Monday, November 17, 2008

#67: A Checklist for Beginning a Grant Writing Assignment for a New Organization

Tara emailed me asking whether I have a form that I use when I go to see a new client. I don't. But, I jotted down a few things for her and then thought I'd share them with you, too.

When a new (to me) organization engages me to do a piece of work, here's how I get started.

Before my initial interview in person or on the phone:
  • Review the organization's 990 and website
  • Ask them to send me a packet of their PR materials, any boiler plate they have, and perhaps an earlier grant application they've submitted.
  • Do a Google search on them including news and blogs
  • Sometimes I'll review the research and best practices prior to the first meeting, sometimes later
Based on that, I usually go into the interview with a pretty good idea of the public face of the agency. Then, if the interview is for a specific grant, we discuss:
  • Project orientation - how we'll work together, who's on the team, who's the agency's lead, what tools we'll use, time table, etc.
  • What makes them want to apply for this grant? What are they currently doing makes them feel they have a good chance at receiving the funding?
  • Review the grant requirements - assume they haven't read the details
  • Walk through each section of the application and appendices discussing content, identifying what information is outstanding, determining who will get it, by when.
If they are asking for help to identify new funding opportunities we discuss
  • Current operations
  • Strategic direction
  • Previous and current funders
  • Applications submitted but not funded
  • How we'll work together
Does this sound like what you do? Do you have additions?


Don Harting said...

This is an interesting post, but it's not the world I'm living in. My world involves a mandate to bring more funds into a financially fragile 10-year-old organization to support existing operations (no new programs). I'm working on a part-time basis with a boss who has less grant writing experience than I do. I already have a pretty good handle on the organization's three main projects, all of which my boss wants to at least maintain and preferably grow. So one of my first steps was to create a giant tic tac toe board, with about 30 types of support listed down the left hand margin, and the three projects across the top. Then the ED helped me fill in the squares with Xs and Os by figuring out which kinds of support we wanted for which projects. Building funds? No. Endowment campaign? No. A relatively new project needs seed money, for example, while a 6-year-old project needs program development money and perhaps program evaluation money. All three projects need technical assistance. I asked for this information so I could fill out the correct fields on the search page of the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) grantmaker database. So I guess I'm involved in a lot more research, a lot earlier in the process. Armed with this information, I'm developing a prospect list which I hope to shorten with additional research and realities, such as deadlines.

Does this resonate with any other readers? Or am I howling in the wilderness?

Nonprofit SOS said...

This is a great checklist. I also will ask who they want to be the grant contact, some organizations have asked that I be the contact so that if a foundation has a question about the application they call or e-mail me. It is usually best for the organization to be the contact, but it happens.

An unrelated question- this is #67, what are you going to do when you get to #79?


Ruth Wahtera said...

Don, you aren't howling in the wilderness, just addressing a different part of the process. This post describes what I do when an organization is contracting with me, an outside contractor, to do some writing work for them. Sounds like you are an employee working on researching -- an earlier, but never-ending process.

You're clearly organized in your research, but I'd encourage you to start applying. Don't wait until you have a perfect list.

Set a goal of getting a letter out every week, a full application out every other week. No one can give you money until you ask.

And, Kristin, thanks for the addition to the list. I've actually never been the contact on a grant until this fall when a very small association asked me to deal with two funders they have a relationship with. It's tricky. I can't assume they would handle something the way I would.

Do you have any advice for a freelance grant writer serving as contact?

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