Thursday, November 1, 2012

Avoiding Last-minute Grant Writing

It is human nature to procrastinate, particularly if you don’t want to do something.  In many nonprofit cultures, there seems to be a pattern of waiting until the last possible minute to write grant applications. 

There are many times where assembling the application and writing the narrative DOES come up at the last minute. Perhaps a previous funder sends out an invitation late, or you stumble upon the perfect funding opportunity two days before the application or LOI is due. Those are the acceptable reasons to apply at the last minute.

However, if you have a list of organizations that you apply to on a regular basis, why are you waiting until the last minute? When you do that, it leaves you no time to answer queries from the funder, and it certainly doesn’t leave a window to act upon those unavoidable “rush jobs”.

Even if your organization does not maintain a formal process for keeping track of grant application due dates, you can at least use your browser’s calendar to enter a reminder.  A quick note with the funder's name and a reminder to check on their current grant cycles 90 days out, with a follow-up to write and submit the application or LOI at least 30 days before the due date will significantly reduce your stress level.

There are many advantages to developing the habit of being proactive in your application process. It leaves time for the funder to contact you, and allows for a window of opportunity to address those “new” opportunities that materialize. If the funder does not normally let you know when applications open, you won’t miss an opportunity to apply.  If the funders’ goals have changed, you won’t find yourself having to develop a completely new narrative and possibly even a new program focus in 24 to 36 hours. If you utilize a service such as ours, you won’t be competing for our time with other procrastinators. More importantly, your application will be better crafted and more likely to receive consideration for funding. 

Although I don't have statistics, my “gut feeling” is that bombarding the funder with last minute applications also leaves the impression that perhaps you are not as organized as possible. Someone at the organization does see your application before the applications are formally reviewed. If you are there in advance of the last day rush, it could produce a more favorable view of your organization. I know of at least one foundation that times stamps all the applications when received. Does being early help?  I don’t know, but it sure couldn’t hurt.

Here at Cloudlancer Writing Services, we try to remind you of upcoming grant cycles when possible, but in many cases, we may not have a complete list of your previous donors. Take a few minutes this year and make a note of when you apply to a funder, and their open cycle dates. Enter it in your browser’s calendar and make your life more relaxed next time. 

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