The 10 Commandments of Grant Writing

In the world of grant writing there are two ways to begin: 1.) You can develop an idea that will solve a critical problem or concern on your campus and then look for an agency or other funding source with a similar vision; or 2.) You can research funding sources to see who has money to spend and use the RFP as inspiration to bring about change.

Both approaches are valid, but neither guarantee that you will get the funding … even if you follow the RFP to the letter. And that, says one of higher education’s leading grant writers, makes the process of chasing down public and private dollars to fund your worthwhile projects both exciting and frustrating.

In the recent online seminar Funding Your Academic Innovations Through Grant Writing, Dr. J. Juechter, project director for a HUD COPC grant and project investigator for a Carl Perkins grant at Bronx Community College, provided strategies for improving your proposal’s chances for funding and discussed some of the reasons for rejection.

Juechter also shared what she calls “the 10 Commandments of Grant Writing:”

  1. Check that your goals, activities and objectives are aligned perfectly with the stated goals of the funding agency.
  2. Follow the published RFP guidelines closely.
  3. Write an exciting mission statement.
  4. Use the language the funding agency uses in the RFP.
  5. Identify your expert grant team and work with them to write the grant.
  6. Avoid a narrow grant focus. Design multiple, interrelated work plans.
  7. Develop high-quality “canned” background information for adapting to many different types of grants.
  8. Provide a well-planned budget with a narrative to explain the items and rationale.
  9. Avoid last-minute technical glitches. Train agency personnel on electronic grant submission and submit your proposal one-two days before the deadline.
  10. Review the reader’s rating data when a grant is not funded. You will gain valuable perspective on the agency’s standards, and may be able to rework the grant and resubmit it in another funding cycle or to another agency.

The success of grant writing also requires a good amount of legwork upfront. Juechter encourages grant teams to subscribe to online newsletters and participate in grant preparatory seminars often offered by the larger funding agencies to get a feel for the types of programs they’ve funded in the past. Once an RFP is issued, contact the agency to find out the total amount of grant money available, how grants will be distributed, average grant size, and the number of applications received last year.