1. Assess your project and its goals.
All grant writers/initiators face the same first question: Is this the right grant for what I want to create or accomplish? A prospective grant writer must be sure that there is a good fit between the goals and the objectives of their project and the interest of the funder. Projects should have a directed plan with measurable results. After assessing eligibility and the deadline, the grant writer must realistically evaluate the project and its goals, whether it is a program or a report. Funders are looking for projects to fund. If funds are sought as something just to buy time, or to establish something that shall require grant-funded support in perpetuity, then the application is not a likely candidate for funding. Projects must be definable and clearly show or create something that can be replicated in other institutions or programs and so provide secondary and tertiary benefit from the original grant dollars.
2. Research the funder and the range of their area of interest.
Each funding source, whether it is federal or state, has a specific area of interest for each grant opportunity. Usually this is stated in the grant announcement, but only in a sketch format. Meaningful evaluation of a funder’s area of interest requires thorough reading of the grant announcement, the grant application kit and even the forms they provide. Internet research can be helpful, but federal agency websites are often out of date and not entirely reliable. However, many federal agencies do all of their grant business electronically, so electronic research should always take place. Also consider investigating the legislation that provides the funds for your area of interest. Frequently this is helpful because it can provide insight as to what the funding source needs to report to the government. Once it is clear what the funder needs to justify its award, the grant writer has a clearer idea of what type of project could get funded. It is wise to investigate others who have successfully acquired funds from the same source. Lists of successful applicants are frequently available on the web, but not their applications. Finally, be sure to determine whether this grant cycle is an ongoing event or if this is a one-time opportunity.
3. Assess project fit with campus and college missions and goals.
Projects need support at both the Campus and College administrative level. Contact the college Director of Contracts & Grants to determine whether or not the project is within the mission and goals of the college or your Campus Occupational Dean to see if the project fits the scope of interest of the Campus. Support at the Campus level in many cases can help you determine whether it is the right time for a project to move forward.
4. Assess the timeline and the deadline.
The grant writer needs to develop an earnest timeline that includes every task and element necessary to complete the proposal with sufficient time before the deadline to undergo internal review. This includes document development in support of statements made addressing the criteria, narrative development with time for outside editing, relationship development with third parties/ project partners where necessary and time to address input and required changes by college or outside editors. It is imperative that the grant writer takes time initially to plan each task and event and place it on a real timeline that takes the proposal from initiation to the funder.