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As I’ve noted, sometimes we need someone to remind us about why we want a grant in the first place and what we can expect a grant award to do for us. If we do want a grant enough to seek one, we have to accept what one entails. Here are five more reliable keys for unlocking the grants vault for your organization and for getting a grant you can live with after it is awarded.


1. Use grants to advance an agenda. All grant makers have agendas and they rarely fund outside them. Usually, the agendas are explicitly stated in program authorizations or annual reports. Sometimes, they are implicitly stated in the grant makers’ recent patterns of grant making. Try to adopt a grant maker’s agenda as your own. Show how you will advance that agenda at a reasonable cost through what you propose to do and how you propose to do it.


2. Respect differences among grant makers. Each grant maker is unique. Respect that uniqueness. Know what types of budget items are allowable costs. Avoid writing from a generic template. Do not pretend that one size fits all. Adapt your proposed approach to match the interests and priorities of each particular grant maker. Demonstrate your willingness to treat each potential funder as a special partner. Plan to involve the funder substantively throughout a project, not just at its start and its finish.


3. Know what you expect to accomplish with a grant. Ask critical questions before you start. Know why you are seeking a grant from a particular funder. Be prepared to answer why you feel your organization fits well with any given funder’s menu of grant programs. Know how you will be accountable for generating the benefits and results you describe in a proposal. Express a willingness to share progress and outcomes with the funder and with other appropriate audiences.


4. Stay on the good side of your decision makers. Always consider the backgrounds, needs, comfort, convenience, and concerns of your proposal reviewers. If a grant program limits an application to five pages, do not submit more. If it specifies its review criteria, address each criterion in sequence. If it identifies required forms or other attachments, provide only those and not others. And exercise due discretion when contacting a grant maker after it has completed its proposal review process. Be courteous even when you are not funded.


5. Share the load. Collaborate or perish. Involve other individuals and agencies in seeking grants. Make your constituents aware of your plans to seek grants. Request their input and insights. Whenever appropriate, recruit other organizations as partners in planning, implementing, and monitoring a proposed project. Leverage local financial and programmatic resources. Show the presence of strong local commitment, community involvement, and an intention to share costs and sustain an initiative after a grant ends.


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