A successful grant proposal lays out a detailed plan of action that is likely to produce the desired results. There are myriad considerations in program planning: What results do you want to produce? What approaches have proven successful? What methods are the best fit for your community and your organization’s capacity? What’s the price tag?
“Wrestling down those tough questions takes a significant amount of time,” said Barbara Floersch, chief of training and curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles and author of Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing. “And unless the logic of the plan can stand up to hard-ball scrutiny, the intense work of writing the proposal will be wasted,” she said.
Funders do make grant awards to support program planning, but only in certain circumstances. A planning grant is not intended to support the program design work that is part and parcel of developing a routine grant proposal. Funders expect organizations to have enough in-house expertise, knowledge of the community, and collaborators to complete routine planning efficiently.
“Standard need assessments and program design work are part of your organization’s job,” said Floersch. “It’s one way you keep your finger on the pulse of the community and respond effectively when an unmet need fits your mission.”
On the other hand, sometimes the process required to develop a detailed plan of action is anything but business as usual. A coordinated community-wide response to the opioid crisis could take a year to orchestrate. Working within the judicial system to plan a drug court requires coordinating systems, considering laws, and establishing procedures and protocols. Starting a transitional residence for young people re-entering the community from jail requires numerous community meetings, coordinating with various state and local systems, locating a suitable residence, and usually, extensive renovations.
Planning a complicated, multi-organizational, multi-layered program is a project in-and-of itself and requires staffing and a budget. Allocating the time of current staff members to complete the work would leave other responsibilities by the wayside and allocating necessary resources from the organization’s existing budget is generally unrealistic. In this situation it’s appropriate to request a grant to support the extensive planning work required.
“Planning is always important,” said Floersch. “But manage general planning work as part of internal operations. Limit requests for planning grants to massive projects that can’t be handled effectively without significant, dedicated resources.” © Copyright 2020, The Grantsmanship Center