In my experience, few people truly enjoy their mandatory “research” classes they take in college. I think this is because research courses are so often taught poorly.
Too often, research courses are presented as a set of unfathomable rules for doing pointless studies about narrow topics of interest to only a very small number of people in the entire world.
If I could do one thing to improve the college experience for everyone, I would rename “research” courses as “detective” courses.
This brings about a completely different image. Instead of ivory-tower professors pursing tiny bits of knowledge, students would imagine themselves as following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and the many TV shows where detectives solve crimes based on careful collection and weighing of information that lead to a conclusion as to who committed the deed.
Grantwriting requires excellence in research skills.
Grantwriters need such careful information collection at many different points in the process, but here we concentrate on finding appropriate funding opportunities.
Sleuthing out where the most appropriate grant requests are and what the foundation or government agency is asking for is the type of research you need to do.
You need to become like the detective trying to find the criminal by thinking like the criminal, but in this case, you are trying to achieve the feat of raising funds by thinking like a funder.
This requires detective (research) skills but is actually not as difficult as it may seem at first.
Funders are actually happy to tell you what they are looking for—they don’t want to waste their time by reading proposals that don’t match their interests. But all too often grant writers don’t look for or collect information on what funders want in a thorough way.
This results in wasted time, unfunded grant proposals and significant levels of frustration.
How do you find out what funders want to give money to?
Foundations frequently post on their website the types of ideas that they want to give attention (and money) to. You can often read at least synopses of recently given grants which provide you with hard data on the decision-making outcomes of that foundation.
Government agencies also describe through position papers and strategic plans what their goals and objectives are for the future, and describe what issues are important for them.
Grantwriters need to look for such information and then read it carefully to understand what to focus on for future funding opportunities from those government bodies.
In short, the top grant proposal writers learn what potential funders want to support and they begin to gather information to support proposals for programs, interventions and services that match what the funders want to give money for.
Grantwriters need to use their detective (research) skills in this way to find funding opportunities that are highly targeted to match the capabilities of the nonprofit they are working for.