Grant Writing Workshop Notes

Grant Writing – Brian Sewell and Lenny Kohm – 4/13/2013

  • Funders are interested in solutions
    • They want bang for their buck – so including multiple communities in our one project is essential
    • How to get funders and Pericleans on same page
    • You don’t want to be funder driven – figure out what you want and make it part of that situation
    • Pay CLOSE attention to guidelines
      • Look at who they have funded recently, call those people and ask what worked
      • Understand the funders’ values
      • Funders like matching grants – if university will match $5000 they are more likely to give you $5000
        • “We are applying to your grant and these other grants, we would love for you to match each”
        • Funders get together and talk – The Environmental Grantors Association (EGA?)
          • Get together a few times a year
          • “There’s probably about 750 Million Dollars in this circle of 5 people talking over beer”
          • Program Officer receives your proposal
            • Find out who that person is and develop a personal relationship with them
              • Call them, ask questions, see if they have questions about your proposal
              • Send thank you note (even if you’re rejected – ask them why you were rejected)
                • If you are rejected, maybe apply again next year and address their needs
                • Speak the same language
                • Don’t let the writing come last – the actual communication needs to be clear on PAPER
                  • Make sure funders have assurance you are able to accomplish goals you state; Right resources, right plan and approach, etc.
                  • Begin with framework of what your strategy is
                    • Buying Community Center – why is this important? What are we doing with it?
                      • Deemphasize the actual purchase of the building
                      • Build a narrative – goes beyond the grant
                      • Include the alliance of three communities
                        • They want to see that we’ve done all we can before we come to ask for money
        • “We’re going to allocate this % to this, etc.”
  • Get a petition of 2,000 signatures saying they will use community center
    • Visual aids to be sent with application? – or – go to this site to learn more, etc.
      • BE BRIEF—(not just In visuals but in grant itself)
        • GET TO THE POINT – it is appreciated by those evaluating grants
        • Make sure it’s RELEVANT – Interview people who will use the center, etc.
        • ACCURACY
          • Statistics that make an argument (literacy rate, lack of internet access, etc.) for need
          • BREVITY – Brian’s expertise
            • People write very long and want to say everything possible in three different ways instead of doing the hard work of finding the best way to say it
              • Use the strength of your writing to get them to focus on important aspects
    • Use clear, unambiguous language that can really only be interpreted In the way you want it to be interpreted
      • USE SHORTER WORDS if it works; you can make powerful sentences with short, easy words; No long, meandering sentences; DON’T RAMBLE
      • Define jargon relevant to your project before jumping into explanation – don’t need to use technical/industry terms if you don’t have to – don’t get political, you don’t know who they know/how they feel about issues
        • This is where research is essential (Of who they fund, what they want, how your project matches their wants)
          • Lorelei!
          • Helpful to include quotes from people who will benefit from the community center
            • Builds narrative, makes it more real/tangible
  • Look at guidelines closely – include 2 pages of testimonials if  allowed/goes with style (as an appendix sort of thing)
  • Grant Example
    • New approaches to outreach – more targeted communities
    • “In a 12 month time period we hope x number of people will use the community center, using these computers, etc…” – tie this to the solution
      • These people don’t have internet, a place to meet, clean water, market place, etc.
        • Make the language solution oriented
  • Want them to understand your vision, how it will be carried out and applied, what the impacts will be
  • Talk to Elon’s grant writers?
  • Include timeline, specific tasks, deadlines
    • How will impacts be measures
    • Be Personal – this is a conversation (probably with people who share feelings about the issue)
      • Use personal pronouns – “We respectfully request these funds to…”
      • Acknowledge all of the challenges you will face but remain goal oriented
        • Don’t focus on how monumental the challenge is, focus on your plan to overcome it
        • Be less stringent on pre-qualifying
        • Way to supplement the funding on campus that would look good to funders?
        • Foundations/Groups have personalities
          • Respect their process/style – many like to stick to their process, etc.
          • Show that this research has shown improvement in “education” with the implementation of community centers, etc. – literature from other projects that supports yours
          • Work to find loopholes        
            • Some only want to fund work in NC; but show that we use more Mt. Top Removal coal in this state… this is why you should fund our work in WV, etc.
            • Think on your feet, get creative; DRAW A CLEAR PARALLEL between your work and the funders
              • This can expand your options in terms of what grants you can apply to
              • Make sure the writing is cohesive if we split up writing duties into different groups
                • Come to consensus about who is the strongest writer – have them review/edit it
                • If they get a sense of your COMMITMENT, they will be impressed
                  • Pro-Mountain Top Removal peoples have more money, but not the commitment that we have
                  • Want to know who is responsible for what aspects of your work
                    • Be able to back it up with things like “We have this person with this knowledge about what we are doing”
                    • Include past successes to improve credibility
                      • Don’t try to take credit for things Lorelei  has done, but it may give her credibility which gives us credibility because she is working with us now (even if her accomplishments were many years before we committed to the project
                      • Group Retreat for a day to write/plan?
                        • Call Lorelei and get quotes of what the community center means, and match her words with our plan, etc.
                        • Reporting is CRITICAL
                          • Sometimes easier to get first grant than second grant
                          • Depends on how accurate, timely you are
                          • They expect reports on your progress periodically
                            • These need to be accurate, precise; continues your initial narrative

Make sure you ask for enough money

  • Don’t let the fact that you’re asking for money intimidate you
  • If you give us 100,000 this will get done, if you give us half – this will happen, a quarter of that, etc.


“Whether you give us this money or not, we are going to make this happen.”

  • Many say, if we are not able to fund you at this time, what will you do instead?
  • Look Online for Structures of Grants
    • Cover Letter
      • Passion needs to be clear; don’t be so pragmatic that passion fades to the background
  • Introductory Summary
  • Body
    • When doing deep narrative framing – restrict to cover letter/intro
    • Body = details of plan
      • This amount toward computers, etc.
      • Maintain linear progression within those sections
        • Don’t jump around with going back to statement of need and then back to allotment of money


  • The Elements of Style
    • Essentials of writing
    • On Writing Well
      • Nonfiction, news writing; style guides
      •   Writing for a Good Cause
        • Funding, proposals, more specific writing
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