Questions Before Answers: Clarification As Part of the Grants Process
Thursday, July 15, 2010
By Vince Siragusa
July 2010 (GO Know)
The grants world is full of any number of variables that must be defined. To which grant program should I apply? How much time do I have for proposal development? Is there a need for collaboration? Will my project fit into the eligible expenses of the grant program?
These are a few of the many grant questions for which grant answers are necessary. By developing a familiarity with the funding opportunities and an understanding of how the system works, you will quickly begin to address some of these gaps.
For any would-be application, the first step in grant seeking is to begin defining the actual project that will be created or expanded. Long before solutions can be identified, an applicant must first identify the project for which grant assistance is warranted. What is the actual project you are supporting with grant assistance and how will the overall benefits be measured?
While things like organizational efficiency, recorded keeping, etc. are ancillary, albeit positive, benefits derived from grant support, most grant makers want to support projects that have a more universal implication. For many successful collaborative projects, this widespread impact is often built upon an incorporation of information-sharing type initiatives.
Once a project-need has been defined, grantseekers will inevitably have to possess a solid understanding of the ins and outs of available grant programs. For this level of insight, there is nothing quite as important as the program’s guidance document. Among other titles, this “blueprint” to the program might also be referred to as a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) or Request for Proposals (RFP). Common under any document labeling is invaluable information integral to any successful application. Project priorities, eligibility, application methods, and deadlines will likely be shared in this document. Read this document, highlight applicable sections and useful information, and refer to it often during the application process.
Grant programs are often time-flexible in their interpretation of projects that fit under their area of support. With that understanding, the guidance document may or may not clearly lay out the specific initiatives they want to fund. If the guidance document does an insufficient job of addressing programmatic issues or questions, there is a next step for answering those questions. For many applicants, communication with the grant program’s administrator is very often the perfect way to get specific questions addressed in a timely manner.
Each grant program will have a dedicated department or contact who serves as a program liaison in many ways. These contacts provide the time and services necessary for answering many of the questions a would-be applicant may have. Questions posed in a way that may give one application an unfair advantage over another will generally not garner a response but many times these contacts will be in a position to offer extremely useful information for a perspective applicant.
Grantmaking agencies such as The National Endowments for the Humanities (NEH) will sometimes go as far as to review preliminary proposal drafts. This level of insight will go a long way in helping to position the best possible application. Most grantmakers, while generally not as feedback-friendly as NEH, will at the very least be able to get you and the potential project pointed in the right direction. Utilizing all of the resources and information at your finger tips will help you present the best possible project and in turn make grant support a reality.