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The grant writing process for sport organizations

This is an excerpt from Sales and Revenue Generation in Sport Business With HKPropel Access by David Shonk & James Weiner.

Steps in Writing the Grant Proposal

Now that you have a better idea of the terminology used in writing grants and know about the various types of grants, we can turn our attention to the key elements in writing and submitting a grant proposal. Grant writing is both a science and an art. Grant writers must follow a process that will be discussed in the following sections. The actual writing, however, is more art than science. Much of the work of a grant writer involves the crafting of the proposal, which entails doing research, speaking with clients, producing illustrations, and writing and designing the proposal (Pain, 2020). Grant writers must be organized, understand who needs to be involved in the process, persistent because they will experience many setbacks, detail oriented, creative, and able to work with various technologies. Grant writers must understand their audience. Often, it consists of a few readers who are only going to skim the first page and then look at some figures in the rest of the document. Therefore, page after page of text does not work as well as telling the story with pictures (Stanford Medicine, 2020).

Applying Steps 1 and 2 of the PRO Method to Grant Writing

Because grant writing is a form of sales, the PRO method can be applied to its application. For example, we suggest that steps 1 and 2 of the PRO method include prospecting for customers and probing for information. In the same way, the grant process includes considerable research by grant writers to probe for suitable grants. The grant writer is also probing for information from the grantor or primary funding.

Grants research is the systematic collection and analysis of information that will lead to the submission of a proposal. The idea is to match a nonprofit organization’s need for financial support and the grantmaking entity’s stated interest in that need. But the success of a proposal depends as well on the organization’s eligibility to apply for the funding based on the stated guidelines by the grantmaking entity. Prospective donors are not individuals, but rather grantmaking entities such as private companies, foundations, or government agencies (Kachinske & Kachinske, 2010).

Writing a proposal without ensuring that the project matches the goals of the funding agency is not a good idea. A good grant writer will contact the program officer (PO) with the funding agency before writing the grant. The PO is the point of contact for understanding the funding agency’s response to the grant submission (Tufts Office of Research Development, 2018). For many grant writers, especially those without much experience, the idea of contacting the funding agency can be daunting. Remember that the job of POs with funding agencies is to give away money and talk about grant initiatives.

Porter (2009) suggests the most important relational skill in securing a grant is the ability to initiate and maintain contact with the grant PO. This dialogue should help to (1) determine whether the nonprofit project is a good fit with the program’s goals and objectives and (2) seek advice concerning the project design. First, the grant writer should put together a preabstract using accessible language that describes the proposed project in concise terms and lists the main objectives, methods, and expected outcomes. The grant writer should stress the novelty of the project along with how its outcomes will address an important problem or issue. Next, the grant writer should send the PO an email that includes the preabstract outlining how the project will achieve the objectives of the grant program. The email should end by asking if the project is a good fit that the agency would consider funding. A positive response from the PO opens the door for the grant writer to make contact over the phone. The phone call should start with another description of the project and proceed by discussing the issues raised by the PO in the earlier email. After the phone call, sending a quick thank-you email or note is a courtesy that keeps the line of communication open and summarizes the conversation.

Applying Steps 3 and 4 of the PRO Method to Grant Writing

Steps 3 and 4 of the PRO method suggest that the salesperson should provide solutions by matching product benefits with customer information and then proposing an offer that best fits customer needs. As the grant writer starts the process of writing the grant, they follow a somewhat different yet similar process.

Many grant writers start by writing the problem statement, goals and objectives, methods, evaluation, program sustainability, and budget. Next, they focus on the background section and then finish with the summary and cover letter. A rule of thumb is to focus 70 percent of the time on program planning and the other 30 percent on writing and packaging the proposal (O’Neal-McElrath & Carlson, 2013). Writing a grant can be challenging and time consuming. Grant writers must follow the guidelines provided by funding agencies for applying for their funds. As noted in the chapter Corporate and Foundation Revenues, funding organizations often ask for a one- to three-page letter of intent (LOI), and if the grantor is interested in the project, the grantee will be invited to submit a full proposal.

From a broad perspective, O’Neal-McElrath & Carlson (2013) suggest that there are three primary types of proposals. First, an LOI is sent when a funding agency wants to see a brief description of the project before requesting a longer, more detailed full proposal. The LOI is normally two or three pages in length. Second, a letter proposal is a three- to four-page description of the project plan, the organization requesting the funds, and the actual request. The difference between the LOI and the letter proposal is that the letter proposal requests the funds, whereas the LOI is only introducing the idea and finding out whether the funding agency has interest. The third type is the full proposal. A grant seeker who sends a full proposal is akin to a job seeker getting a job interview. The resume introduces the applicant, but the interview closes the deal. The full proposal can be from 5 to 25 pages in length, but most funders are interested in receiving only 7 to 10 pages plus attachments. The full proposal should include a detailed description of the program or project, and the funding request should be clearly stated in the body of the proposal and in a cover letter sent to the funding agency. The following are the primary sections that most funding agencies require in a full grant proposal, although they may differ among funding agencies. We discuss each section in more detail throughout the chapter.

  • Executive summary or abstract
  • Needs statement
  • Goals and objectives
  • Methods and implementation
  • Evaluation
  • Timelines
  • Budget
  • Sustainability
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