New York State Library Division of Library Development

Discretionary Grant Application Workbook


SOME HINTS ON BASIC GRANT WRITING

I. WHAT TO EXPECT GRANT WRITING

A.

Money--probably less than you need

Accountability--probably more than you want

Headaches--in abundance

B.
C.
1. Principle sources of headaches:
a. administration--your own and the funding agency's
b. staff--They come, they go, they get pregnant, they get sick, they die, they don't work as fast as you want.
c. vendors--"It's going to cost more than we thought…"
d. schedules--Everything takes longer than you think it will, especially vendors.

II. WHAT NOT TO EXPECT FROM A GRANT

A.

Indefinitely continued funding--you need a plan B

B.

Solutions to ongoing problems-funding is not a solution, but a means to help implement solutions (solutions come from genius or from planning; I'd count on planning if I were you)

III. THREE STEPS IN WRITING A GRANT PROPOSAL

A.

Planning--figuring out what you need the grant for & how you will use it

1.

Components of grant planning

a.

define need--The more carefully you define your need the more likely you are to be funded.

b.

select options--What is the most reasonable, appropriate or cost effective means to meet the defined need?

c.

define approach--How will you go about implementing the options chosen to meet the need (this is the beginning of your actual plan of work)?

d.

project costs--Don't guess, do research, push a pencil, ask your neighbor, call vendors.

e.

set schedule--Then, add 25 percent because the project will take longer than you expect; do not apply this formula to d.)

NOTE:

The more time you spend planning a project the more likely it is to be funded and the more likely you are to complete it successfully.

B.

Research--finding out who funds your kind of need

1.

Is your institution eligible?

2.

Is your project eligible?

3.

Will the funding agency give you enough money?

4.

Will they give you enough time to complete the project you've outlined?

NOTE:

If the answer to B.3 and B.4 is "No," back up to A.1.b and see if there is a way to scale down or reorganize your project so B.3 and B.4 can be answered "Yes." If not, look for another funding agency.

C.

Preparation--writing it the way the funding agency tells you to

1.

Read the guidelines and instructions straight through; then read them again.

2.

Outline your application.

3.

Address all questions in the application.

4.

Write in plain English--avoid jargon or bureaucratese at all costs (even if that is what the funding agency speaks).

5.

Make it brief--it's the proper length (whether it's 2 pages or 20) when it is just long enough to clearly present your proposal, but not long enough to put the reviewer to sleep.

6.

Turn it in on time or don't bother--don't even think of asking for an extension.

NOTE:

Rhetorical flourishes and purple prose do not impress reviewers--at least not positively. They also do not communicate information. Save them for your political campaign.

IV. COMMON MISTAKES IN GRANT WRITING

A.

Wrong agency--"This is a good proposal, but it's not the kind of project we fund".

B.

Poor planning

C.

Poor writing--lots of words but no information

D.

Poor organization--"Where do they talk about research value? I can't find it."

E.

Making assumptions--don't assume reviewers know something about your institution or project; if it's relevant tell them (if not leave it out).

NOTE:

Reviewers will also not assume that you know how to do something properly unless you tell them how you plan to do it.

F.

Budget padding--reviewers know how much things cost and how to get the most for their money; they will expect you to do the same.

NOTE:

Inflating the value of the institutional contribution to the project is a sure way to deflate a reviewer's ratings.

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Last modified on January 19, 2000/djr
For questions or comments contact Barbara Lilley
URL: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/cp/hints.htm