In June 2009, the Obama administration announced a $3.9 billion Department of Energy (DOE) grant program, the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program (SGIG), to help utilities modernize the nation’s electrical infrastructure. At the time, I was a grant writing novice with little knowledge or experience in the energy field, but I dove right in anyway and took on a few freelance assignments to attempt to secure DOE grant funding. How, then, did I manage to write a number of successful proposals on a highly specialized subject—one that involved topics like cyber security, and that included technologies like solid-state Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) “smart” meters, remote service switches, and power-line communication modules—without any prior experience? I did so simply by reading and writing well.
I do not mean to imply that the task was easy. But as with any involved project, I would first need to pay strict attention to what was required in the notice of funding availability (NOFA) and to each of its constituent parts. I would then have to carefully organize what I had read and write quite clearly so that I addressed all the opportunity’s criteria. Simple, right?
I began by making a thorough outline of what was asked of applicants and putting these requirements in order. I then created a template so that all the criteria were represented in the specific ways required, with section headings and subheadings, chart and graph layouts, and so on. I spun the narrative around the goals and objectives of the grant program itself while taking pains to continually match these with client capabilities. This way, evaluators could clearly see how the proposals satisfactorily addressed their concerns. So, I didn’t really need to know, for instance, how the latest cyber security technology actually functioned; only that what was said about it fulfilled the criteria of the grant itself.
In the end, I helped secure nearly $40 million in grants for a number of clients. It took organizational skills, the ability to break down a large project into a series of manageable tasks, and the capacity to write clearly. Again, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that what I did was easy, the method was relatively straightforward.
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