WRITING FUNDING PROPOSALS Part One: Before Applying
Numerous managers dream of securing new funding for their organization. If you lead an organization that qualifies for funding or grant opportunities, it is likely you have seen the complexities of funding applications, implementation and reporting. In this two-part blog, Northleo Writing Inc. shares numerous helpful tips to navigate the funding landscape.
Define the Honest Need
Ask yourself why your organization needs funding. Are your projects really needed or simply nice to have? Can you justify them, from an ethical standpoint, in written reports? You’ll need answers to these questions before entering the funding arena.
Managers are often surprised at the amount of background detail and research that funders require. This involves collecting and presenting the information in a succinct, appealing format.
Locate Funding Proposal Opportunities
The simplest method is to do an internet search. You can also drill down further by asking your local business organization, association manager, banker or government representative. Some organizations offer websites that list grants available in your area (some databases are free, some cost). Do your homework and ensure you are aware of all the possibilities. Part of the initial preparatory work is to understand who has the money and why it is available. Funders want something in return for their dollars; they wish to fund organizations best able to provide it. Before spending time writing a proposal, understand your chances of success. If your organization does not hold the listed industry classification, status or project category, then it isn’t a good fit. For example: a for-profit corporation wouldn’t submit a new technology development grant request to an organization that only funds charities.
Identify the Background Materials, Research Team and Writer
Writing a grant or funding proposal is not the same as writing a simple email or business report. There is much more to a well-written funding proposal than a mere letter requesting money. Each proposal must be customized for the funding competition, containing win-win projects for both the funder and the funded recipient. Realize that a proposal needs proper research, drafting, team review and final proofing to be in the best shape possible for submission.
Managers are often surprised at the amount of background detail and research that funders require. This involves collecting and presenting the information in a succinct, appealing format. Funders typically ask questions about organizational background, current products and services, market data and statistics, prior promotional work, current research and development, marketplace competitors, future plans and more. Get off to a good start by allowing ample time to get the project done without last minute panics. Ask yourself if you have the time, expertise and staff to prepare these details. If not, consider outsourcing this task to an experienced writer with the right combination of experience and education.
Determine Reporting Requirements and Eligible Items BEFORE you Apply
Funders demand accountability. This means reporting, and usually on a much more frequent basis than you would like. Numerous managers bemoan the complexity and timing of funding reports; be realistic and expect monthly/quarterly reports plus an annual summary recap. Practically speaking, if your organization receives funding, make sure you have the capacity to administer it correctly. If you are unable to do so, then money will get handed back or worse yet, the recipient risks having the entire funding program cancelled. Issues are avoided by knowing and following the rules. On a related note, only apply for funding where the project(s) suits the funder’s scope. Many applicants self-eliminate in the first stages of the funding competition simply by not reading the eligibility rules. Moving forward, once a project is considered in-scope, then dive deeper. Items that typically raise red flags are requests for funding staff salaries, trips to vacation-type destinations, alcohol, projects with no clear goals and more.
Understand Acceptable Communication with the Funder
The bottom line here is about being respectful and knowing the ground rules. Never ask for insider information on the decision-making process. Also, avoid badgering funding administrators and never offer wine-and-dine meetings. Ethical funding administrators will back away from these situations in order to ensure the fairness of the funding process. Be professional and keep your emails friendly, efficient and competent. Have your questions prepared when asking for submission formatting or content clarification. Every outreach you make reflects back upon the organization you represent. While the funding administrator may not be the ultimate decision maker, they certainly have access. Finally, make use of any training or assistance to get to know the submission system (some are paper-based, others are online).
These tips help demystify the background homework needed before applying for funding. In next week’s Part Two, Northleo Writing Inc. will share more tips on 1) writing a funding proposal and 2) managing a funded program.
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