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National Writing Examiner (NWE) 101: the art of grant writing

by Donna L. Quesinberry

National Writing Examiner

Writing is an art that takes on many forms. Success-driven grant writing is an art that uses a logical structure and clear arguments to secure needed funding for a potential awardee. The grant proposal is like a sales proposal (most recognized are federal acquisition proposals) in as far as semantics of compilation; however, a grant is also very different from a federal or sales proposal. Sales proposals may have limited numbers of competitors – sometimes as few as five – grant proposals may have hundreds of competing submissions.

Due to this reality, a grant proposal must follow the funder guidelines to the “t.” A funder for a grant proposal can be a corporation, foundation, Government Agency or private entity. Grant writing must inform the “funder” of their intent for monies secured if awarded while presenting their solution or goal for funding. Federal government agencies are beginning to mitigate their procurement more often through the grant award process because of this fact. There’s a little more control of the parameters of funds coupled with solutions in the grant arena. Grants.gov is an excellent website to review the government grant opportunities – there are literally hundreds of them. Private funders as well as corporate and foundation funding can be found through each entities individual website and through philanthropic websites such as Foundation Center.

What are the required elements of grant writing?

  1. To begin, you need to verify that the rules and requirements of the funder eligibility are representative of your client. There are varied criteria of grant funders that are very exacting in their presentation. Location, purpose, field of pursuit, types of support (capital investment, overhead, travel, paid staff, etc.), previous grant recipient, amounts of required funding, etc. are all elements often presented by a funder – review all of their criteria before developing any grant writing text. Don’t waste your time submitting with the hopes of surpassing eligibility protocols – you’ll just waste time and energy.
  2. Grant writers need to identify explicit, implicit and hidden issues relative to the grant authority. Ensure you have “zero” stop gaps in your grant presentation. Funders extend explicit issues that equate to their “terms.” These are clearly stated and easily identified. Funders also extend implicit terms, which are harder to define, but nonetheless are written in the funder’s requirements. When you address these items – make them explicit in your response. Define the implicit terms and then state – in a fact-ridden manner – the capabilities to meet the implicit requirements. Hidden items may be intentionally understated, some are not even mentioned; however, with research of the funding organization the grant writer is aware of “hidden” requirements. It is best to address the hidden requirements in a tactful manner with a proactive focus.
  3. Prep your grant writing for the evaluation process. Leave no room for ambiguities. Make clear and concise presentations, ensure your graphics and sidebars are as crisp as your text. Understand that varied entities will review your submission – don’t presume that something stated in another section of your submission will be understood throughout the proposal – tie all elements together and leave no room throughout the presentation for question. Realize that the first thing a review panel wants to do is to limit their workload – so the first order of business is to weed out applicants who don’t meet their criteria. Criteria that is presented and is seemingly “simple” such as font size, headers | footers, layout can be used to the reviewer’s advantage in a stack of 100 submissions. After this “initial screening” the proposal undergoes “individual review and receives a score.” Good grant writers get good scores. If you pass reviews and score well the proposal moves to the “funding” process, which doesn’t mean you’ll receive funds necessarily. Sometimes funds are expended by the time your grant reaches this stage of development.

How does a grant writer get the “best score?” – answer is in part 2 of the art of grant writing…

About grants.gov

Grants.gov was established as a governmental resource named the E-Grants Initiative, part of the President’s 2002 Fiscal Year Management Agenda to improve government services to the public.

The concept has its origins in the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999, also known as Public Law 106-107. Public Law 106-107 has since sunset and is now known as the Grants Policy Committee (GPC). For more information on the Grants Policy Committee, click here.

Today, Grants.gov is a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs and provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards.

A grant writer’s presentation on YouTube – one way the grant writer gains visibility:

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About the Author
: Ms. Quesinberry, DonnaInk Publications (dp)
President, manages a government (federal and state) and commercial consultancy. A published technical non-fiction and fictional author, she is also university course developer and instructor as well as poetess. Donna interviewed on CNBC and is a single mother of 5 adult children with 7 grandchildren. dp is a small, woman-owned sole proprietorship, with over 19 years of professional expertise featuring high performance measurements and a significant win ratio for multiple | diverse genres among GSA Schedule, grant, federal contract, technical communication |
content management industries.

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Donna Quesinberry
President DonnaInk Publications (dp)
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