Why pre-planning is key to grant application success

Collecting data in the pre-planning phase will make your application more competitive

By Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Grant professionals (or grant writers if you prefer) such as myself are quick to climb on the soapbox of the importance of pre-planning for grant applications.

Pre-planning makes the application more competitive, it makes the lives of those involved in the application less stressful and aids the organization seeking the grant in securing the funds necessary to achieve its mission.

However, the question of "how much pre-planning do I need to do?" or "what does pre-planning really involve?" is a question I field frequently.

Program design and specific project budgets are often difficult to solidify prior to a NOFA or RFP release by a grantmaker. The specific NOFA or RFP will often contain new language about priorities or specific information about eligible or ineligible expenses, which will modify the design of a project or approach to other funding sources.

Regardless of the specifics in a NOFA or RFP, one thing that you, as a grant seeking organization, can consistently achieve in the pre-planning phase in order to make yourself more competitive is collecting your data.

I can sense your next question, "What data is that?" Each grant seeking organization has a unique set of data that their grantmakers typically ask of them. For example:

  • Fire departments need to provide not only census data for the communities where they operate, but also call volume and vehicle/equipment inventory data.
  • EMS squads have to also provide census data, call volume, vehicle equipment, but also likely data about the health of the community and particular health concerns for the specific service area.
  • Schools need to again provide census data, but also test scores, comparative test scores, free and reduced lunch rates and teacher evaluations.

This is data that is able to be gathered in advance of beginning an application. Therefore, you should ensure that this pool of "standard" data for your specific organization is current and has been appropriately validated and analyzed for you and your grant team colleagues to use in the grant design process once the NOFA or RFP is indeed finally released.

This will save you the time and stress of having to gather the data and then make design decisions at a later date while waiting for information. It will also prevent unnecessary stress in the process and ultimately give you more time to spend polishing the application and the story that you are telling with your data.

Your homework assignment?

Think about the next application you anticipate coming up — maybe it is even the AFG application that is due Nov. 18. Take a look at your data now. Even if having more than 60 days until a deadline, or even three or four months, feels like a lifetime, you’ll be thanking me later, especially when grant awards are announced, if you work on gathering your core data ASAP!

About the author
Diane H. Leonard, GPC is an experienced and highly respected grant professional who has provided grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope for more than a decade. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC based in Clayton, NY in 2006. Diane began her career in philanthropy as a Program Officer for the Michigan Women's Foundation, a statewide public foundation. Diane is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association and is proud to have earned her Grant Professional Certification, a credentialed certification conferred by the Grant Professional Credential Institute.

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