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Grant Readiness – Positioning For Time-Sensitive Funding Opportunities

Key Takeaways

1. Competitive grant funding opportunities tend to be time-sensitive and complex.

2. Assessment of organizational grant readiness will help organizations identify missing documents and focus attention on developing them.

3. Grant readiness or preparedness facilitates focused grant research (prospecting) and grant proposal development.

“Success Occurs When Opportunity Meets Preparation”

Some may be familiar with this quote attributed to motivational speaker, Zig Zigler. Experienced grant writers can attest that this maxim truly applies in the world of time-sensitive competitive grant funding opportunities. Often grant funding opportunities have a short time-frame, anywhere from four to eight weeks, from the publication of the opportunity announcement to the deadline for proposal application submissions. And the challenge is often compounded by the complexity of the proposal application process involving not just the development of a project narrative describing the need the applicant organization seeks to meet and the proposed project or programmatic response to meet that need. Both government and private foundation funders often require additional application elements as attachments (i.e., proof of not-for-profit status, list of Board of Directors, organizational charts, and more). The likelihood of grant seeking organizations’ success in winning grant awards will depend upon their readiness for the time-sensitive opportunities when they present.

So, what can grant seeking organizations do to enhance their readiness for grant opportunities?

Readiness Assessment

There are certain documents and/or registrations that are generally required of most funders (public/government and private foundations). For example, one key eligibility criterion for most grant funding opportunities is that the applicant organization must be registered as a not-for-profit organization (and have documentation to prove this status, e.g., IRS 501c3 determination letter). Funders also will often require documentation that helps them to understand the applicant organization’s structure and assess the capabilities and/or capacity of the applicant organization to successfully implement their proposed project or program and to be a good steward of the grant funds that they receive. So, funders may require the submission of organizational charts, listing of applicant organization’s Board of Directors and resumes or biographical sketches of key organizational and/or project staff indicating the relevant skill set(s), prior experience and relevant credentials to carry out the proposed project or program.

Grant Readiness Checklists developed by experienced grant professionals can help organizations assess their readiness by reviewing the status of their registrations and/or documents, like those identified above, identified as standard requirements for many grant applications. Since many of the items on the checklists take some time to develop, it’s imperative that a grant seeking organization have these items “at the ready” in advance of responding to a funding opportunity as developing proposal narratives will require intense and focused effort. Having these items in a “virtual grant library” containing all of the documents needed to apply for grants will take go a long way in readiness preparation.

Readiness Preparation

A thorough and honest assessment of an organization’s “grant readiness” will help to identify “gaps” in readiness and identify those items that need to be developed, or updated or refined to be ready. For example, many times funders may require the submission of “current organizational bylaws,” and this is usually defined as follows: Bylaws must be signed and dated by the appropriate individual indicating review and approval by the governing board. In this instance, if your organization has draft bylaws that have not been reviewed and approved by the Board, or if you have bylaws but you don’t have dates indicating the most recent date reviewed and/or amended, your organization will not meet this application requirement. This is important because of the Two Keys to Grant Success: 1) 100% compliance with application requirements and, 2) responsiveness to published review criteria.

In this scenario, if you discover during your grant application process that you don’t have bylaws that meet the funder’s requirements as defined above, you will be faced with the challenge of trying to pull together a meeting of your Board to review and approve and sign the bylaws in time to include them in your application.

Other Benefits of Grant Readiness

Additional items for a grant-ready organization include: Mission and Vision Statements, Organizational and Programmatic Goals and Objectives and Organizational Strategic Plan. If and when an organization has clarity about their mission and strategic and programmatic goals and objectives, this helps to prepare them for the next step in the grant pursuit process – grant research for potential funding prospects. With clarity on mission and strategic goals, a grant-seeking organization can launch a focused prospect research process. In contrast, without this clarity, a grant-seeking organization can fall prey to “mission creep” pursuing opportunities that take them far away not only from their mission and strategic goals, but also far away from their core competencies and capabilities and eventually stress organizational capacity to implement programs and initiatives.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar training where Dr. Bev Browning and I will provide even more information, and tools, to support Thrive DX partner organizations in their grant pursuits.


Cheryl Townsel, S.M., President, Townsel Consulting, LLC

Dr. Bev Browning, CSPF, Director, Grant Writing Training Foundation

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