Applying For Grants - Tips From a Successful Grant Writing
Monday, Jul. 06, 2009 at 9:59 AM
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It's no secret that there is billions of dollars in free grants for personal use that, once obtained, don't have to be paid back. What does seem to be a secret is finding these funding programs and figuring out who to talk to in order to receive them. Here's what you need to know in order to search for and apply for free grant money.
These programs are not typically advertised, which is why it can be difficult to find them. There is no one organization that handles all grant funds, which means there are many different ways to apply for grants. While your local government often provides financial aid for individuals for personal use, there are billions of dollars in private foundation grants that go unclaimed every year.
These funds are made available in order for these organizations to receive tax incentives. If no one claims them, they can often times still receive their tax benefits or maintain their nonprofit status, which is why they may not advertise these programs and make it difficult to find.
However, there are resources available that not only make it easy to find free grant money, but also alert you when new funds are available so you can be first in line in claiming these funds. By accessing these grant resources, you can put yourself at a big advantage when it comes to applying for funds that are made immediately available.
Grants are provided for a variety or purposes and to a variety of different groups of people. For instance, there are grants for single mothers, minorities, returning students, first time home buyers, and even free grant money to help you pay off your credit card bills.
Writing grants is a popular fundraising strategy for nonprofit organizations. It's fairly easy to identify foundations who might support your work and once you get the hang of it, putting proposals together becomes a smooth and easy process.
Here are some tips for maximizing your chances of getting a grant.
1. Start early. Leave yourself plenty of time to prepare the proposal, especially if you must involve other people.
2. Develop boilerplate text that you can use again and again. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel each time.
3. Follow the Foundation's instructions to the letter: deadlines, page limits, mailing instructions, formatting, attachments, etc. Don't give them any reason to disqualify your proposal.
4. Use simple and concise language. Keep it interesting and readable. Write to a 6th grade reading level. Make sure that someone with no knowledge of your organization can read and understand your proposal.
5. Use a one-inch margin and 12-point font unless otherwise instructed. These are pretty standard formatting options.
6. Staple or clip the proposal - do not bind it.
7. Write your cover letter or summary last. After you've put the entire proposal together, the summary will flow easily.
8. Get another set of eyes to proof read for you. Spell check doesn't catch word useage mistakes (like typing from when you mean form).
9. Don't inflate your financial numbers or program numbers to appear more impressive. Share the truth.
10. Don't send the proposal via overnight mail. It can show a waste of money and procrastination.
11. Don't use acronyms without first defining them. Be careful of industry jargon. Remember that your reader needs to be able to read and understand your proposal easily.
12. If your request for money is denied, call to thank the foundation for reviewing your project and politely ask out why it was turned down. You're likely to uncover some good ideas for improving your approach for the next foundation.
Grantwriting is much like anything else - the more you practice and work at it, the better you'll get. Keep writing and learning and not only will you get really good at it, you'll raise lots of money for your organization.
Writing grants is a great option for writers who are looking for ways to expand their niches. Understanding the writing requirements of grant proposals is a must for anyone wanting to write grants. The proposals are divided into sections that require distinct writing skills, and if you can master them, your proposals will stand out among the competition.
The Needs Assessment - Here you outline an existing problem that will be solved with the nonprofit's work. If you are writing for a homeless shelter, for example, this is where you detail the prevalence of poverty and homelessness in your city. The writing should be persuasive enough to convince the reader why there is a real need for your program. Include research supports, statistics and events to support your assertions. Learn to balance this convincing approach with writing that has an emotional pull that compels the reader to want to help.
The Project Description - The story of the actual work the nonprofit will do to deal with the above mentioned problem. It is detailed enough that a reader can visualize the implementation of the project, step by step. It should answer Who, What, When, Where, and How in terms of the actual work being done. Practice writing descriptive prose that is concise. You must stay within the page limits outlined by the foundation.
Goals and Objectives - Here you must be able to quantify the impact that the nonprofit's work will have on the problem. This writing is almost scientific, requiring you to measure changes in behavior and knowledge. Work on writing S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).
Overall, your grant application should be concise, detailed, and organized according to the funder's specifications. You want to paint a picture in the reader's mind of how you intend to change the world for the better. Using the skills mentioned above will give you a strong start.