AN INTRODUCTION TO GRANT WRITING
Written by Ron Synder
(The following was written as an introduction for those that do not have the time to work with me in person.)
I have given a great deal of thought to teaching grant writing by email, and from my experience, it is not the best way to learn this skill. Hands on, in person, and immediate is the best way to learn from me, as I am a kinesthetic learner and teacher. I believe that a weekend together to fine tune skills is necessary.
I have been winning grants for over 50 years, and what I am now sharing with you is the core of what I know works. I have taught teachers, principals, parents, and children how to get money and resources from other people through the granting process.
Most of the grants I win are for projects involving children or “do good” projects, and usually under $5000.00.
What I will send you in this note are some of the basics of grant writing, and there is no reason why you cannot immediately begin applying for grants.
So here we go, and in no special order are a number of realities for grant writers:
(Before I go any further, I cannot emphasize these next three items enough:)
*YOU CANNOT SAY THANK YOU TOO MANY TIMES TO A GRANTER OR A POTENTIAL GRANTER.....
AND YOU DO NOT KNOW WHO IS A POTENTIAL GRANTER. Therefore I suggest you always keep your words sweet, know your topic, have your 15 second presentation well prepared, and know exactly what you want, or need, and why you need it. (Here’s a practice exercise for you: From now on, say thank you to everyone who does something for you or who tries to do something for you. Say thanks to whoever does the dishes, takes out the trash, opens the door for you, remembers to bring you a fork, or a glass of water...the simple and obvious things. Then note how many times people do not say thank you for these moments of support that come our way all the time. Why have you been asked to do this assignment? Because missing one thank you when a granter is expecting one can cost you a grant, or a follow up grant the next year. The sooner you get in this wonderful habit, the less likely you are to miss out on a granting opportunity.
*When it comes to grants, it is better to be days ahead of a deadline, than 10 minutes too late! Late applications will usually go to the trash can.
Grant writing is a relationship building activity. Granters may like your vision, your cause, and your written presentation, and turn you down because they did not feel a connection to you as a person. Please remember this, in the final analyses, even though the development officer may work for a large company, they are still people...and grant money is always going from the hands of one person to another. If they don’t like you or trust you, you don’t get the money. Practice being outgoing, friendly, a person who actively listens, focus on your listener, be patient and open to new ideas. Be the first to say hello, please, and thank you. Engage with your listener. Do not be distracted by electronic devises at a gathering. Focus on the possible, and have that 15 second presentation, and your smile at the ready.
In order to get grant money and resources from other people, you must be an excellent salesperson. What you are selling is yourself, and your vision (I have heard a visionary is a person who can see the invisible, and then tries to help others to see it too). You will also be helping the granter to reach their vision, so know how your idea will help the granter achieve their goal(s). KNOW YOUR GRANTER.
If you are doing written grants, you must be an excellent writer with skills in spelling, grammar, persuasion, passion for your cause, enthusiasm, and a broad knowledge of the topic. You may be working on a project by yourself or with a team.
If you are doing an oral presentation such as at a party or a meeting, get a business card and have it with you, develop a 15 second presentation which will “capture your listeners attention” and hopefully open the door to deeper conversation now or in the future.
Grants come in many formats, including but not limited to: a written application, a handshake with an acquaintance, by a third party, in kind, matching, and literally out of the blue as in “go fund me”.
Usually, the more money you receive from one granter, the more work there is to do for that grant, but not always. I try to stay under $5000.00 per grant, but I have won grants for 10 or 20 times that amount.
once you win a grant, you are now working for the granter, yourself, and your organization. Therefore, you must have high integrity, be honest, transparent, an excellent communicator, and complete the task on budget and on time.
once you know what you want, begin to research who offers grants that will fulfill your need. You can do that research on line by looking up institutions and foundations that offer grants. Friends, relatives, and local businesses are a wonderful source of in-kind services, and products. In most cases this will require a face-to-face meeting, and sometimes a relatively simple application. (Be sure to find out the deadline.)
You must be able to create a complete budget for your project which you will share with the potential granter. It has to be both factual and accurate. It will often cover the entire project, especially if in-kind services or a match come into play for your total budget, even if the granter is not paying for everything.
In almost every case, a granter will want you to be either your own 501(c-3), or under the umbrella of another organization that does have a 501(c-3). A state charitable business license will not do, as it is relief from federal taxes that a granter is looking for. This is especially true in Washington State where there is no state income tax.
Identify a “second reader” for your grant. They are more than an editor, they are also a confidant. A second reader is someone who you trust, has excellent use of the English language, and who understands what you are trying to say and do in relation to what the granter is asking for. They will help you to produce a finer finished product, and can make the critical difference between winning and losing a grant.
Please remember, although you have the best cause, and it will help untold people, you will not get into the granter’s office if what you are presenting does not serve the granter’s needs. For example if you need a food donation for a canoe journey, go to a food store and not a furniture company, unless you have a connection to the furniture business that has indicated an interest in helping your cause. Your time will be better spent if you remember you are also working for the granter, and not just your cause.
Well, that’s enough to get you started. If you like, check into the West Marine grant for water safety equipment, and use that as an opportunity to get your feet wet in the world of corporate grants. At any time, you can approach any supermarket, Costco, Trader Joe’s, or the Co-ops, etc. and ask them to support any of the causes that the canoe and dance family are engaged in. That might include after a dance presentation munchies, or energy bars for practice sessions in the canoe. Sometimes a business will have an application to hand you, or you can give them a one page written request with a photo and your business card attached in advance of getting the grant. It could be a handshake grant for $15.00 which is common in the food business (if you can spin a good yarn and form a positive relationship with the manager). Be sure to have that fifteen second oral presentation well rehearsed and don’t forget to say thank you even if they do not give you resources this time. (The companies I have mentioned offer $15.00 to $50.00 food cards that involve very little work on your part.)
If you decide to try your hand at a grant, please let us know what you are working on, and we may be able to help.
Quite often, native grant writers only seek native sponsored grants. That resource is only a small fraction of what is available world-wide. Think globally.
If Cathy and I can be of any service to your grant writing efforts please do not hesitate to contact us. If we can answer your questions or offer leads on specific topics, please let us know.
Best of luck as you begin the journey towards your first $1,000,000 in grants and resources. Trust me, it feels even better to be working on your second.
Ron Snyder and Cathy Taggett
The Circle of Trees Education Foundation
Ron 360-305-8231 or Cathy 360-332-8082