Grant Writing Tips & Techniques - Updated March 4, 2011
The Bureau of Justice Assistance's Grant Writing and Management Academy has recently released two online presentations to assist your agency in the grant application and management process for Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant Programs.
Applying for BJA Funds which addresses the pre-application preparation and application process
Managing Your BJA Funds which offers an overview of the various administrative and financial requirements associated with managing a federal grant project
The Bureau of Justice Assistance provides funding for and supports local law enforcement and technology to strengthen law enforcement capabilities and the nation's criminal justice system.
Additional Grant Writing Tips & Guidelines
Stage One: Initial Proposal Development
- Verify with local agencies that similar contracts and proposals are not currently in place. If the proposed project is similar to but will not duplicate existing proposals, Federal assistance can be pursued by demonstrating a need for this particular project.
- Generate community support for the proposed project. Obtaining letters of support from representative fields and organizations can be instrumental in the request for government assistance. Letters of support and endorsement are often required by government agencies so obtaining community support early in the developmental process may save time during the actual proposal process.
- Identify potential funding sources. The Objectives and Uses and Use Restrictions sections of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance program often mention a variety of programs that provide funding. Once a potential source has been identified, call the contact listed and request a grant application kit. Be sure to carefully examine the eligibility requirements specified in the grant application kit. Try to develop a rapport with the agency personnel and ask them for suggestions, criticisms and any advice they may have regarding the proposal. If allowed, send a copy of the proposal summary to an agency official and request any information and feedback they are able to provide. A visit to the appropriate agency can also be useful in the development of the proposal. One may be able to establish rapport through direct contact or utilize the agency's reference library to gain support for the proposed project.
- Get organized: Throughout the proposal process be sure to keep a notebook available to write down any ideas that may develop. Collect relevant articles and documents that are necessary to the writing and submission of the proposal such as tax exemption certificates, letters of endorsement, etc. Create and maintain files for all stages of the proposal process - idea generation, required documents, endorsements, etc. Most importantly, be sure to plan the development and writing of the proposal around the required deadlines.
Stage Two: Writing the Grant Proposal - there are seven basic components within a proposal package:
- Proposal Summary: The proposal summary should consist of an outline of the overall project and should appear at the beginning of the proposal. The summary should be no longer than two or three paragraphs and is often most useful if developed after the proposal is written to ensure that all of the key points within the proposal are summarized. Key points to include are: need, alternative funding, and impact both during and upon completion.
- Introduction: During this phase, the applicant should provide data about its organization such as biographies of key staff members, organizational goals and philosophies, and any other relevant material that will enhance the credibility of the agency. Keep in mind though that all information must be relevant to the goals of the proposed project and the specific Federal agency that assistance is being requested from.
- Statement of Need: This part of the proposal establishes the problems or concerns that the project will address and thorough completion of this section is critical. Within the statement of need, the applicant should address the following issues:
- The purpose for the developing the proposal
- The beneficiaries - who will benefit from this project and how they will benefit
- The social and economic costs that will be associated with the project
- The nature of the problem - provide as much current data as possible
- How the organization came to realize that the problem existed and what is currently being done to handle the problem.
- Available alternatives when funding is exhausted and the impact and implications to the project when funding is exhausted.
- Specific manner in which the problem may be addressed - determine what resources are needed and how they will be used.
Be sure to include supportive data in the statement of need such as historical, geographic, university studies, quantitative, statistical, etc.
Project Objectives: In this section, one must state the goals that the proposed project will reach as well as the method used to achieve these stated goals.
Program Methods/Design: This section focuses on how the project is expected to work and solve the problem specified in the statement of need section and should include the following:
Evaluation: This section consists of two areas: product evaluation and process evaluation. Product evaluation addresses the results/impact that can be attributed to the project and whether these results have satisfied the objectives set forth in the proposal. The process evaluation addresses how the actual project was conducted and if it was consistent with the proposed plan of action. Though typically conducted at the middle or end of a project, both kinds of evaluations should be addressed in the proposal as it will instigate data collection and avoid a possible critical review of the program. The evaluation section can be completed by providing examples of the quantitative data that the project will examine as well as how the data will be gathered. It is also important to provide a summary of how often the data will be gathered and what the agency will do with the results. The applicant should also clarify the amount of time needed to perform the evaluation, how the feedback will be distributed to the appropriate parties, and a timeline for review and comment. Most importantly, make sure that the Federal grantor agency's requirements are highlighted in the evaluation design.
Future funding: In this section it is imperative to describe a plan for continued funding of the project once the current funds cease.
- The activities that are set to occur along with the resources and staff that will be utilized.
- A flow chart of the organizational features of the project. How are the parts interrelated? Where will personnel be utilized? What facilities and services will be required?
- Explain what will be accomplished through the factors mentioned above and how the results will be measured.
- Develop a diagram of the design of the project.
- Justify in the narrative the course of action that will be taken.
- Emphasize the features of the proposal that distinguish it from others similar in scope.
- Use appendices to provide additional details, data, references, diagrams, timetables, endorsements, schedules, etc.
General Grant Writing Guidelines:
- Select one project manager to develop and write the proposal.
- Give equal thought and response to every section of the proposal but use good judgment. If one area of the proposal accounts for a greater percentage then provide more detail and attention to that area.
- If for any reason a form or question is not applicable to your particular agency, designate it as N/A and provide a brief explanation as to why.
- Be consistent in first or third person and never mix the two.
- Specify what "we" means - project agency, prime applicant, organization, etc.
- Always have a neutral party read your initial drafts to check for continuity, clarity and reasoning.
- Make sure that all required signatures are included in the proposal.
- Ensure that the proposal is filled out according to the agency's instructions - typed, collated, copied, and packaged correctly and neatly.
- Include a cover letter with the proposal and send Standard U.S. Postal Service unless otherwise specified.
Quarterly reports are merely a method of reporting current department activities. These reports are also an excellent way to check the status and success of proposal projects. Following are some report writing tips that should make this process much easier:
Step One: Look at the winning Proposal
Look over the timelines, goals and objectives listed in that proposal. Document what the department has accomplished in the first quarter and cross reference against the proposal to determine if the goals were achieved.
Step Two: List Projected Activities for the Next Quarter
By making a list of the goals and activities that the department hopes to accomplish in the next quarter, the first step for next quarters report has just been completed. Simply add a paragraph at the end of the reports that states, "In the next quarter, we plan to..".
Step Three: Make a document folder
Make a folder to hold copies of all the relevant and important documents pertaining to your report. This can include originals or copies of all correspondence, media coverage, and brochures, newsletters, and flyers.
Note: From "The Best of the Development Doctor: A prescriptive and diagnostic aid for proposal developers and writers," by Susan Paisner, 2000, Funding Law Enforcement Hotline Special Supplement
"Developing and Writing Grant Proposals" Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, www.cfda.gov