All seasoned grantwriters know that writing excellent grants takes a lot of time. This is for several reasons.
One reason that a lot of time is needed is because you have to do research to find potential sources of funding. That’s pretty clear. You can’t just expect to type in one key phrase into Google and find a lot of good potential funding sources.
We’ll talk more about tips to approach finding funding sources systematically in later posts. If you follow them, they will speed up the process for you.
But allocating a lot of time is also a necessity because of the way funding is structured. The funder that you’re interested in may not be offering a grant right then. Grant opportunities come in cycles.
Foundations may only make decisions regarding the grant proposals that have come in every three or six months. So you may just be the victim of poor timing if you put in a proposal shortly after the deadline for the current period passed. You will have to wait until a new deadline comes up where you proposal is considered.
With Federal government agencies, the cycle for funding fits within fiscal years. The fiscal year for the federal government begins October 1st. That means the agencies are trying to allocate all of their funding by the end of the September.
Up until this new, current Age of Scarcity, what you often saw was that agencies that projected that they were going to have unallocated funding at the end of the fiscal year would start finding ways to use it so that they could say, “We’ve used all of the funding we were given.”
Thus, the last quarter of the year tended to have a lot of requests for proposals. (The last quarter of the Federal Fiscal Year is July 1-September 30.) Now, in the Age of Scarcity, with many core services being reduced throughout the year, I believe we will see less of this behavior. Still, it may occur to a very limited extent.
The implication for nonprofits seeking funding from the Federal Government is thus that you must be very aware and keep close tabs on the Requests for Proposals that do come out. You won’t be able to hope for additional funding opportunities to suddenly come up in late summer and early fall.
State government grants have a different fiscal year, which can vary from one state to another. A large number of states start their Fiscal Year on July 1 and have it end on June 30. Just as with the Federal government, with state government budgets under considerable stress, discretionary grant announcements are unlikely to be as plentiful in the 4th quarter, from April 1 to June 30, as they used to be.
Government funding is likely to be much more attached to a regular schedule, with funding announcements for particular topic areas coming out at the same time every year.
As a grant writer you must understand what that cycle is. It’s going to be different for different agencies.
The bottom line is it takes a lot of time to find grant opportunities (both foundation and government) because you have to find the opportunities and then you have to wait for the opportunities to be open for submissions.
At that time, when the announcement comes out, you’ll have to begin (or complete, if you have a draft already started) the actual writing of the grant.
Writing a grant ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will. Even when you get to be an accomplished grantwriter, you will take longer than you first believe you will. It seems there is always some little detail that you’re missing.
Also, grant applications must be signed by an authorized individual, so you need that signature and it may not be possible to get immediately. In many agencies, the board of directors has to approve the submission of the proposal, and it may not be meeting for a while (although the chair may have the authority to do so unilaterally).
These are all reasons why it takes longer to finish the grant.
The proposal, when completed, will then be submitted and reviewed by the funder, with finally a decision made. The review and decision-making process can take a number of months all by itself. There is really nothing you can do to speed the process up.
As a grantwriter, you have to be patient and use your time preparing, knowing that excellent grantwriting takes a lot of time.