SandeeCan Blog: Debunking the Scary World of Grant Writing. Part One
My first class was at Metro Tech in Stillwater, Oklahoma in early 2010. I was connected to the programs through the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce. I read that they had a business series in the chamber newsletter. I attended the class for Grant Writing, it taught about both NONPROFIT and FOR PROFIT grants, but we only covered the subject of nonprofits briefly. The class taught mostly how to fill out the grants, which is one of the most important steps. I felt a little lost at the time, but thinking back on it now, it was the perfect class to take first.
My main question was How do I start? I am not going to tell you that it is easy by any means. It isn't, but it isn't that hard either.
-It all starts with getting your business in order. Are you registered with the State of Oklahoma or your state? You need to be. That is about $75 for registering your name, and I paid I think $125 to become a LLC.
-Remember I said earlier that I had a membership to QuickBooks online. Yes, if you want to apply for a grant from anyone in this day and age, you better have an up to date fiscal account.
****From experience of applying for grants, I have learned that you really need a Fiscal year (12 months) for your company or more with filed tax statements. Nonprofits are 3 to 4 years.
Then, Register at the Dunn & Bradstreet website www.dnb.com/US/duns
-Federal/State Grant Makers Require this for all applications.
SO---> feeling good? I did, but I will admit. I learned most of this not in class, but through trial and error. Embarrassing trial and error, but I made some friends in high places that remember my dumb ass....smartest dumb girl they ever met....lol.
Lets finally get to the class:
I want to say that the Metro Tech in OSU country was one of the cleanest schools ever. We had coffee and bagels. It was very nice. I was nervous. The class was 2 hours and we covered a ton of information. I felt I jumped in. So, I am going to add my experience with the steps. It may help to grasp it all a bit better.
-How do you get an application kit?
-Can you just go online and apply? sometimes, I learned usually not. Most companies have online applications, but only accept "request only" applicants. Usually invited by a member of the organization. So, that it the hard truth. Most of the time it pays to know people.
Let us start with some general terms so you can follow me
Different Types of Grants:
-Government/State Grants: Usually are for 501(c)(3) status only. Let's skip this.
-Foundations: Perfect for Photographers and Artists. Be sure to READ EVERYTHING. Apply to For Profit grants. Most pay half or meet you half way financially. Make sure you have the funds set aside BEFORE you start asking. They check. Don't be embarrassed. My husband thankfully saved my butt a few times in this area. Thanks honey !
Foundations usually require:
-Cover sheet/Cover form
-Narrative including description of your business and your request. (if you are a person that has a problem "asking" you will have to get over it, or not waste your time.)
Words of advice from me: Don't gloat, remember you NEED them for something. They have no idea who you are, don't assume they care. Your narrative is your chance to make them care.
I also have learned from talking to different foundations that they love, love, love attachments. They just need to be "WOW" attachments.
What is an attachment? Attachments are like photos, scales, graphs, etc. of you doing something that has to do with the question they are asking. Answer the question briefly and then say "see attachment" for us photographers it is right up our alley. Make sure the attachment is a really good image, graph or scale, don't half ass it. Remember they don't know you. Are you going to let that bad attachment define you? That needs to be your mindset. REALLY.
-Grants and Sponsorship for Corporations: grant requests can vary, BUT as photographers this is a great revenue to try.
TIPS I HAVE LEARNED---->Use their exact template. It may state use if you want, but they will throw it out. You should conform to them from the start. Usually you can just download it from the website
-They want information short and to the point. Class will tell you differently, but I have had 6 grants kick back due to having to much describing information.
Corporate Letter Request Format to be used: (this is from class)
-Bullets are a plus.
-You need no fluff in opening sentences,
*Bulleted facts about:
a.) Your company and goals.
b.) What are your expanded needs and how can they benefit you.
c.) Straight forward request for what you want
d.) Goals and objectives that will be met with funding.
e.) Reason why you requested their company for request. (oh my Gosh, do not put because they are giving away money, be creative.)
f.) Paint with words the big picture of how the Corp. can impact your business, as they clearly win as well.
-------->Follow Application Guidelines<---------
Always do EXACTLY what they ask for NO EXCUSES!
Now that you're smarter now on terms and lingo.
Let us move on.....
You feel smarter, right?
Let's ask the original question again.
How Do I Apply?
The sad truth is grants are scarce now, most foundations and companies are asking for a simple LETTER OF INTENT/INQUIRY that you can usually find on their website. It is not a full proposal-(so don't make it one! it will be thrown out.)
If they accept you they will invite you to complete an application. (this has been the way I have applied for all my grants, and it feels SO GOOD when they reply asking for a full application. They usually give you an entirely different link to apply.)
-So, let's pretend you have been asked to apply by a company or foundation-
What to expect: The company or foundation will send you a new contact to submit information usually. They will send you a link to download their APPLICATION GUIDELINES: I can not stress enough to READ, READ, READ every word. Wrap your mind around what they want and how you can match their needs to make them want to sponsor you. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!!
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!
-Get online and check out the company or foundation.
-What are their mission and goals?
-Who have they helped before?
-How much did they give?
After you do your homework, then go back to Following the Guidelines and reading the application again.
-Highlight all the questions you will have to answer and materials/supplies/equipment/other needs you have to include.
-Remember Foundations and Corporations will need a COVER LETTER.
-Provide a clear, to the point overview of your company, purpose and reason for the amount of funding requested.
****Tips from me on Cover Letters****
-The grants that I have written, were accepted, and awarded monies to us had one thing in common. I had added a little area that showed how my proposal furthers the funders ratings and business.
-Type your COVER LETTER on boring letterhead.
Summary/Abstract- Very important, overlooked all time. Major reason most applications are thrown out. Think about it. Give it 30 minutes to a hour.
-It is a 3 to 4 sentence paragraph that has to combine a bunch of information without duplicating yourself.
-who are you?
-what your projector (long term) goals are
-how much are you asking for?
-what you want to do
Don't forget my added bit, that seems to work:
-why you will succeed and make them profit and succeed
Your cover letter is done now....let's move on.
Proposal/Narrative Body: congratulations, most applicants that submit grants do not get this far they say. The cover letter is that important.
The Narrative Body is the body of the application. Usually answering the questions the Application Guideline asks. (Keep this wording elegant and simple, all your fancy wording should of been used on your cover letter.)
This is a tricky area. Requires homework and thinking.
This guideline I learned in class, mixed with the companies guidelines, have been successful for me.
General Grant Writing Guideline:
-Introduction to you as a company/your background:
briefly about you, when you started, your purpose, location
Do not say you've been running around with a camera since a child crap....grrrrr. Be creative, honest & simple. Think THEM, not you so much, even though you are talking about yourself.
-Do write about major accomplishments like being in a newspaper for business reasons or your work published in a non-digital print magazine or book. Believe it or not, the online digital sites anyone can start and feel special. Foundations are the real deal, they don't care about fluff or what awards you won in high school.
-Write about Current Programs and Activities like current programs/shows/setups your involved in. Be brief and attach brochures, flyers, newsletters, and photos. Show you walk the walk.
-Description/demographics of your business community- This is pretty important. Usually on the nonprofit side it kind of benefits to be in a less targeted population, but FOR PROFIT-unless stated, they want your neighborhood to be nice. They usually check your tax bracket.
**Tips: Write about your local connections you have business wise. Who are your local business people? Are they your clients? Like me, I work with The City of Edmond as their photographer for events. I have worked with business owners in Edmond, Okc, Guthrie and surrounding areas in Oklahoma. Belong to 3 different chambers, mention this positive stuff as your business community.
**Think NETWORKING makes your business community bigger. NO FACEBOOK clubs. Think REAL STUFF.
-This is where you write about what you plan to do with the grant monies.
-Be detailed. enclose "WOW" attachments
-State your intentions simply & directly in one or two sentences.
**Tip: start like this, "The purpose of this request is to....."
-Problem Statement/Statement of need-
-write about the problem you will combat with the awarded funds
-Give steps on how you will accomplish the goals
-Project Budget- in my opinion, this is the hardest part.
-Be specific and realistic on what you need to spend
-Show that you will use their money wisely
-Ask for lowest grant first, then through time, ask for more.
-Submit Fiscal records, if they ask. Do not submit information not asked!
That's it! You applied for a grant!
**Tips** Make sure not to offer anything to them that could be considered a bribe. I offered a session to a lady once and she knew I was just dumb, so she quietly told me what was up. Then later at the last class I heard how they get A LOT of bribes and they just throw the applications out. Just think to yourself, is their business or your joke worth $10,000? Probably not.
In Part Two we will go into things further from a different, deeper aspect. Wording, how to find grants to apply for, stay tuned....
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