Grant Resolutions for the New Year
Sunday, January 15, 2012
By Susannah Mayhall
The start of the new year means big business for gyms and fitness clubs as overstuffed holiday revelers seek to atone for their overindulgence by resolving to get in shape and lose those extra pounds. Whether or not this year's flock will stick with their goals remains to be seen, but the beginning of the year is also a great time to think about getting your grant-seeking program in shape. Whether you have yet to embark on a quest for grant funding or are a weather-beaten veteran of the process, take this opportunity to rethink your strategies, or develop an entirely new one, and make 2012 your most successful grants year yet.
As budgets continue to tighten, strategizing for grants development and increasing the competitiveness of your proposals is key to bringing home grant dollars. The following tips and hints will help you to focus on a few aspects of your grants plan that could use a little tweaking, getting you in gear for the year ahead.
RESOLUTION #1: PLAN AHEAD.
With grant deadlines frequently released just a few short weeks in advance, writing compliant proposals can often seem like a last-minute scramble to get everything together in time for submission. Although it can seem as though you're at the mercy of the funder regarding when the guidance will be released, you can take control by mapping out a tentative submission calendar based on deadlines from previous years. Funders often release guidelines around the same time each year.
Additionally, many programs, especially those that are well-established, change very little from year to year. As a result, mapping out a plan for grant submissions and even preparing some materials ahead of time is not only feasible, it's highly advisable so that you can give yourself the longest preparation runway possible. Obviously, any materials prepared in advance will need to be tweaked so that they are compliant with the current year's guidance, but gearing up ahead of time can go a long way towards preventing last-minute scrambling for details.
RESOLUTION #2: GET ORGANIZED.
With today's technological advancements, many tools exist that can help you keep it all together. Make 2012 the year that you tackle the mounds of paper documents and disparate technological systems by exploring the tools that are available to you and utilizing them to keep everything in order. Frequently-used information such as your organization's DUNS number, Grants.gov username and password, and organization administration details should be readily available. In addition, past grant applications and any accompanying documentation should be stored for easy access should you need to review or re-tool the documents in the future.
RESOLUTION #3: STAY IN TOUCH.
Maintaining good relationships with funders is critical to your success as a grantseeker. For federal projects, stay on top of administration and reporting deadlines and be as thorough as possible. Failing to properly report on your grant may result in a loss of funding and hurt your chances of receiving future awards.
In the private funding arena, strong relationships with funders are the earmark of successful grant applicants. Whether leading up to an initial request from a new funder or a renewal from a previous source of funding, regular communication and updates on your progress help demonstrate your organization's success and ability to carry through on goals. Contact with current and previous funders also serves to keep the funder in the loop concerning the results of their investment in your project. Treat them well and you could reap the rewards for many years to come.
RESOLUTION #4: PRIORITIZE INTERNAL PROJECTS.
While it often happens that an organization comes across a grant and develops a project around the grant's guidelines and priorities, this strategy is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. A better way of managing grant projects is to prioritize your organization's projects in advance and seek out grants that truly line up with those projects. By starting with your project, you ensure that the program details and internal drive behind the project are in place before you engage in proposal development, which will help to keep the process up and running when you have an application to write. You will also increase your success rate by demonstrating to funders that you have a real stake in the project by thoroughly describing its implementation and sustainability details.