Is Grant Writing Hard?
Most people who haven’t written a grant assume that grant writing is difficult. In this article, you’ll learn 2 main reasons why grant writing can be hard for many and 3 ways to make the process easier.
When I was asked (even paid) to write my first state government grant back in 1988, I responded with, “I’m flattered that you would like me to write your proposal. But, I’ve never written a proposal before.”
“Don’t worry,” the college administrator told me. “It’s not that hard. Besides, there’s plenty of help here at the college if you need it.”
Reason 1 – “I’ve Never Done It Before”
So, the first reason why grant writing is hard is that you’ve never done it before. I hadn’t. It’s natural to think that you’ve never written a grant proposal before, so what makes you think you can write one now.
When you are trying something for the first time, it’s scary. If you’re like me, you have no personal experience to draw from – at least, that’s what you think.
So, expect that the first time will be scary because it is!
What helped in my situation was that I was being paid. It was my first job right after getting my master’s degree. In fact, I got the call exactly one day after I graduated.
Second, my ideal career job was to create a model language learning program for immigrants for 3 years now, so I had confidence in my dream and in my skills in running an English as a second language program. In other words, I had the “content expertise” for the grant even though I lacked the technical grant writing skills. That’s why the college administrator called me.
You can take on that first grant as an opportunity to make your ideal career or dream come true, like I did. You can allow your confidence in your skills to be greater then the fear gremlins. The fears won’t go away. But, you take them with you on the journey.
Reason 2 – “I Don’t Know Where To Start”
Once I was given the opportunity to write the grant, I didn’t know where to start. I was given the Request For Proposal (RFP) from the Nevada State Department of Education. An RFP includes the guidelines and instructions for applying. That’s where I started.
Next, I checked out some videos on grant writing from the college library and fell asleep in the first 5 minutes. That didn’t help.
I asked around to see if there were any grant writing experts at the college and made an appointment to meet the guy who seemed to be the expert. While it was a confidence booster to hear that he had been so successful with little training, that didn’t help either.
I went back to the RFP, created an outline for my proposal using headings and subheadings from the RFP. I noticed that certain sections of the RFP were given different points. That is, when proposals came in to the state agency that was giving out the money, they were evaluated and rated according to a weighted scale. The “Agency Introduction,” for example was given a maximum of 10 points while the “Measurable Outcomes” section 15 points and the “Budget” a maximum of 20 points.
At this point, the grant became a game. I was reminded of taking college classes and figuring out the grading scale the professors used. Then, I wrote my final papers using that criteria. When I figured out how I would be graded correct and wrote a paper to get the maximum points, I usually got up to 100 points and a good grade.
Likewise, the RFP is a grading scale. That’s where I focused my attention. That’s where I began.
If you’re like me, a good place to start is by focusing on the RFP and creating your outline and headings for your application. With time, you’ll get faster, too. My first grant for $125,000 took 100 hours to write. My last grant for $462,000 took 4 hours to write.
In summary, most people make grant writing hard. Two reasons for this are that you’ve never done it before and you don’t know where to begin. Here are three tips to make grant writing less difficult: 1) approach your first grant as an opportunity to make your dream come true, 2) make your self-confidence greater than those fear gremlins, and 3) start with the funder’s RFP.