Monday, November 25, 2013

Tips to boost your odds of winning

Stack of coins arranged like a bar graph

By Erin Randall

There is no doubt that grants are a competitive business, with most federal grants only awarding 10% of all funding requests received.  Do not lose hope despite these odds.  There is no need to abandon plans to apply or dramatically reimagine your project so it is “innovative” and “unique.”  There are relatively simple tasks you can complete and mention in your funding request that will dramatically improve your odds of winning.  Here are just a few to consider:

  1. Use visuals
    The online application format favored by most federal grants allows text only and a limited number of characters, at that.  How then can you provide visuals such as charts, photographs, and maps that are “worth a thousand words”?  The same online application allows unlimited attachments.  Simply save your visuals as a PDF or Microsoft Word document and upload to your heart’s content.  Just verify that each visual is directly related and supports your request.
  2. Prepare to manage your grant
    Too few applicants consider how they will manage their grant after an award.  Clearly stating how you will track project progress and submit the required progress and expense reports can work in your favor.  Consider using grants management software that allows your agency to track grants from pre- to post-award.  The bonus is that most grants consider this an eligible expense, meaning you can include the cost of the software in your grant request/program budget. 
  3. Prove your capacity
    Applicants focus their efforts on proving need. While this is critical, a strong need is not going to win funding alone. Your application must also prove your agency’s ability to do the project.  What other projects/programs has your agency successfully administered?  How, when, and why did your agency have prior interaction with the target population?  What team experience and/or background will contribute to the project’s success?  Has the agency successfully won and administered grant funding before?  Remember that the funder may agree there is a need, but will ultimately deny funding if they are not confident your agency can successfully follow-through.
  4. Do not reinvent the wheel
    There are few projects that are truly “one-of-a-kind.”  It is more likely that your agency’s needs are quite similar to numerous other agencies.  Furthermore, thousands of these agencies have probably successfully won grant awards to address those needs.  Use the Internet to find sample grant requests.  Contact the agencies.  Do not reinvent the wheel- just make the “wheel” (i.e., your grant request) better by customizing it to fit your agency.



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