Grant Writing Success Starts with Doing Your Homework!

August 10, 2016

By Michelle


-Smith, Owner & Principal Consultant, The Word Woman LLC & Maryland Nonprofits’ Associate Member


In teaching grant writing, I always start with the quote below. I think is summarizes perfectly what any prospective grantee needs to know and to do for any chance of success… 

The best grantees know themselves, they know their organizations really well…they have already done their homework to try to figure out what elements or parts of their organization might fit with what the foundation is funding.” 

– Latonya Slack, Senior Program Office,r James Irvine Foundation

As Ms. Slack suggests, to prepare a successful grant request you must know yourself (what’s your mission and what are you really good at) and know your organization (what’s your capacity, your priorities, your systems). You must have done your homework to ensure that your organization and proposed project fit with the funder’s interests.

I see it time and time again. Nonprofits learn about a grant opportunity and, without a moment of reflection, they jump right in preparing their response. They invest the time and energy (blood, sweat, and tears) to prepare a grant proposal that was often doomed before they even started. 

Why? Because more often than not, they are starting from scratch and figuring things out along the way.

They hope to jump from the “idea phase” to a fleshed-out, well-written project narrative with a realistic timeline and budget – and let’s not forget about all of the required attachments! 

Preparing a high-quality and competitive (yes, this is a competition!) grant request, requires planning and preparation that starts long before you learn about a grant opportunity. 

As Ms. Slack states, “The best grantees know themselves, they know their organizations really well…” In other words, you already determined the problem, validated it with third-party data, and outlined a plan or strategy to address the problem before you embarked on responding to a grant opportunity. You already know the resources that are needed (cash and non-cash) and the time it will take to achieve your intended goals and objectives. 

You already did your homework.

New to grant writing? Attend my breakout session, Grant Writing for Beginners, at Maryland Nonprofits’ Annual Conference, Celebrating Success – Inspiring Innovation on September 29,


at the Baltimore Convention Center. 

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