8 Steps to Designing a Flexible Grant Template that Saves You Time (And Sanity)

Can we be honest for a minute? Grant writing can be a daunting, lonely, challenging experience that can grate your nerves and ruin your sanity. So much of the process is out of your control that you can often feel as though you are spending countless hours working on something that could be a complete waste of your time. Ever felt that way? I think we all have.

As you become more familiar with grant writing and grant-makers, you start to realize that there are a lot of parts that you, as the grant writer, can actually control. First and foremost, you control the message. It's up to you to decide what to share with grant-makers that best portrays your organization and its need. But, how do you do this in the most efficient way? How do you avoid starting fresh with every grant opportunity, spending countless hours drafting content all year long?

An effective, well written, flexible grant template will save you hours of time. Here are 8 steps you can take now to save you time over the course of your fundraising year.

1). Research Grant Opportunities

It's important to familiarize yourself with the standard information that most grant-makers expect and some require in a grant proposal. Knowing these basics will help you meet and sometimes exceed those expectations when drafting your template.

2). Know Your Need

No one should know more about your organization, its programs, and its needs than you. Understanding the 5 Ws and 1 H will ensure that you do not miss any vital information that could help you make a stronger appeal. (Check out our blog post about the 5 Ws and 1 H here.)

3). Gather Relevant Data and Client Stories

Having data and client stories related to the specific program for which you are seeking funds will make your appeal stronger and prove your point for you. While some grant-makers may not request that type of information (client stories are typically not requested in online application forms), I'm a fan of the old adage "It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."

4). Start with an Outline

There aren't many things more intimidating to a writer than staring ahead at that white page on a computer screen. Trying to plot out every word you want to say can feel overwhelming. I recommend you start with an outline. Review some other grant proposal samples and utilize what you know about your organization, its programs and its need. Open with an Executive Summary, but draft it last. Some outline headers can include History, Our Programs, The Problem, Our Solution, and Our Request. Use short headers that will grab your reader's attention and consider words that will have the highest impact for those that may be scanning the narrative looking for certain elements. In other words, don't get too creative here. For more secrets to crafting a successful grant narrative, check out our on-demand webinar here.

5). Leave Yourself Customization Crumbs

When you're drafting your narrative, there will be sections that you simply cannot draft until you know more specifics about your grant-maker. You'll want to make sure you customize the request amount in each proposal based on the grant-maker and to highlight the parts of your program, need, and solution that would resonate with the grant-maker based on their current funding priorities. In those cases, leave yourself crumbs throughout the document. For me, the best way to do this is to add reminders in all caps and change the color of the text (I use red). An example would be "We believe this project is aligned well with INSERT GRANT-MAKER'S NAME based on its current interest in supporting programs that INSERT FUNDING PRIORITY." This will remind me to update these sections and help me not to overlook them when I'm reviewing an updated draft before I submit a proposal.

6). Get Feedback

Find a colleague who can review your template for you. Ask for feedback on the quality of the content and if there are any gaps you could fill. Ask them to write down any questions they have as they review and use these to flesh out your document.

7). Start Submitting Requests

Once you identify a grant-maker that is interested in receiving a proposal for funding, use their RFP or submission guidelines to update your customization trail of crumbs then print or copy/paste into their online form.

8). Update Regularly

Your document may be "done," but it's not static. As you progress through your campaign, you should periodically (I suggest quarterly) review your content for opportunities to update the information. Check with program staff to refresh data and update any external references if necessary.

Having a high quality, flexible template that allows you to customize your requests for each grant-maker will allow you to focus your energy on researching grant opportunities, building relationships on behalf of your organization, and meeting your fundraising goals.

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