Successful grant proposals include documentation to support the case for funding, and it’s usually the grants professional who burrows into research, evaluation reports, news stories, websites, and journals to unearth what’s needed. “Grants people are ad hoc researchers,” said Barbara Floersch. “When someone has worked on numerous proposals in one issue area they often have more up-do-date knowledge of recent research and data than the organization’s program staff.”
“When solid, recent data support the major sections of the proposal, you’re much more likely to win an award,” said Floersch. Documenting the magnitude, significance, and causes of the problem you’re addressing grabs the funder’s attention. Proving the proposed program can improve that situation builds commitment. Demonstrating your organization’s service reach and track record of impact generates confidence you can deliver what you promise.
Program staff members are the subject matter experts and are essential in planning. They can suggest data sources to explore, but can seldom provide the detailed, targeted information the proposal requires. To position yourself to develop the most competitive proposals, be proactive. Don’t wait until you’re desperate for documentation. Educate yourself about the best sources related to your field and dive in now.
- Familiarize yourself with data.census.gov (formerly American Fact Finder) which provides a wealth of ZIP-code-specific demographic data. “You’ll need to spend some time with this resource to get the most out of it,” said Floersch. “But it’s definitely worth the effort.”
- Explore government websites. These sites generally include links to data and reports, and state and local agencies are great portals into statistics about your service area. “You’ll find information on health, justice, education, the environment, and myriad other topic areas,” said Floersch. “Exploring these sites can also help you understand the thinking behind government grant application guidelines.”
- Locate respected websites and publications in your field and check them regularly. When you find compelling information, collect it and file it along with a full citation so you can easily locate it when drafting a proposal.
- Keep up with news related to the field by identifying high-yield key words and signing up for Google Alerts. “Every day you’ll receive links to news stories based on the words you’ve selected,” said Floersch.
- Attend conferences and webinars related to your topic. Listen to the discussions, consider the debates, and ask questions.
Grants professionals need the time and resources to collect topic-related data and keep it up to date. “When they’re well versed in the field, grants pros can ask the right questions, spot digressions that put the program plan in conflict with recent research, and avoid the pitfalls of well-intentioned naivete,” said Floersch. “They’ll be more savvy contributors and contenders.”