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There may be many more networks of grant writers than those having websites, but it’s hard to verify their existence remotely without one. This post is the last in a series; it surveys the online presence of networks of grant writers across the United States of America. Earlier posts examined the purposes and benefits of such networks and outlined some considerations for starting up a local network of grant writers.

 

Overview of Grant Writers Networks:

In the summary table below, Y (Yes) means that evidence of an attribute was found on a network’s website; N (No) means that it was not found there; and a — (dash) means that the evidence was inconclusive. Note: At the end of the post a list aligns Columns 1-15 with the networks’ names and embedded website links.

 

Out of 15 networks, 15 (or 100%) had websites of varying coverage; 10 (or 67%) stated the year or date when the network was first established; 9 (or 60%) gave a mission statement; 8 (or 53%) gave a purpose (or goals) statement; 9 (or 60%) stated which types of professionals participated in the network; and 5 (or 33%) stated that membership was open to anyone who was interested.

 

Grant Writers Networks in the US

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

Website

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Date Established

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Mission Statement

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Purpose Statement

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

N

Y

Membership Types 

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Open Membership

N

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

N

N

N

Y

N

N

 

Date of Establishment:

Of the 10 networks of grant writers about which it was possible to learn when they were established, half (or 50%) were established in 2010 or later; two (or 20%) were established in 2000 through 2009; and three (or 30%) were established in 1990 through 1999. The oldest one appeared to be the Puget Sound Grant Writers Association, established in 1990.

 

Geographic Distribution:

Networks of grant writers had an online presence in nine states: Florida (3), Ohio (3), Iowa (2), Wisconsin (2), California (1), Georgia (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), and Washington (1).

 

Network Activities:

Among the activities in which many of the 15 networks regularly engaged were:

  • Professional networking
  • Professional development
  • Providing access to education and training
  • Promoting partnerships and collaboration
  • Promoting interdisciplinary intra-university collaboration
  • Promoting collaboration and support among peers
  • Promoting collaboration among nonprofits
  • Fostering connections among grant seekers, nonprofits, and funders,
  • Providing tools for problem solving among grant seekers
  • Sharing resources among network participants
  • Connecting grant seekers to resources
  • Enhancing participants’ writing skills
  • Assisting participants in identifying resources

 

The Grant Writers Roundtable (Grand Rapids, MI) holds its meetings at a different location each month — mostly at nonprofit organizations — so that its members can learn more about them.

 

The Puget Sound Grant Writers Association (Seattle, WA) holds an annual fall conference attended by as many as 400 persons. It also holds an annual funders forum and conducts informal grants cafés to foster networking.

 

The University of Missouri Office of Research Grant Writer Network (Columbia, MO) has published a reference book for faculty in institutions of higher education titled, Grant Seeking in Higher Education: Strategies and Tools for College Faculty (2012).

 

Table Reference List with Dates of Inception:

The names of networks of grant writers are listed in alphabetical order. The numbers correspond to the table summarizing selected attributes. The parenthetic dates are the apparent years of inception of each network; NA indicates ‘Not Available’.

 

If you know of another network of grant writers — operating in the United States of America and missing from this list — please submit a comment! 

 

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Networks can be powerful tools for organizations seeking competitively awarded grants.

 

This post is the second in a series; it focuses on procedures for a new network of grant writers in terms of why, who, what, where, when, and how. An earlier post focused on the purposes and benefits of networks. Later posts will survey existing networks of grant seeking organizations.

 

Background:

The Tulsa Area Grant Writers Network (TAG-Net) was an informal initiative that lasted about 10 years. Its purpose was to building local to win more grants, particularly in programs that required partnerships. Its membership was open to professionals who wrote competitive grant proposals and/or managed grant-funded projects. Members met monthly. Meetings had agendas and lasted an hour or so. Different organizations hosted the meetings at their facilities.

 

Why:

This question involves the reasons for starting a grant writer’s network. One reason is to win more grants for the communities and constituencies represented by the network’s members:

  • Circulate a declaration of purpose, rationale, and goals
  • Focus on partnership building and collaboration in seeking competitive grants

 

Who:

This question defines the intended membership of the network. One point of departure is professionals who write competitive grant proposals:

  • Invite counterparts who are engaged in grant seeking in area organizations
  • Rotate leadership of meetings among network members
  • Exchange contact information
  • Compile and share a membership directory
  • Collect and report meeting attendance data to members

 

What:

This question refines the tasks of a grant writer’s network. One fundamental task is to provide information and insights that lead to more effective partnerships and more grant awards.

  • Request members’ inputs for agenda topics and themes
  • Incorporate members’ inputs in establishing agendas
  • Publish and follow an agenda for each meeting

 

Where:

This question establishes the network’s ownership and visibility. One aspect is ensuring that it not be seen as belonging to or benefitting only one grant seeking organization:

  • Meet at varied locations – to maximize ownership among organizations
  • Meet at varied locations – to expose members to members’ facilities and staff

 

When:

This question requires committing enough time to make a network useful for its members. One aspect is calibrating time allocations to members’ priorities and availability.

  • Hold regular meetings at predictable times – biweekly to monthly
  • Dedicate an hour or more to holding the actual meetings
  • Hold additional ad hoc meetings as grants opportunities arise

 

How:

This question entails basic assumptions about forming and operating new collaborative networks of grant writers. They reflect a singular intention to use the network as a means for building capacity for seeking and winning competitive grants.

 

Particularly at the start, it seems prudent to avoid over-formalizing the network:

  • No website
  • No 501(c)(3)
  • No dues
  • No budget
  • No elected officers
  • No single-site affiliation

 

With time, it is likely that active members may desire to formalize the network in some way. It’s then up to the members to determine how they wish to proceed. A later post will explore what other networks have done with particular attention to their apparent formality of approach.

 

Networks can be powerful tools for organizations seeking competitively awarded grants.

 

This post is the first in a series; its focuses are the purposes and benefits of grant writers’ networks. Later posts will survey existing networks of grant seeking organizations and will explore possible ways to set up and operate a new network.

 

Background:

As a full-time grant writer for a large urban school district, I launched the Tulsa Area Grant Writers Network (TAG-Net) by using a business card collection as my source of initial contacts. From the start it was designed to be a collaborative effort. Its primary rationale was to respond to an escalating need for applicants to be able to have robust partnerships in place when competing for new grants.

 

During its first five years, I was the nominal chairperson of TAG-Net during which time it expanded to involve 80 participants from 65 grant seeking organizations in the metro area. In varying formats, TAG-Net continued to operate for another five years after I had accepted a position in a different organization and could no longer participate in it.

 

Purposes of Networks:

Creating and sustaining a network of grant writers serves a number of capacity-building purposes for its participants, all of which can contribute to positioning them to win grants. Among such purposes are to:

  • Maximize eligibility as applicants
  • Catalyze the building of partnerships
  • Facilitate planning of partnership proposals
  • Share data (with protections of privacy and confidentiality intact)
  • Exchange and share effective practices
  • Exchange and share knowledge and expertise
  • Exchange information about coming grant deadlines
  • Leverage existing community resources and assets
  • Provide professional development for participants

 

Benefits of Networks:

Actively engaging in a network of grant writers can generate a number of definable and measurable benefits for its participants, among which are that they:

  • Become more familiar with modes of operation of diverse participant organizations
  • Become more familiar with varying executive sign-off protocols of other organizations
  • Become more familiar with who does what in other participant organizations
  • Expedite obtaining memoranda of agreement and letters of commitment or support
  • Make it easier to identify potential project staff and potential external consultants
  • Create the competitive asset of pre-existing collaboration and partnerships

 

In addition, through actively engaging in a network, grant writers can:

  • Learn what types of data other organizations collect and maintain (but may not report)
  • Engage in more extensive sharing of data for developing assessments of need
  • Acquire more ready access to resources for specialized reviews of research literature
  • Mitigate the potentially adverse effects of turf and silo mentalities
  • Win more grants to support worthwhile local projects and initiatives

 

 

Active seekers of competitive grants must be aware of broad social, political, and economic trends that impact their ability to obtain funding. Some of these trends are newly emerging; others are persistent. A few of the more salient trends in the 2010s are explored here.

 

Trend: Cost-Sharing

Grant makers consistently expect evidence of an applicant’s investment in or commitment to its proposed project. Cost sharing may be explicit or implied, optional or required. Required shared cost ratios of 4:1, 3:1, 2:1, even 1:1 are common. Local cost sharing can demonstrate broad-based community support for problem-solving strategies an applicant proposes to use.

 

Cost-Sharing Strategies:

  • Observe at least the minimum cost sharing ratios required
  • Select cost sharing items whose values can be documented well
  • Identify specific cost sharing commitments and amounts in letters of commitment
  • Build resources for use in cost sharing through partnerships and collaboration

 

Trend: Community Engagement

Many competitive grant programs encourage authentic, measurable, and sustained involvement of families and community groups in planning, implementing, and evaluating a project. Both public and private grant makers also often require documentation of the nature and extent of such community engagement.

 

Community Engagement Strategies:

  • Design programs around forms of community engagement
  • Ensure active community participation in developing grant proposals
  • Offer alternative ways for community members to participate
  • Use multiple channels to invite public participation in grant-related activities

 

Trend: Research

Both public and private grant makers demand a robust research-based rationale for the strategies an applicant proposes. Applicants for projects involving direct services, as well as those for model, demonstration, and research-oriented projects must show that they will integrate or apply best practices in doing what they propose to do.

 

Research Strategies:

  • Create an on-hand research base for use in anticipated proposals
  • Do a thorough literature search well before you need a review of it for a proposal
  • Use scientific and statistical research studies and meta-analyses
  • Use local, state, and national plans, reports, and white papers as resources

 

Trend: Training

Many grant makers expect applicants to budget for human resource development or to demonstrate that qualifications of staff and other participants eliminate the need for it. Such terms as “family education”, “parental involvement”, “staff development”, and “professional development” all tend to carry more positive connotations than mere “training.”

 

Training Strategies:

  • Collect vitae and resumes for potential use in future proposals
  • Adopt the grant maker’s alternate term of choice in writing about “training”
  • Do local needs assessments to support plans to conduct “training”
  • Review the research literature about what works in doing “training”

 

This is one of a series on trends in grant making. As a grant writer and/or a grant seeker, you may discern others, or you may discern counter-trends. If so, don’t hesitate to comment.

Active seekers of competitive grants must be aware of broad social, political, and economic trends that impact their ability to obtain funding. Some of these trends are newly emerging; others are persistent. A few of the more salient trends in the 2010s are explored here.

 

Trend: Partnerships

Most sources of discretionary funding – private, state, and federal – expect grant seekers to form partnerships with other organizations. They often specify which kinds of organizations they want to see as partners in the application. They also require signed agreements and other documentation of the partnership.

 

Partnership Strategies:

  • Network with counterparts in other organizations
  • Affiliate with consortia of agencies to seek funding and solve a problem
  • Participate in regional associations having diverse memberships
  • Notify other agencies of your interest in working with them

 

Trend: Collaboration

Government agencies, in particular, expect grant seekers to work with other related programs in order to leverage, but not necessarily to match, the funds sought from a particular government grant program. If matching is required, a grant’s fiscal agent must collect and maintain accurate records of actual cost sharing.

 

Collaboration Strategies:

  • Network with counterparts in other programs within an agency
  • Exchange personnel with other programs
  • Share databases with other programs while preserving confidentiality where needed
  • Conduct briefings or training events for staff of other programs
  • Coordinate with leadership of other programs

 

Trend: Austerity

Many grant makers place ceilings or maximums on the amounts a grant seeker can request. An applicant’s disregard for such limits is one reason not to review a submitted proposal. Federal proposal solicitations often publish estimates of ranges of awards and maximum requests for budget periods. Private grant makers often publish similar data in annual reports and/or in instructions for applicants.

 

Austerity Strategies:

  • Study grant solicitations for statements of maximum requests and award ranges
  • Observe funding limits and ranges wherever encountered
  • Review foundation’s 990-PF filings and annual reports for data on award ranges
  • Review Foundation Center or other directories for summaries of grant ranges

 

Trend: Scarcity

Federal discretionary grant programs are being consolidated and reviewed for duplication and waste. Competition is intensifying among a steadily shrinking pool of surviving programs. New regulations, designed to ensure fairness of outcomes and equality of funding opportunity, are appearing in both public and private grant programs.

 

Scarcity Strategies:

  • Work with other organizations to try to ensure win-win outcomes among local grant seekers
  • Strive not to overwhelm local grant makers with shotgun funding requests
  • Avoid insisting on being the fiscal agent for absolutely every grant opportunity
  • Work with start-up, grassroots organizations trying to win initial grants

 

This is one of a series on trends in grant making. As a grant writer and/or a grant seeker, you may discern others, or you may discern counter-trends. If so, don’t hesitate to comment.

This is one in a series of posts presenting sample elements of a possible proposal. In their illustrative details, its contents are both fictional and factual; however, its overall approach has won grants for similar purposes.  

 

Partners. The project will feature 12 school districts and 10 partners in Watershed Education. YCESC and its partner school districts will provide coordination, access to facilities and supplies, and support for teachers to participate in training activities.   The Maine Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Project WETLANDS Coordinator will provide training for secondary school teachers and community members in the Project WETLANDS curricula. The Maine Conservation Commission’s Project RIVERS Coordinator will provide training for secondary school teachers and community members in the Project RIVERS curriculum. The Region 1 Professional Development Center also will provide teacher training in Project WETLANDS and Project RIVERS and training in integrating Environmental Education in other school subjects.  

 

The US Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maine Ecological Services Field Office will do presentations to schools or community groups on water quality and environmental careers in wildlife conservation and will provide materials on Maine and New Hampshire natural resources. The US Geological Survey’s Water Resources Division will furnish studies and data on water quality and stream-flow and field seminars at stream quality sampling sites. The York County Extension Center will conduct stream-walk field experiences, provide stream-flow models, and supply experts for presentations on environmental careers and/or environmental issues.  

 

The Maine Association for Environmental Education will serve as a referral resource for expert guest speakers and materials in the areas of environmental careers, environmental issues, and water quality monitoring. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service will provide access to technical experts, stream trailers, groundwater models, handbooks, fact sheets, curricula, and teacher guides. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will furnish guest speakers and assistance in project planning. The Saco River Corridor Commission, of Porter, Maine and Conway, New Hampshire, will provide materials on bio-monitoring and watershed protection and a consultant-presenter.  

 

YCESC will use print and electronic media to seek more partners during the project. It also will solicit technical assistance and/or sustained funding from multiple public and private sources (e.g., Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Corporation Commission, Maine Green Energy Network, L.L. Bean, Inc, other outdoor businesses, and local school boards).

One hallmark of many proposals that win grants from both public sources (e.g., Federal agencies) and private ones (e.g., family foundations) is their descriptions and evidence of involving stakeholders, building partnerships, leveraging resources, fostering collaboration, and engaging in collegial teamwork. Several types of assets play key roles in creating and maintaining such shared, team-driven, and collaborative activity.

 

Leadership is an Asset:

Writing grant proposals is far less a solitary activity than a connecting and catalyzing one. In planning projects and executing them, peer and collegial collaboration among leaders is indispensable. Teamwork, collaborations, and their resulting partnerships are essential in most projects – even in those that may focus on or benefit a single site or a single organization. Administrators and their on-staff subject area experts (e.g., university faculty, subject area coordinators, program coordinators, or lead teachers) can furnish the research-based rationale needed for many proposals. They are among the planners, strategists, visionaries, and goal-setters often critical to getting a grant proposal funded.

 

Professionals are Assets:

Collaboration within and among schools, non-profits, and other community organizations is essential. Having durable partnerships among schools and other agencies often plays a crucial role in getting a proposal funded. School-based professionals and their non-profit and university counterparts offer keen insights into real needs of children, youth, families, and entire communities. Their creative energies and pioneering spirit are great reservoirs of ideas for innovation and improvement. Teachers, counselors, specialists, technicians, and front-line non-profit personnel can play pivotal roles in researching and designing projects. They are often also indispensable keys to their successful implementation.

 

Communities are Assets:

Community participation in planning and operating proposed projects is an invaluable asset. Community resources play key roles in leveraging a grant award with matching local human and financial resources. Active involvement of parents and families is vital for ensuring children’s success in schools and community programs. Participation of adults as well as children and youth themselves in planning, implementing, governing, and evaluating programs proposed for grant funding can prove extraordinarily helpful. For-profit businesses and area universities are often indispensable allies in designing and implementing projects that aspire to create sustainable changes over the long-term; their continuous engagement in local grant seeking can benefit everyone involved.

It always takes time and effort to win a competitive grant. Eventual success requires a high degree of readiness and planning. Often it is difficult to know where to start. Having answers to basic questions often makes the entire process far less intimidating.

1. How Can We Prepare for a Grant Proposal?

Create or activate a broad-based proposal development team. Start by defining a local problem, documenting local priority needs, and reviewing existing local, regional, and state plans of action related to the problem and the needs. Identify funders who interested in similar problems and similar needs.

A strong proposal will match local unmet needs and priorities with those of each potential funder. Each funder will describe its interests in its publications; each proposal solicitation and each solicitation’s selection criteria will reflect them. After you have selected the specific funder and a funding opportunity, the selection criteria will offer a starting point for creating your proposal. Responding clearly to each funder’s criteria will help to ensure your proposal’s success.

2. What Parts Do Grant Proposals Have?

In general, a typical proposal has a narrative, a budget, and attachments. The narrative responds to explicit prompts, often called selection or review criteria. It discusses need, a plan of action, organizational capacity, staff qualification, evaluation, and budget. The budget itself consists of line items. Each line item falls under a specific cost category. Common types of cost categories are personnel, travel, and supplies – among others. The more completely your application meets specific funder’s requirements, the more likely the funder is to conclude you are worthy of funding.

3. Do Grant Proposals Have Other Parts?

Many proposals may need an abstract, a table of contents, and a transmission letter. Many applications also include several attachments or appendices, which vary widely in required number and type. Proposals for government grants often require special standard forms, such as an executive summary or a budget summary. Some foundations and corporations also require special application forms. Such forms may be unique to a specific funder or may be common among several of them.

No matter who requires them, many such forms require certifications and signatures from chief executive officers. In addition, a funder may require proof of eligibility, proof of non-profit status, names and affiliations of board members, audited financial statements, and similar supporting materials.

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