Write Grant Proposals that Win - Start with Project Planning!

project planning Sep 05, 2019

Ideas alone are not enough to get funded. The idea needs some meat and bones to it. It needs to have shape. It needs to have been sufficiently well planned to give the funder confidence that you will properly manage grant funds and accomplish what you say you will. 

It is tempting to jump right into the grant writing phase, but without a sufficiently planned project, you will not position yourself for success. Insufficiently planned projects often prove to be too much to pull off and the grant pursuit gets canceled or gets submitted in poor form. 

Our projects are not perfectly planned before we start applying for a grant, but they have sufficient form to build upon! We accelerate reaching project planning milestones during the application process because grant deadlines force decision making. We always make sure, however, a minimum level of planning has been met before researching grant funding and pursuing funds. (Spoiler alert: minimum planning to us means a project description and decent budget). 

Below are a series of questions to consider when understanding where a project sits in the planning process. Start by answering the questions listed below in a word document or text editor of your choice. (If you would like an explanation of each section, consider taking our Grant Writing Project Planning Course where we break apart each section in greater detail.)

Project planning takes time. Sometimes it can take months to get an answer – such as where a project will be located – and that’s okay! It’s better to work through these details now before you start a grant. You will develop an eye for seeing what needs to be done from the perspective of a funder and get faster every time at getting projects funding ready. 

Project Overview

    • What is your project (or program)? We know this must seem so basic, but all too often people start pursuing funding when they aren’t clear on what they want to do. Write 1-2 paragraphs describing your project. 
    • Why is it needed? What problem are you solving? Funders want to solve problems that can help others. Be clear on what challenge you are addressing.
    • Has a scope of work been developed? Most often, it hasn't been, and that's okay. Ideally, you can involve whoever would be implementing the project or program and have them prepare one to two pages that describe what will be done in detail. You will need this anyway when you apply for grant funding.  

Planning & Stakeholder Engagement

    • What planning has already been completed? Save any information you find on past planning efforts in your project folder. 
    • How have your community and stakeholders been involved in project development? If they're not yet engaged, how do you plan to involve them? Funders want to see their dollars go as far as possible. Be as inclusive and collaborative as possible when developing your project. Bridge to at least one other organization. 
    • How will you measure that your program or project is successful? This is especially important for program based projects. Not sure how? Contact similar organizations or the grant program you are interested in and ask for a copy of their evaluation plan. 
    • From whom can you request letters of support if needed. You should be able to list at least eight people/organizations, and preferably up to 20.
    • If planning work remains, has your organization – or will they – set aside funding? This is key because it is increasingly difficult to get funding for planning. Organizations want to fund projects that are ready to be implemented now. They do not want to fund the time it takes to plan the project.  

At risk of information overload, we will stop here. Answer the questions we posed today before diving into the second part of this blog post available here. Project planning is an iterative process. It is okay to find holes or gaps. Once you can see the gap, you know where to focus team energy. Everything we ask in the project planning process is designed to get you thinking like a funder and make it much easier to prepare grant applications when the time comes. 

Want to really dive into this? Consider taking our online class on Grant Writing Project Planning.  This course is a pre-requisite to our Grant Writing Program. Use discount code BLOG to get 25% off for reading this post! 

What is the online course like? The course provides a Project Planning Toolkit (a fillable PDF) and a community platform for collaborating with other aspiring grant writers. Students share their project planning toolkits, give feedback to one another, and help accelerate each other’s learning. Instructors weigh in on questions you have and help you keep your project moving forward to a funding-ready state. The course can be completed in a few hours! 


If you don't already, be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates on blog posts, upcoming workshops, and success stories from other grant writers. 

Be sure to check out our FREE Mini Course with Tips and Tricks for Narrative Writing here

Any questions? Contact Course Instructor Meredith at [email protected]

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