- Be sure to get a jump start on applications by maintaining a folder of federal and private grant applications from the previous year. Most grant applications don't change much from year to year, so applications can be started early.
- Brainstorm new ideas weekly to ensure freshness of potential grant proposals. Query pertinent staff about validity of grant ideas.
- Keep in contact with program officials throughout the year. These individuals can provide a sense of when the current year grant process will begin and potential changes to the process. A meeting during the off-season is a great marketing tool, too. Federal program officials will consider phone or face-to-face meetings when the grant process for their program is not imminent. Don't rely solely on the grant manager for these meetings, because he isn't the expert. Make sure the nonprofit's executive directors and other subject matter experts are in attendance.
- Congressional and federal agency staffers can provide information on how you can become a grant reviewer and a member of steering committees that help decide the priorities for grant programs.
- Conduct regular searches for grant ideas. Bookmark the grant Web pages for your pertinent federal agencies and private funding agencies as favorites and visit them at least once a week. These sites generally have the most up-to-date information on funding opportunities, including the crucial contact information.
- Don't forget to research local funding opportunities. Remember industries in your city, region or state likely have philanthropic efforts and you, as a local nonprofit, will receive priority.
- Once potential grant opportunities are found, contact the program officials for additional information. Federal funding opportunities don't generally restrict contact with program officials, so contact them. E-Mail is generally the preferred initial contact method. Private funders sometimes forbid contact by grantseekers, so check the Web sites prior to contact.
- Since an average only 20% of applications are funded, potential grantees should be prepared to apply often to numerous federal agencies, private foundations and corporations. Brainstorming sessions should go on constantly to devise innovative ideas for funding proposals.
- Don't overlook any foundation or federal agency. It's surprising what some federal agencies fund - for instance, many would assume the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would fund mostly medical research, but it also has grant programs to fund related projects.
- When conducting research, take a look at the list of previous winners. A previous grantee may have a program you can adapt for your area. Previous grantees generally are more than happy to provide additional information, because the more their project is used, the more cachet the group attains.
- Keep a file of boilerplate information, including AU's Capability Statement, a good synopsis of AU's organization's mission and partnerships that are strengthening it.
- Once the funding opportunities and deadlines are determined, create schedules and task lists for each opportunity. The schedule shouldn't be finite, allowing for tweaking. For example, don't have the end date as the actual deadline day, but have the deadline set for a week prior to allow for unforeseen problems.
- Read the grant guidance thoroughly. In general, at least a couple of reviews of the guidance are needed. The guidance should provide a sense of the tone and structure of the grant narrative.
- Keep track of the technical assistance provided. Technical assistance seminars are becoming more popular with federal agencies, as are online grant tutorials.
- Make sure the grant narrative is written in an "online-friendly" manner. Some formatting style may be stripped from the document once it is posted online, including bullets, italics and quotation marks. Either change these once posted, or use other methods (hyphens, parentheses or all caps) from the beginning.
- In spelling out the need for the proposal, provide as much supporting evidence on the problem to be solved as possible. Use timely statistics, case studies, testimony and other measurable data. Do not use outdated statistics.
- In the grant narrative, clearly spell out goals and deliverables. This is best accomplished with lists, with supporting paragraphs spelling out how each of the goals and deliverables will be accomplished.
- Assume the grant reviewers know nothing about your organization. Don't confuse them with jargon. Explain things completely.
- Once a draft narrative for a grant application is finished, contact the grant official for the targeted program (unless otherwise told not to) to see if they will take a look. Be ready to provide a synopsis over the phone, because while they generally won't review the proposal for you, they will listen to the synopsis and provide guidance.
- Know your budget. It should be realistic and give credibility to the entire proposal. Online submission systems generally provide space to provide additional information on the expenditure (i.e. budget justification). You should provide as much information on the line item as possible.
- As a final step prior to submission, have a fresh set of eyes take a look at the grant application. Ideally, this would be someone on staff who has some knowledge of the subject matter.
- Retain the submission verification confirmation provided by OSP or the funding agency directly. This is to ensure enough time to remedy online glitches that occurred after submission.
- If allowed, contact program officials and partners to let them know the proposal/application has been submitted.
- Don't panic when you receive a call or inquiry from the funding agency regarding your proposal/application. Generally the funding agency is contacting you to clarify information regarding your proposal/application in anticipation of issuing an award.
- If your proposal/application is not funded, don't become disheartened. If permitted, contact the program official to gather information on the weaknesses and strengths of your proposal.