Grant Writing Fundamentals: Positioning Your Organization for Success

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1 WEBINAR BRIEFING Positioning Your Organization for Success Featuring Hanover Research Grants Consultant Susan Perri, MPA And Hanover Research Managing Grants Consultant Paul Tuttle Grant Development Center Research Without Limits 2013 Hanover Research

2 OVERVIEW The second in the Three Pillars of Successful Grantseeking series that is designed to provide participants with an understanding of the key planning and implementation components of understanding, applying for, and managing grant funding, this webinar examined the key considerations of the grant writing process. Specifically, this webinar focused on understanding funding announcements, writing grant narratives, developing SMART objectives and outcomes, program budgeting, and planning for program evaluations and sustainability. CONTENT & PRESENTERS This webinar featured a presentation on grant writing fundamentals by Susan Perri, Hanover Research Grants Consultant and Paul Tuttle, Hanover Research Managing Grants Consultant. Following the presentation, this webinar featured a Question and Answer segment. PRESENTERS Amy Moynihan Content Manager Hanover Research Susan Perri Grants Consultant Hanover Research Paul Tuttle Managing Grants Consultant Hanover Research KEY CONTENT This webinar shared best practice strategies for the grant writing process, including a focus on understanding the funder and the solicitation, the value of incorporating SMART objectives and goals, and strategies for presenting purposeful and effective program budgeting and evaluation plans. UNDERSTANDING FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENTS A key to understanding funding announcements is to recognize the array of funders and types of solicitations. Understanding the motivation behind a funding announcement will help shape your response to the announcement. Two motivations discussed in this presentation are funding as an investment, in which funders award those that share and promote their mission, and vision and funding as an obligation, in which funders award based on an obligation to share and promote the work of others. Evaluation helps you to document your success both for program continuation and accountability with the funder. Susan Perri Upon understanding this, examining the components of a solicitation and planning to respond to a solicitation are beneficial next steps. Key solicitation elements to consider when examining funding announcements include the following: First, it is imperative to examine the eligibility requirements of the award. For example, it is important to determine if your organization fits the described type of awardee, if there are any geographic limitations to the award, and to examine other types of limitations listed in the announcement that may exclude you from consideration for an award. Second, it is additionally important to examine the funding amount and project period. You must determine if you can complete the project with the money awarded and in the amount of time specified. Third, it is important to examine the program 2

3 Webinar Briefing: goals and submission instructions to ensure that your prospective project aligns with the stated goals of the award and that you are prepared to submit your award through the stated submission process (hardcopy or online). Fourth, if listed, it is important to examine the award type and terms to determine if you are able to accept the type of award offered, if you wish to accept the type of award offered, and if you are able to abide by the terms listed. Additional information to consider includes the examination of grant manuals, application packages, and links to online submission tools. If you have any questions about these documents or the application itself, you should reach out to the points of contact. Upon the examination of these components of the funding announcement, it is imperative to examine your organization s ability to meet the needs of the award. Does your organization have the internal capacity and expertise to meet the required needs of the award? Does your organization have external support to rely on to boost internal capabilities? Does your organization have the capacity to adequately and successfully plan for the award submission, planning period, and award management? Questions such as these will help you to determine if your organization has the capacity to not only apply for the award, but actually implement it as well. WRITING GRANT NARRATIVES Repeatedly emphasized in discussions of grant proposal preparation and creation, the importance of planning the writing of grant narratives cannot be understated. When preparing to write a proposal, it is important to consider the following components of the application: The instructions: It is important to read all of the application instructions. If you have questions after reading the instructions, you should reach out to the program officer with questions. Expressing the program vision in the required sections: While some solicitations are very structured, others allow for more flexibility in providing information. As such, it is important to understand the requirements to ensure that you are providing the needed information. For example, the Department of Education requires very structured responses with set point values assigned to categories, while other funders, often including foundations, require less structure in the responses. To determine useful, persuasive, and compelling structures for solicitations that allow for more flexibility, it is suggested that you examine previous applications for that award as well as speak with program officers to determine a structure that will be beneficial to your application. Review criteria: Similarly, the review criteria differs among funders, so it is important to read the instructions very clearly and do additional research to ensure that your submission will best align with the review criteria of the specific funder. Submission method: Does the application need to be submitted online and/or hardcopy? The use of a task or timeline calendar is an important tool during the writing process. This will allow you to determine the needed tasks to complete the application and assign responsibilities for each task to ensure that you continue to advance and make progress during the planning process. A clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, and a backup plan to account for unexpected changes, will ensure that you continue to meet your internal deadlines and ultimately, the required deadline for the announcement submission. 3

4 Webinar Briefing: When writing your proposal, the tone and style of your writing will have an impact on the reception of your proposal, so it is important that you craft your language carefully. Your writing tone should be professional and conversational. A key resource can be the examination of grant narrative examples to help you better understand the style and assist you in the creation of your proposal. 1 DEVELOPING SMART OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES The development of SMART objectives and outcomes is necessary to the development of a strong and persuasive proposal. SMART objectives and outcomes are: Smart Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely The use of SMART objectives and outcomes allow you to clarify the process and objectives of your program. Specifically, the use of SMART objectives and outcomes will ensure that you spell out precisely how the program will be implemented from beginning to end, that you fully explain each step of the program including detailing activities, timelines, and specific deliverables, and devise quantifiable outcomes and describe the evaluation methods. By fully detailing each of these, you will ensure that you are developing a proposal that is both realistic and attainable for you to deliver. A best practice strategy for developing SMART objectives and outcomes is to develop goals and objectives that are more quantitative than qualitative. The example below demonstrates this difference. Qualitative: Programming will increase the local high school graduation rate. Quantitative: Programming would help boost the high school graduation rate in Allegany County from 70% to the New York State goal of 80%. The quantitative example presented above provides more detail (the specific location of the intervention) as well as specific target goals. The inclusion of these details signals a proposal that is more focused, well thought-out, and goal oriented than proposals that are based on ideas more so than specific outcomes. The following two examples demonstrate the clarity and focus that are conveyed when using SMART objectives and outcomes. 1. Examples of grant narrative languages can be found at the NIAID (National Institute for Allergic and Infectious Diseases) website: 4

5 Webinar Briefing: Example 1 For a physical education and nutrition program at a school district Non-SMART Objective and Outcome Objective: Children will understand the importance of physical activity. Outcome: Children will maintain healthy body weight. SMART Objective and Outcome Objective: Children will engage in at least one hour of physical activity daily. Outcome: 80% of children will maintain normal Body Mass Index (BMI) values. Example 2 For a telemedicine program Non-SMART Objective and Outcome Objective: Telemedicine will provide necessary medical services to underserved rural residents. Outcome: More patients will experience timely access to quality health care without having to travel. SMART Objective and Outcome Objective: Telemedicine technology will enable provision of medical care at 6 rural clinic sites. Outcome: 75% of patients will be able to access health care services in their home communities. As you can see from these examples, including specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely components of objectives and outcomes produces stronger, more purposeful results. PROGRAM BUDGETING When developing a proposal, typical cost categories include personnel, fringe benefits, supplies and materials, equipment, travel, contractual and consultant costs, and indirect costs. When developing these components, it is important to consider that each cost must include a clear method of calculation and must be directly linked back to the grant activities. The examples presented below describe how to effectively demonstrate how costs are calculated and connect the costs to grant activities. Example 1 Personnel cost category Weak Justification: $50,000 is requested for a Project Director to manage the program. Stronger Justification: A qualified 1.00 FTE Project Director will be hired to implement and manage the program. Salary costs are calculated at fair market value at a base of $50,000 with an institution approved cost of living adjustment of 3% annually and an established fringe benefits rate of 26%. 5

6 Webinar Briefing: Example 2 Contractual cost category Weak Justification: Fees for program evaluation are requested at $25,000. Stronger Justification: We will contract with an independent professional evaluation service to conduct a rigorous program evaluation to verify impact and results as outlined in the program evaluation plan. This cost is estimated at an hourly rate of $100 and includes 200 hours of work and travel costs associated with site visits. Total requested: $25,000. PLANNING FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION AND SUSTAINABILITY Echoing similar planning strategies as preceding sections of the webinar, when discussing the planning for program evaluation and sustainability, the presenters highlighted the need for detailed and focused plans. So, it is not sufficient to say that the grant results will be validated; Instead, you must show how the results will be validated. This information must begin by establishing baseline data at the beginning of the project period and must include process and outcomes evaluations. Additionally, incorporating both formative (collecting evidence about program impact on its desired goals) and summative (collecting evidence at the end of the program in order to create a retrospective lessons learned ) assessments will provide strength to the evaluation components. Key components of evaluation methods are the regular, purposeful observations conducted by program staff, progress logs, and program service records and quantifiable data. Demonstrating broad stakeholder support and how the program will be sustained beyond the initial grant period will strengthen the proposal. POLLING RESULTS Several live polls during our webinar provided invaluable information on the grant writing activities at the institutions of our webinar participants. When asked which component of the grant writing process is more difficult to implement than others, a third of respondents selected Developing objectives and goals. Other responses included The planning (22.2 percent) and The alignment with the application review data (19.1 percent). The majority of participants who responded selected Measurable as the component of SMART objectives and outcomes that is most difficult to implement. The elements of the planning for program evaluation and sustainability that participants identified as needing the most support with include Designing project outcomes and measures to track, record, and assess the level of impact (44.9 percent), Determining a return on investment (28.4 percent), Demonstrating the sustainability of the project (25.6 percent), and Evaluation assessment strategies (20.1 percent). BIOGRAPHIES Amy Moynihan (Host) Amy Moynihan is a Content Manager at Hanover Research. Amy is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education at The University of Virginia, Curry School of Education. She also holds a M.Ed. in Social Foundations from The University of Virginia, Curry School of Education and a B.A. from Columbia University. 6

7 Susan Perri Grants Consultant, Hanover Research Susan Perri has a decade of experience designing, writing, and managing grant programs for organizations nationwide. Her track record securing federal, state, corporate and foundation funding has yielded over $28 million in healthcare, education, economic development and environmental conservation programming. Susan has also served on multiple federal and community grant review panels. Paul Tuttle Managing Grants Consultant, Hanover Research Paul Tuttle brings more than 11 years of grant writing and proposal development experience. Paul worked in university research administration at three public universities in North Carolina, where he identified appropriate funding opportunities and managed university-wide sponsored program proposal development. At Hanover Research, Paul assists clients with grant proposal development, where his services include writing proposal abstracts and narratives and offering strong editorial guidance and revision. A typical letter of intent (LOI) structure is stating the request at first, then giving an overview of you, your team, and your institution second. Third, explaining the need and discussing what your solution is. Fourth, giving the benefit or the impact of your solution, and restating the request. And providing contact information at the end. -Paul Tuttle, describing the format of a typical letter of intent The previous funding allows the funder to know that you have already been a successful grantee. That you have already won project funding, that you have already completed the project, and you have already done through the process of closing out after giving deliverables to the previous funder. So you are seen as a success. Any opportunity where you can show that you ve done this is very helpful. -Paul Tuttle, describing the benefit of sharing previous funding success SMART objectives and outcomes serve as a roadmap to guide your project planning process. It allows you to come up with quantifiable, measureable ways of doing what you set out to do and validating that you did what you set out to do. While it is a blueprint to both guide and manage the project going forward, it is also a method to be accountable to your funders. You have a way of documenting your progress, verifying your outcomes, and positioning your program for future success and sustainability. -Susan Perri, describing the benefits of SMART objectives and outcomes 7

8 LEARN MORE Headquartered in Washington, DC, Hanover Research is a global research and grant development firm providing solutions to higher education, K-12, healthcare organizations, hospitals, municipalities, and other non-profit organizations. We work with executives and their teams across a cost-effective partnership to help them better understand and pursue external funding in the face of increased competition for funding with government and private entities. To view the recorded webinar, open the following link For more information on Hanover Research s grant services, check out our capabilities at Grant Development Center District Administration Practice Research Without Limits 2013 Hanover Research

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