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How to Keep the Funding Agencies Happy

It is almost impossible to be successful in grant writing unless one is very much attuned to the thoughts of those reviewing the application. Most staff members at the funding agencies actually welcome the opportunity to provide feedback to applicants.

My relationship with reviewing officials has made my job much easier. We freely share ideas back and forth. This has provided invaluable information which has greatly helped me in the quest for grant funds. The following is a compendium of what I have heard them say over the years. Much of this will seem like common sense, but it bears repeating. I have seen enough applications where directions have not been followed, the formatting is not done properly, or avoidable mistakes have been made. This list provides a quick and easy way of digesting the body of knowledge I have obtained over the years from those who have control over the money. If the grant writer follows the rules and works diligently at grant searches and on the grant applications, she can count on a good level of success.
•Read through the entire NOFA before starting the application.
•Review the NOFA with an eye toward looking for deal breakers.
•Identify the need before proposing a solution or searching for funds and quantify the extent of the need.
•Gather as much statistical and background data as possible before designing the project.

•Discuss possible solutions with key people prior to designing the project – get as much input as possible.
•Discuss the project with funding agency staff by telephone or e-mail before starting the application.Call a potential funding source if there is some doubt as to whether it should be included in your search results. When making these calls, go to the trouble of finding out which staff member can best help.
•Check several grant search resources – try at least 3 or 4.
•When doing a search, do not hesitate to contact peers in other organizations for ideas.
•When writing the results of a grant search, develop a clear strategy for action which is realistic and offers the best chance of receiving funding as soon as possible.
•Follow up on letters of inquiry to foundations if no response is received. Many foundations do not reply.
•Make letters of inquiry brief (no more than 2 pages) but informative – stress the need for the project, your organization’s ability to carry it out, and the benefits which will accrue from it.
•Respond promptly if a foundation requests a full proposal based on a letter of inquiry.
•Check the web site of a funding agency thoroughly before e-mailing or telephoning so as to avoid asking questions which are clearly answered on the web site.
•Ensure that you have the latest version of the application and regulations.
•Check the math in the budget – although this is obvious, many applicants make mathematical errors.
•Pay attention to those agencies which require that a Letter of Intent be filed prior to a full application. In nearly all cases, there is a specific deadline for submitting this letter.
•Pay careful attention to the rating and ranking criteria when crafting a proposal. Incorporate the application language into the narrative.
•Be concise but thorough in the narrative.
•If there is a specific page maximum, be sure that you come as close to that as possible without exceeding it. You can rest assured that the other applicants will provide as much information as possible.
•Give a descriptive narrative with specific examples.
•Be crystal clear in your writing. Do not “beat around the bush”.
•Be complete and thorough in the narrative – do not leave the reviewer wondering what you mean. Answer the questions completely.
•Use good grammar and correct punctuation and spelling.
•Re-read the application at least twice.
•Give proper attribution for all information derived from others and cite sources for statistical data
•Answer the funding agency’s requests for additional information completely, cheerfully, and on time.
•Send letters of support with the application itself unless the guidelines state otherwise. However, some U.S. Representatives and Senators will only send support letters directly to the funding agency.
•If there is any doubt whatsoever about whether an application will reach the office of the funding agency on time, send it overnight or two-day guaranteed delivery.
•Send the application directly to the person named in the solicitation, with the correct number of copies.
•Check to see that the application arrived on time.
•Start on-line applications early so that you can get your questions answered before the deadline.
•Keep the user name and password for on-line applications in a handy place where they will not be lost.
•Do your best to stave off performance anxiety as the due date for the application arrives – this will impair your ability to do the best job possible.
•Do your best to be available for site visits when the funding agency wants to come. Only change the date if there is an emergency.
•Sign and return the grant acceptance documents promptly.
•Read the grant agreement carefully.
•Call the funding agency or foundation with any questions regarding the administration of the funds. They would rather have you call frequently than have a mess to clean up at the time of the audit. They are worried about those grantees who do not call.
•Ensure as much accuracy in financial recordkeeping as humanly possible. This is what the funding agencies will check first.
•Begin to implement your project as soon as you possibly can. Funding agencies do not like to give extensions and in many cases will not give them for any reason.
•If you are passing funds through to a sub-recipient, monitor their work closely. Your agency will be held accountable if anything goes wrong.
•Check to see what procurement procedures the funding agency requires for any purchases.
•Check periodically during implementation to be sure that the project is meeting the need and fulfilling the goals.
•For projects involving individual beneficiaries, be sure to get all of the pertinent information qualifying that individual or family (such as income verification) prior to approving or disbursing any benefits.
•Be completely cooperative during a monitoring visit and provide everything the funding agency asks for.
•Answer any monitoring findings completely and promptly. Funding for your next project will depend upon it!
•Keep accurate and up-to-date records as the project proceeds

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