How Would You Improve the Grants System?

3 important steps I developed for my Quora readers


Woman asks "How would you Improve the grants system?"

I don’t always answer questions on the site, but when I do, they they tend to be about grants and grantwriting. Quora allows any to ask questions, and people from around the globe can chime in with their two cents.  Some questions are very easy to answer, while others require arcane knowledge.

One question this week was “How would you improve the grants system?”  I narrowed the question to reflect the population that I most often deal with–beginner to moderately experienced grant writers.  Here’s my answer–be sure to add your thoughts in the comments area!

I teach MSW students how to write federal grants for human services programs. This gives me a lot of insight into where beginners have troubles in writing grants. The number one issue that my students experience is the large amount of jargon in every RFP—and all the abbreviations that you’re supposed to know before you can translate the document (see what I did there?) into a proposal.

Beyond the ocean of abbreviations and acronyms, the second issue is that many requests for proposals are poorly organized and written. The people writing the RFPs for nonprofits to respond to seem incredibly busy and take any shortcut possible to save time. Thus, important information on the same topic is scattered throughout the 30–50 pages of the RFP, or is repeated in different sections. The amount of redundancy in the RFP and the required submission is head-scratching. Grantwriters find themselves needing to put identical or similar information into several parts of the proposal because the RFP writer hasn’t had the time to oversee the product carefully.

Third, the grant system could be stronger if more funding was available. Discretionary grants for human services programs are under fiscal stress (even more now under the Trump administration than before) and it can be daunting to know you’ll have to spend scores of hours of conceptualizing, reading, researching, and writing to put the proposal together, and then having to face the prospect of only ten projects being funded across the entire country.

Many other ways exist to improve the grant system, but these three seem most important for beginner and not so beginner grantwriters.

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