grant writing

2021 Grant Writing Goals

In my last blog, I explained my creative writing goals for the year. This blog is how I set my grant writing goals. I’m more specific with the grants.

I have created a spreadsheet and listed all the foundations I plan to submit throughout the year. This spreadsheet includes the foundation’s name and contact information, such as the website and a point of contact. It also includes what focus areas the foundation had last year. More importantly, the spreadsheet includes the date when the application opens and closes.

Every grant writer and nonprofit manager should develop a yearly list of grant applications with this information. I have seen some managers’ list on a white board or written in a notebook with only the closing date. The list needs to be more than this.

It should have enough information so a nonprofit manager knows at a glance what the focus areas are, the dates, and where to access the application (e.g. the website). The staff should have access so they know when supporting data is needed.

Some people set a date when to start the application, at a point before the grant opens. I do not do this. I wait until the application goes live.

Foundations may change things and a grant writer could waste time using a previous application. I wait until the application goes live, so I am sure what is required.

One key to successful grant writing is organization and planning and keeping a list helps. I have seen nonprofits miss a deadline and a good chance at money because they forgot to submit the grant request. Don’t forget to make a list of grants for the year. When everything is spread out, the possibility of all that funding builds hope.

When the Nonprofit Changes Personnel

Grant writers, like myself, may not be on a nonprofit’s board or part of the staff. Yet, grant writers should be aware of changes to board members and staff that may impact submitted grants.

As an example, some grant applications require at least one person on the staff to have special certifications. Losing these people or moving them to another part of the nonprofit could disqualify the nonprofit. While the nonprofit did not change their mission, they changed the qualification for the grant.

The biggest impact is when an executive director leaves. While the departure of a board president may change some things, the executive director is more closely tied to the nonprofit’s operations and grant requirements. Also, most grant applications are linked directly to the executive director at the time of submission.

When changes in personnel occur, grant writers should inform the decision makers what the effect is on submitted grants (if any) and inform the foundation of these changes, if necessary. There is an ethical dilemma if the nonprofit does not want the foundation to know about changes in personnel.

There are many reasons why a nonprofit would not want these changes known. Some reasons are valid. However, if the changes impact submitted grants, the foundation should be told.

Grant writers have a responsibility to the nonprofit and to the foundation when it concerns a grant they wrote. I make sure everyone knows of the personnel situation if it impacts a grant I wrote. The nonprofit and foundation can decide what is best.

Yes, this is “covering your ass.” But I always believe open communication is important and prevents problems later. The nonprofit may lose the grant, but the foundation will likely appreciate the honesty.

My Editing Process

I wish there was a process. So far, it’s been a haphazard thing with me. I’ve recently settled on one process which seems to be working (for now).

For my novel, I focus on one chapter at a time. If it is a long chapter, I divide it in half. My focus consists of reading each word slowly to myself. If I hesitate, I stop and reword what I wrote. Even if what I wrote was great, if I hesitate then a reader will, too. When I’m done, I read what I wrote a little faster.

I continue this until I have read the chapter without hesitating or making significant changes. Focusing on a few pages at a time is the key along with speaking each word carefully.

A writer must take the time and focus on editing. Not dwell on the editing until the words become like salt in your eyes, but become the reader after being the writer. And don’t rush. Value is more important than speed.

Whether a writer likes editing or not, it is unavoidable and mandatory. Other, broader editing will look at the plot. But specific, focused editing will take the most time and be the most valuable.

Writers should do the majority of editing themselves before sending it to a professional editor. By editing first, the writer has a deeper look at what they wrote. They will understand their work from different viewpoints and angles. When an editor proposes changes, the writer is better equipped to decide what changes to accept.

There is no good answer to when a writer finishes editing. Just don’t let it become an obsession. When changes become fewer or the original returns, it might be a good time to say that’s enough.

Rejection

When writing grants, rejections are expected (hopefully there are more acceptances). I also send short stories to magazines for publication. So, I see a lot of rejections both ways.

When a foundation rejects a grant, the nonprofit should find out why. Calling someone on the foundation staff has been the most helpful for me.

When I talk to a staff member, I politely ask if there were any comments by the foundation board members (the decision makers). Sometimes the members will make notes or provide a short explanation as to why they did not approve the application.

Next, I ask the staff member for their recommendations to improve the application for next time. I think staff members are more knowledgeable about what is going on in the foundation than even the board members.

Things not to do:

  • Do not contact one of the decision makers. They made their decision and may be cautious about explaining why. Also, if they comment on one grant request, they may have to comment on all and even I wouldn’t do that.
  • Do not get worked up over a rejection and certainly do not take it personally. There are so many things that can happen from submission to decision. Plan to improve on the next submission.

I recently received a rejection from a foundation I thought was a sure thing. These are the hardest rejections — the ones I did not expect. You would think by now I wouldn’t get my hopes up. It’s all right.

I’ll get feedback from the rejection and reapply. Maybe next time I won’t get my hopes up so much. Rejections are a part of grant writing, just like with short story submissions. When something is accepted, the rejections are quickly forgotten.