Grant Writing Tips

and Tricks

From Idea to Event in Four Months - Secret Sauce You Can Use for Your Next Grant

A massive determinant of whether or not your grant writing experience goes swimmingly-well or not is if you have a strong kickoff meeting. 

We founded an all women’s mountain bike festival in 2018. In four months we went from idea to full execution with 250 participants. We provided skills clinics, a social ride, maintenance classes, a race, vendor village, and great food.

Here is some feedback from one of our participants: 

“I REALLY appreciate the hard-core ladies who took the time out of their busy lives to spend the day teaching the rest of us. These are the ladies I admire from afar; our amazing, beautiful, athletic Alaskan women - and frankly their "she" power, success and abilities can be a little intimidating to some of us non-athletic types, or those of us who weren't perhaps encouraged in the same way to take part in sports. But, they were truly interested in helping hundreds of women and girls learn about and enjoy what they do....

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How to Avoid Last Minute Grant Pursuits

"I just learned about {grant name}, but it is due in {insanely short time frame}. Should I go after it?"

Smalls, you're killing me! The answer is no. No, no, no. Still, no. Don't even try to convince yourself it's the perfect fit. 

Now that we're done being sassy, let's explain the tricks your mind is going to play on you. 

"But this is the PERFECT grant for us!” If you are only learning about a grant once the announcement has come out, you are too late. You don't have the time to properly examine if it is a good fit. Your judgment is now blurry because you want the signs to say “go for it!” 

Even if you follow the rule of contacting the funding agency to gauge if the program is a good fit, the funder can lead you astray. Once an announcement is out, many funders will encourage you to apply because it makes their programs look better if they are competitive. Another issue is that a funding agency representative often cannot talk to you about the...

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Grant Writing Course on How to Plan a Grant Proposal That Wins

project planning Sep 20, 2019

Early in my grant writing career, I worked with an Alaska Native village that needed funding to relocate their entire community. The community was literally falling into the Arctic Ocean from coastal erosion, and the tribal administrator wanted grant funding to build a shop for the transportation equipment needed to build and maintain a winter road for relocation purposes.

I will never forget how claustrophobic I felt standing in the village. Aggressive, unforgiving waves were crashing just yards away. The land was visibly giving way to the sea. Perhaps most disturbing of all, the shoreline was dotted with abandoned homes which were tipping into the ocean. 

I certainly understood why the project was important, and I was motivated to help. I established a grant schedule, prepared much of the grant narrative, and started a project budget.

Despite my attempts to collaborate, months passed and we were not making progress. I couldn’t help the community achieve their goals...

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Grant Proposals that Win - Think Like a Funder - Project Planning Part 2

project planning Sep 13, 2019

Welcome back! This is part two of our blog series on how to develop your project so it is funding-ready. If you missed the first blog, you can access that here

Below are a series of questions to consider when understanding where a project sits in the planning process. Continue to answer the questions listed below in a word document or text editor of your choice. 

Technical Viability & Sustainability

  • How is the project technically viable? Has it ever been done before? What unknowns could impact the project being successful? If it’s a capital improvement project, are project designs developed? 
  • Where will your project or program be located? Does your organization own the property or the building? If so, be sure to save a copy of the lease, property deed or any other appropriate document in your project folder. If not, who owns it and what is your plan for using the site? 
  • How can you prove the project (and organization) will be sustainable? ...
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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...

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Don't Fear Grant Match Requirements!

One of the most common reasons we see communities not go after grant funding is because they are overwhelmed by match requirements. They say, “We can’t possibly apply because of the 50% match requirement!” Our response is hogwash. Finding match funding only requires thinking creatively and collaboratively.  Here are some ideas for you to consider:

Leverage past grants. We never apply for a grant that doesn’t help leverage securing another one.  What we mean by this is that when we’re preparing the first grant of several pursuits, making it clear in the narrative that awarding us funding will help secure the next grant. Your application becomes more compelling when you can show how a funding agency’s investment leverages additional dollars.

For instance, our team helped the Alaska Native Village of Huslia secure $550,000 from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for rural housing. We delayed construction for a year to leverage that...

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Grant Budgeting When You're Not a 'Numbers Person'

If you’re a grant writer, you probably prefer words over numbers. When it comes time to develop a project budget, you would hope someone more technical would take lead, but unfortunately this task usually falls on your shoulders. Don’t despair! In this post, we will give you an example of how to develop a project budget in just a week.  

The Native Village of Tetlin in Alaska was pursuing an Indian Community Development Block Grant for housing rehabilitation. To develop the project scope and budget, we first needed to assess what work needed to be done. To do this, the 1st Chief and Grant Writer, Patricia Young, went door to door over two days to conduct housing assessment interviews. 

Think you’re not qualified to do a housing assessment? Think again! Patricia has no experience with housing, but she thoughtfully developed a two-page assessment that provided the exact information needed to develop a project scope and budget. After she developed the...

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Launching a New Grant Pursuit! Tips for Your Next Kick-Off

Even as an experienced grant writer, getting started with a new grant application can be overwhelming. In this post, I share how I structured a kick-off meeting for a new project and grant pursuit with the Native Village of Tetlin (Alaska).  

Prep Work: Read the funding guidelines and prep a meeting agenda

To prepare for the kick-off meeting, I read the funding guidelines. As I had questions, I typed those into the meeting agenda for discussion later. I also listed the required attachments and assigned different team members to each. I then included a mini grant narrative skeleton (described in the free mini course here), to understand where we have information gaps and to assign responsibilities. The entire process of reading the funding guidelines and preparing a kick-off agenda took about 1.5 hours.

Host Kick-Off Meeting

I use Zoom video conferencing to host meetings. For this project, our team spreads from Anchorage and Tok Alaska to Paraguay! Despite our geographic...

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