Friday, October 22, 2010

Getting Past the What to the How

I find that one of the biggest challenges in writing grants is to write about how things are going to get done instead of simply what is going to get done. I seem to fall into the trap of describing what and it takes me about three drafts before I insert enough detail into my narrative to describe how the project is going to get done.  It can be frustrating!

The problem is that a good grant describes in detail how the project will be implemented. So merely describing the what is going to confuse the readers who are scoring your proposal (and confused readers are NEVER a good thing). I'm currently writing a museum grant and I have no problem writing a list of what is going to get done but describing how it is going to get done and why it is a good idea to do it that way is another issue entirely. That is where the brain needs to really kick into gear and think, plan, describe, outline, illustrate, elucidate; and in short, eliminate vague and weak language which can always adequately describe the what.  What language is easy.

In example – Here is a good WHAT statement - The museum will build a new exhibit about penguins. If I move on from here without describing how, or if I don't describe it later – somewhere - in the proposal, the readers are left to wonder, “So you're building a penguin exhibit and your Museum is in Phoenix, Arizona. So how are you going to get penguins to Phoenix, keep them cold, get fish to feed them, keep their little dancing feet happy?” If you haven't answered any of those questions describing how these things will get done then your readers are left questioning whether or not you can accomplish what you said you would do.  They should question it too!
So now facing a weekend ahead, and almost the last weekend before the grant is due, there is no time to waste because the narrative must be perfectly descriptive of how, and why, the project I am proposing is sound, well-thought-out, well-planned, supported by research, based on multiple sources of input, aligned with the funders priorities, targeting an appropriate audience, etc. etc. etc.

Grant writers often face the task of describing how these projects will be implemented with limited input from clients. This makes the task of grant writing challenging but also makes it an interesting intellectual exercise. How the project should be implemented for any individual client depends on many factors and those can be elicited through conversations and discussions with the client. How the project should be implemented based on best practices and sound research is something that can be determined through online research, discussion with experts, reading articles, blogs, and informative websites.

Anyone who has conducted any level of research online or otherwise can attest to the time-intensive nature of the task. It isn't always easy to find the right resources and it takes time to read them, digest the information, and translate it all into a grant narrative. So getting to the how the project implementation and design can take a lot longer than someone outside the grant writing field might understand.

Well it's getting late for a Friday, so I will close this post and leave the rest of the research and writing for tomorrow.

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.