We have been fortunate to be very successful with grant writing, but there have been some failures. Here are some of the most important lessons that we at Creative Resources & Research have learned from failure:
- Attend the webinar. The Federal Register is the official word on grant requirements, but the RFP, and other forms of guidance (like the funder's bidder's conference or webinar) explain things that may not be clear. We are currently in the process of helping a client appeal a negative funding decision in which guidance provided during the funder's informational webinar conflicted with guidance in the Federal Register. While the law is clear on the issue and we may very well win the appeal, a lot of discomfort could have been avoided if we had just attended the webinar. A representative from our client's organization did participate in the webinar, but he didn't know what to look for. We should have participated. Next time we will.
- Do some research into previously funded grantees. Sometimes a funder provides a long list of eligible applicants, but that doesn't mean those are all preferred applicants. Take a look at previous grantees to get an idea of the types of organizations they like to fund. Recently, we participated in a mentoring grant competition that was open to schools and non-profit agencies. Our clients were schools. We were not successful. After the fact, we realized that almost all (all but ONE) of the successful grantees in recent years had been non-profit agencies. A little research would have saved a lot of effort.
- It is essential that two people review the final document for submittal. People make mistakes. they leave out appendices and required grant components by mistake, especially when they are under the pressure of a deadline. It is much less likely that a mistake will make it out of your office if at least two people review the final application before it is submitted.