made. It is important to be truthful, but I do not show the best side needing renovation. Someone may think the building doesn’t look all that bad. Also, I do not show a close up of rotted wood. People may think the building is too far gone and the money will be wasted.

So, just don’t send photographs. Think as much about the photographs as writing the grant. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. (I didn’t say I wouldn’t use the same cliché.)

PowerPoint for Money

This is not to be death by PowerPoint (too many slides with too much text). This is presenting information in a different way that could be easily read.

Usually a nonprofit explains their needs through a grant application. Other ways can be through letters. A PowerPoint presentation gives the reader a different reading experience.

I have done many PowerPoint presentations in my Pentagon career. To be effective, a presentation should contain talking points, summaries, and general descriptions. I allow for white space on each page with few words, wide margins, and large fonts. Yes, it can be hard to describe a project and needs with this limited space.

One way is by listing all the project’s keywords, prioritizing them, getting rid of redundancies, and making them into sentences without adverbs, adjectives, or modifiers. When finished, I organize the slides such as I did recently (seven slides).

  • Self explanatory title with brief summary of the project (logo in top corner)
  • Introduction/Background (what the nonprofit does)
  • Importance of the project (impact to people and/or community)
  • Objective (where this project is going and how will it get there)
  • The Need (details about what is needed)
  • What the need will accomplish (relates back to the objective)
  • Summary with who to contact (it will be a sunshiny day in the end)

I do not mention dollars anywhere. Dollars allow for pre-judgements. The purpose of the presentation is to develop an interest in the project so the reader will ask for more information.

I make presentations that can be read. There may not be an opportunity to present it. A presentation can be given to people with influence over funding, such as politicians and government or business managers.

My presentation was to a politician who had influence with a foundation that excluded the nonprofit’s mission area. Maybe with a little push by the politician, a door could be opened, hopefully.