In my itty bitty junior high, we watched an educational filmstrip every Friday. While our teacher slept (I can’t remember his name, and here I thought it’d be seared into my psyche until death), we explored anything vaguely related to biology from ‘The Wonderful World of Earthworms’ to ‘So, Your Body Is Changing’.
Why do I share this little ditty? As you read the next line, hear the sonorous voice of the announcer . . . it’ll make this blog seem just as exciting as those filmstrips
Continuing our saga through the fascinating world of grant writing, we now explore economic sectors, request for proposal structures, and the initial draft.
See, aren’t you glad I suggested the announcer voice?
Who am I? Who are you? Can we make a profit?
Organizations giving, and those requesting, grants have a legal home in one of three economic sectors – public, private or nonprofit. You’d think it would be easy to sort these out.
Not so much anymore ~ with the rise of contracting, public services are delivered through businesses or nonprofits. Grants are an increasingly common way to fund actions in the public interest.
We sort the economic sectors in terms of private (nongovernment) versus government (in the US, democratically derived, representative blah blah blah, that lecture would really put you to sleep). Also, private not-for-profit versus private for-profit are distinct legal structures. This matters. Eligibility for funding and funding distribution options are both tied to the legal structure.
What do you want from me?
Funders want to award grants. However, they want resources distributed to organizations likely to be successful in accomplishing policies or programs important to the funder. The ‘request for proposal’ (RFP) outlines the exact information the funder believes important to make this assessment. Heck, they may even tell you if they want paper clips or binder clips. You may receive guidance on all types of technical details (e.g., margins, font, length). Most significantly, the funder will want to know what you hope to accomplish, why you hope to accomplish it, and how much it’ll cost. Sometimes, they’ll expect you to explain how you’ll evaluate success and how you plan to sustain the project beyond their contribution. As you’re developing the proposal, you may want to draw upon general background on your organizations, (e.g. mission statement, history, or legal authorization). You’ll need the usual contact information (e.g., address, telephone, fax, email, and contact timelines/guidelines).
The RFP should provide information about the funder’s goals, the grant parameters, dos and don’ts on the funds and recipients, deadlines, budgets, administrative costs and expected match requirements. RFPs could be several pages long including the sections delineating the substantive content of your proposal (e.g., the narrative mentioned last time, the problem statement, anticipated project, budget, evaluation section, and required attachments or supporting letters). For the larger and more experienced funders, you’ll see an appeals process, along with information about the criteria used to evaluate your proposal, the notification process, and funding distribution methods.
Ok, well, here’s what I’ll give you.
This is the easy one.
ABSOLUTE, UNQUESTIONED OBEDIENCE
Y’know, the same way we approach query letters and contests.
Give your funder EXACTLY the information they outline in the RFP. Provide this information in the EXACT order, format, and length they specify. Do NOT get cute, creative or confrontational. Do not use perfumed, unusually organic (don’t ask), or florescent paper. Actually, do NOT use/do anything beyond what they specify. If they don’t specify, then use standard weight, standard dimensions . . . standard, standard, standard.
Provide clear signposts. Approach this as you would dialogue. If you make your reader/reviewer search too hard to determine what’s going on, they’ll throw the book/grant across the room.
Part 1 of this trilogy offered an introduction for grant seekers. Today’s blog takes you through more technical considerations. Stay tuned for Part 3 (6/5/12) where we explore grantisms highlighted with blood loss, kidnapping, and massive fines. Just kidding . . . except about the fines.
Now, it’s time for you to weigh in . . . I know many of our visitors are experienced grant writers . . . what would you add? Do you have any horror stories?