In This Chapter
* Starting with basic definitions
* Making a plan (and sticking to it)
* Talking and writing like an expert
* Knowing types of funding and formatting
* Aiming for timeliness and following up
Nearly two decades ago, I discovered the magic of grant writing. Never before had I been involved in an occupation where, every day, my job felt like that of a magician. Just imagine: taking a vision, researching it well, identifying a perfect funding match, and then writing an award-winning document. It just all seems too good to be true - write it and money will come. Early on in my grant writing days, I learned by reading and doing; I had no mentors, and resource books like this one weren't plentiful. The common sense I commandeered 20 years ago to figure it out is the common sense I use today.
Over the years, I continued to jump into the "we need funding now" fires and be the behind-the-scenes flame extinguisher for both start-up and established nonprofit organizations. Each time I discovered a special writing approach worked, I took note and mentally recorded my words, approach, research techniques, formatting, and more. At the time, I didn't know why I stored tips and skills like a squirrel collecting nuts for the winter. Now I know. Every effort to catalog my experiences, successes, and failures was directed at sharing them with you.
Especially now that I've achieved a 90 to 95 percent success rate, I assure you that you can have great grant writing successes, too. Dozens of grant announcements and contract bidding opportunities are published every day. With this book, you too can get smart - and get the money - almost all the time. And in this chapter, I start you down the right path to grant writing gold with the basics of the process.
What Does It Mean? Defining Grants, Contracts, and More
A grant or cooperative agreement is a monetary award given by a funder, such as a government agency, a foundation, or a corporation. You may think that the only grants out there are those that pay for college tuition, but you're in for a surprise. Grants pay for all kinds of things. And pursuing grants is one of the most interesting occupations in the world.
A grant or cooperative agreement application is a written request asking for money from a government agency, a foundation, or a corporation. Most grants go to organizations that have applied to the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofit status and received the IRS's blessing as a 501 (c)(3) organization, although a few grants are given to individuals (see Chapter 7 for details). Since I've been writing grant applications, I've seen a growing number of grant awards made to cities, villages, townships, counties, and even state agencies. While none of these governmental units are IRS 501 (c)(3) designees, they're still nonprofit in structure and can apply for and receive grant awards from the federal government, foundations, and corporations.
A proposal is usually a more free-flowing grant request. It's you putting down on paper your ideas about your organization and the program you want funded. You can dash off a proposal foolishly, simply writing what pops into your mind at the time. Or you can create a proposal the smart way, using a national or regional template format (see "Putting Together and Writing a Winning Request," later in this chapter for more details).
Whether you're writing a grant application or a grant proposal, both types of funding requests require planning, organization, good research, and writing skills.
Think of contracts as cousins to grants - similar but clearly different. A contract is a legal instrument reflecting a relationship between the bid-letting agency (government unit or private sector business) and a business. The bid-letting agency is seeking to purchase services or products. The offeror, or business seeking to provide the deliverables, must respond to an RFP (Request For Proposal) or RFQ (Request For Quote) in writing and submit it by a deadline. For-profit businesses apply for and receive contract awards; nonprofit organizations apply for and receive grant or cooperative agreement awards. A grantmaking agency (such as the government, a foundation, or a corporation) can issue an RFP; a business seeking a contractual relationship with another business can issue one as well. An RFP or RFQ is very similar in format to a government grant application.
Get into Gear: Planning for Grants and Contracts
Rule number one is that you don't ask for a grant without thinking first.
You'd be surprised how many nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses lurch from one crisis to another. They never plan ahead in terms of grant seeking or contract bidding. They lack a planning tool to give them direction. What they lack is a funding plan, an internal examination of the organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A funding plan answers questions such as
When you answer these questions, you can begin to look at the multitude of areas where grants are awarded and begin to prioritize the type of funding you need. I write more about funding plans in Chapter 2.
What's the Word I'm Looking For? Knowing Grant Language
Before you jump into the grants fire - I think of it as a fire because the competition is hot - you need to be sure that you can speak and understand the language. The following list presents the terms and phrases that grantmakers use regularly. (In Chapter 3, I cover additional terms in the language of "Grantlish.")
The following terms are used by contract bid-letting agencies:
Connecting Your Needs to a Governmental Source of Funds
Grants, grants, everyone wants a grant! You're constantly hearing about other organizations winning grant awards, but no one tells you how they found the money. Is your organization being left out in the cold - no money, no luck, and no clue? When you realize how easy it is to find and get the money you want, you'll rejoice and sing praises like everyone else.
Conducting a funding search leads you to the money. But before you start your search, you need to know what type of grant money will fund your idea, project, or program.
Federal government funding: Cashing in with your richest uncle
The first place to look for money is with Uncle Sam. You always knew that you had a long-lost relative somewhere with money, right? The money (government funding) originates from the federal, state, and local levels. Using the Internet, you can locate and cash in on the available dollars. In Chapter 4, I give you the complete scoop on using the Internet to find government grants.
Peruse the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), and then log onto Grants.gov. The CFDA is the encyclopedia of grant and contract funding programs, which means that it doesn't tell you about open grant competitions that you can apply for at a particular time. For that information, go to Grants. gov, which gives you daily funding announcements on money you can apply for now.
Seeking public funds closer to home
Each state receives grant monies from the feds. After taking their fair (or unfair) share, states regrant the money to eligible agencies and organizations in the form of competitive grants or formula grants.
Examples of some state agencies that regrant federal monies are agriculture, commerce, education, health, housing development, natural resources, and transportation. Contact your state legislator at his or her local office or at the state capitol for assistance in identifying grant opportunities within your state, and use the Internet to search for state agencies that award grants and contracts.
The Other Pot of Gold: Looking at Foundation and Corporate Funding
The rainfall of private-sector grant money is continuous. Private-sector funding sources are either foundations or corporations.
Where can you find out more about these no-strings-attached grants? You can locate sources by visiting a Foundation Center Cooperating Collections site (usually at a state university library, community foundation, or other nonprofit information center) or on the Internet. The Foundation Center's Web site address is www.fdncenter.org. Chapter 6 has details on finding foundation and corporate grants, too.
Using technology to find money is a good idea because it's so quick and easy. Throughout this book, you'll see lots of Web site listings.
Discovering private and public foundations
Private foundations get their monies from a single source, such as an individual, a family, or a corporation. Think about all the wealthy individuals who have started their own foundations, like the John Templeton Foundation or the Heinz Foundation. You can find hundreds of private foundations in the Foundation Center's online directory.
Public foundations, on the other hand, are supported primarily through donations from the general public. That's a no-brainer, right? They also receive a great deal of their funding from foundation and corporate grants. Again, the Foundation Center's Web site can give you loads of information on these types of foundations. There are lots of public foundations focused on the arts, environment, and faith-based initiatives. Remember, there's no difference in public or private foundations when it comes to grant seeking or grantmaking.
Excerpted from Grant Writing for Dummies by Beverly Browning Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Browning. Excerpted by permission.
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