In this article, I’ll cover grant-ready steps for all organizations. Proactive preparedness is critical to meeting deadlines, convincing partnering agencies that your organization is adept and ready to apply, and ensuring organizational peace of mind—no last-minute scrambling for documents and personnel that are not ready.
Six Grant-Ready Steps Before You Bring in Your Grant Writer
Step 1: Briefly review the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) to determine if the funding your organization wants to apply for aligns with the organization’s and department’s long-range strategic plans. If the funding is for organizations serving homeless individuals and there is no mention in the long-range strategic plans about programming for homeless individuals, you should not pursue this funding. Why? Your organization’s governing body must approve this new outreach initiative. New programs take a lot of money and resources. Chasing money for the sake of getting a grant can be fatal for overall operations! Estimated time on task: 2 hours.
Step 2: Thoroughly read the NOFA to determine: 1) if your organization is an eligible grant applicant (if not, identify a community partner to act as the grant applicant and fiscal agent); 2) if the funding guidelines fit your specific funding need. For example, if the NOFA states that the funding priority is for innovation in virtual science course delivery, you cannot propose what you think is a state-of-the-art mathematics course offered in a traditional classroom setting. Estimated time on task: 2 hours.
Step 3: Look for information in the NOFA regarding any funder technical assistance webinars, workshops or teleconferences. It is critical that someone from your organization attend these “how to apply” and “what we really want to fund” meetings. Register and attend! Estimated time on task: 1-2 hours, unless the meeting will be in person at the funder’s location.
Step 4: Review existing boilerplate information relevant to your organization’s background/ history and grant management capability.
Create a background/history (1/2-page-long single-spaced paragraph) and grant management capability narrative (1/2-page-long single-spaced paragraph) and give to all department heads for review, relevant changes, and consensus agreement on the final document. This brief but essential electronic file will be used several times by all grant writers (employees and consultants). Estimated time on task: 8 hours.
Step 5: Pull out mandatory attachment files related to your organization’s structure and financials and start the update process immediately.
Documents that are most likely to be requested by funders include but are not limited to:
- Organizational chart(s) (overall organization and the specific department staffing/ responsibility breakdown for the department that will benefit from the grant award)
- Financials (most recent audited financial statement and operating budget for past and current years)
Also, remember to let your financial department/person know that you will need their assistance in pulling together the budget numbers for the grant application’s budget detail and summary sections. Estimated time on task: 8 hours.
Step 6: Start early in the process of identifying existing and potential partnering organizations that you’ll need to include in the pre-writing planning meetings for your grant application. Review the NOFA guidelines for mandatory and recommended partners. Be prepared to provide each partner with an overview of the NOFA and a one-page fact sheet on your plan for using the funding. The fact sheet is the first introductory document that you’ll also need to provide your grant writer (employee or consultant). Estimated time on task: 4 hours.
Once you’ve completed steps 1-6, you’re ready to bring the grant writer in for the partnering organization’s pre-writing planning meetings. Why wait? Grant writers consider their time extremely valuable and limited to writing the magic words to get your organization funded. The best possible relationship between your organization and its grant writer(s) is one that recognizes the grant writer’s role and doesn’t involve him/her too soon in the discovery process.
Engaging the Grant Writer Once Your Organization Is Grant-Ready
If your grant writer is an employee but does not report directly to you, make sure to meet with their supervisor to alert them on the upcoming grant deadline and the steps you’ve completed to date. At this point, it is likely that their supervisor will call them into your meeting so you can orient them to where you are in the process. If you haven’t already emailed the fact sheet and NOFA, do so immediately after this meeting. Ask the grant writer to develop a workplan for the grant application and to email it to you within 24 hours of the meeting. From this point on, the grant writer should be included in all meetings and discussions regarding the grant application. Estimated time on task: 1 hour.
If your grant writer is an independent contractor, it’s likely that you’ve already sent them a copy of the NOFA and asked for a fee quote for their services. You’ll also need to make sure that all paperwork is in place before you contact the grant writer. Typical documents to prepare, email, and place in the contract files are: Non-Disclosure Agreement, Independent Contractor Agreement and a W-9 form. Once all these documents have been returned to your organization with signatures and dates, you’re ready to make contact. Expect to set aside at least two hours to bring the grant writer up to speed on what your organization has done (steps 1 through 6). Provide the grant writer with all of the relevant documents that were prepared or updated. Ask the grant writer to develop a workplan for the grant application and to email it to you within 24 hours of the meeting. From this point on, the grant writer should be included in all meetings and discussions regarding the grant application. Estimated time on task: 2 hours.
Workflow Tips for Grant-Readiness
- Set up a conference line for all calls involving more than two persons.
- Subscribe to an online project workspace service to facilitate all file uploads and review downloads.
- Make sure that a third party (not your staff or the grant writer) is available to act as an editor/proofer for all grant application documents. Provide this person with the NOFA so they can check the responses and format against the guidelines.
- Double-check your e-grant registration information; make sure it’s updated. This is not the grant writer’s role (employee or contract).
- Set your grant application submission date at least 72 hours before the published deadline for submitting the application.
- Make sure that all relevant parties involved in the grant information and writing process will be accessible during the final critical 5 days before the due date!
Learn more about other grant management topics. See all posts.