Grant Writing and Project Development

As mentioned at the top of Wednesday’s post, for the past ten weeks, I’ve been taking a class in grant writing. I signed up for the course for two reasons: 1) because I thought it would be a useful skill for raising money for personal projects that are better funded by sources other than my bank account and 2) because as I troll the Internet for freelancing writing and editing opportunities, I often see wanted ads for grant writers, and I thought grant writing would be useful to have in my repertoire.

It turns out that I’ll likely not be adding grant writing to my skill set, at least not for now. For the first few weeks of the class, I was completely overwhelmed. Our teacher warned us that this would be the case but that eventually the concepts would come together and make sense. I remained overwhelmed, however, daunted by the size of the task in creating a proposal even for a project as modest as mine. This was not a job I’d be willing to undertake for any project other than my own.

Part of the challenge is that too many factors contributing to the success of a grant proposal are out of the grant writer’s hands—the effectiveness of an organization’s board, for example—and too many of the “grant writer wanted” listings I saw wanted to pay after the grant money was awarded. Only one in ten grant proposals get funded; I’m not keen on taking a one in ten chance that I’d get paid for a lot of hard work.

The class did, however, introduce me to the world of nonprofits and inspire me to “think big.” And the process of writing a grant proposal forced me to think strategically about my project.

The Logic Model

Grant proposals are built using a nonlinear logic model that connects the dots between the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your project.

  • Needs Assessment: Why is there a need for the project? Who does it serve—i.e., what are the demographics of the target population served by the project? What problem does the project address? How long has this problem existed? Has the problem been addressed before? How does the problem impact the target population and other surrounding populations? Why does the problem exist? All of the claims made in this section should be supported by evidence and statistics from credible sources.
  • Goals: A goal is a general statement that reflects a change. It’s so broad, though, that it will likely never be fully achieved: To increase world peace. Or, to lose weight.
  • Objectives: Objectives, on the other hand, are the specific results or outcomes the project will accomplish. They are achievable and measurable and take place in a specified amount of time: To work out at a gym three days a week for one month.
  • Methodologies: The methodology is the step-by-step approach or plan for achieving the objectives. It includes a summary of activities and a timeline of major tasks: To research gyms. To select and join a gym. To buy tennis shoes. Etc.
  • Evaluation: How will you measure whether the project was successful? How will you know whether the objectives have been met? What information is needed to demonstrate success, and how will it be collected? Who will gather this information, analyze it, and report the results?
  • Budget: How much money is needed for the project? What are the expenses? Where will the money come from?

All of this is summarized in the project summary that opens the proposal but is written last. This is your “elevator speech”—how you’ll describe your project if you happen to find yourself on an elevator ride with someone interested in what your group is doing.

Also included in a finished grant proposal are mission and vision statements that help focus the organization and project and information on why your group is qualified to pull it off, whether it be the credentials of the people involved or the successful completion of past projects.

I’m a long way from actually applying for a grant for my project, but using this logic model to write a hypothetical proposal for it really helped me develop my idea.

Meanwhile, my project moves forward. Stay tuned!

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