How’s your batting average these days? We’re not talking about baseball, although since it’s summer, you’re forgiven if your thoughts turned to the diamond and the outfield.
We’re talking about your grant application batting average, or your ratio of wins to losses. How is your organization progressing towards its grant goals for the year?
If the answer is, “You don’t want to know” then we encourage you to read on…because we might just know what the problem is and how you can fix it.
It’s Not You, It’s the Grant Guidelines
Grant guidelines may be crystal clear or clear as mud. Yet, depending on your industry and focus, you may be stuck applying to those muddy waters. It’s up to you to gain clarity on them and to approach grant writing as scientifically as possible.
Many organizations prepare grant guidelines as if those seeking funds understand their jargon and have a window into their thought process. They may use legacy forms and language, failing to update the grant guidelines for today’s problems and nonprofits. Or, they may prepare the guidelines with a committee who throws everything, including the kitchen sink and the bathtub too, into the application. The resulting languages reads like a confusing stew of wishful thinking.
As nonprofits who rely upon grant funds, it’s up to you to decipher whatever you are presented with in order to apply for funds. A few tips:
- If the grantor offers a conference call to potential applications in which to ask questions, attend it. You may not have to ask your questions – someone already on the call may ask exactly that question which is on your mind. By attending the call, you can listen to the conversation and discussions and glean insights into the thinking process behind the grant.
- Keep accurate notes of past years’ applications. A good grant contact management system, for example, can help you track information uses for last year’s grant so that your current application isn’t re-inventing the wheel.
- Join groups gathered to provide input to the grantors when they develop the language for their applications and forms. This provides valuable input to ensure jargon-free, logical grant applications.
- Ask questions, if you can. If the application offers contact information to ask questions, do so.
And If You Prepare Grant Applications…
If you’re on the other side of the desk preparing grant applications, the nonprofits of the world would like to ask a favor. Please make application instruction clear!
It’s not that organizations don’t want to submit the appropriate paperwork and documentation. They do. But if you make the instructions a study in obfuscation, you’ll only make it harder on yourself when it comes time to review the applications. It frustrates nonprofits and it frustrates those reviewing the applications who may complain, “Why can’t we get a decent grant application?”
Provide explanations and examples of what you’re looking for, too. Terminology varies from organization to organization. What may be clear to you may be very confusing for the person writing the grant application. Simple examples, illustrations, and guidelines save a great deal of time for all.
Organize, Then Write
Lastly, for those who are still wondering why their batting average for grant wins remains low, consider how better organization around the application process may help. Many grant writers plunge into their applications without stopping to organize their paperwork and build an outline of their pitch.
Take time to focus on the grant information. Read it several times and ask for feedback if you’re unclear. Gather background information and paperwork. Then, write. Be sure to align your organization’s mission and values as well as provide specifics about programs that the money will be applied to so that the granting organization sees how their funds will be used. These simple tips will help you improve your awards to hit a home run.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.