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How to complete a grant application - a 4-part guide through the entire process

Part 1 - The Prep Work

If you work with a not for profit organization and it’s your job to generate an income because let’s face it - your salary depends on it - then you have already or will likely have to write a grant application. “Writing a grant application can be fun!” said no one ever. But it doesn’t have to be stressful either. Keep reading and you’ll find out why it may seem overwhelming, but it’s really not that difficult.

One thing that should be made clear is the reason why the application process is complex. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt on more than one occasion that the person who created the application was just trying to mess with me. And when you get to question #25, it suddenly seems as if you’ve answered it already, like twice! NO – they aren’t messing with you. They actually have no idea who you are, and that’s precisely why you must answer all of the questions fully. As much as not for profits often resemble each other, grantors want to be sure about their investment. YES – you have answered the same question many times. It’s a check and balance method of making sure you know the project for which you are requesting money. If they’ve asked you the same question three times and got three different answers, then you might want to re-think your project.

For every dollar that a grantor has to invest, there are five organizations needing it. This is why grantors must be diligent when deciding who will be the recipient of that dollar. In turn, this is why you must be well prepared before writing your application. Below are 7 steps to preparing yourself before even looking for possible grant money. If you’d like more visit my website for the rest of the series or for more articles like this one.

7 steps for successfully preparing to write a grant application – what you will need…

1. A good idea or good programming

It’s best to have a well-developed idea for an activity or an event before you begin looking for or writing your grant application. NEVER WRITE AN APPLICATION JUST BECAUSE MONEY IS AVAILABLE. Grantors can sense that a mile away and you will be refused. A well-developed idea has a title, a solid description and the objectives you wish to reach. A good idea or good programming usually stems from a need in the community.

2. Your organization’s information

Before beginning the writing process, make sure you have all of the business details for your organization. It will be necessary to have the business number on hand as well as the date of incorporation. Moreover, grantors will usually require that the organization writing the request be operating for at least a year prior to completing the application.

Also, you’ll likely be asked about existing activities and events that follow the mission and values of your organization. In this case it would be a good idea to list what kinds of activities your organization currently offers.

The organization must also have a functioning Board of Directors. Grant applications will often ask who is in charge and how are they held accountable. It’s good to have that information on hand.

3. Current financial statements written by a chartered accountant

Each grantor wants to be sure that the asking organization is well established financially and that the organization will be able to continue their activities for at least a year with or without the grant money. Sometimes grantors will require audited financial statements, but usually your chartered accountant can write up a “Notice to Reader” which is enough. As stated above, this is an investment and grantors will only invest if they believe that the organization can truly carry out the project successfully.

4. A well detailed plan for your project

It’s always best to start with a well-developed plan for your project. This should include the main activities, events or ideas. This also should include any kind of scheduling. The more you plan ahead, the more you are likely to succeed in achieving your project’s goals and this will come through in your application.

5. A draft budget

Although the discussion on how to come up with a completed and detailed budget is beyond the scope of this article. For the purpose preparation, you should at least have a draft budget which will guide you in the process of choosing your suppliers.

6. A results evaluation plan

It is likely that the grantor will also expect to know what results your project aims to attain and how to do you plan on evaluating these results. I suggest creating an evaluation plan before writing the grant application. An evaluation plan is just exactly what it sounds like. Draw a table and in the left column come up with as many results as you can for a successful project. In the columns to the right, decide how you will measure these results in say 2 weeks, 1 month, 1 year etc.

7. All other documents required (ex: cost estimates, photos, support letters)

Depending on the type of grant you are applying for, you may find it necessary to include other documents. For example, if you are applying for funds to renovate, you will need cost estimates from more than one sub-contractor. If you are applying for a new yoga class, you will need proof of equipment costs. If you are partnering with a senior’s home for a new activity, you will need a proof of partnership letter. It is best to be prepared with all of the documents necessary on hand before beginning the application process.

Once again writing a grant application can be a daunting task, but being prepared makes it a whole lot easier. You can find this article and the rest of the series at my website, and if you’d like to contact me with more questions go ahead and drop me a line. Happy writing!

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