Getting Current Information to Shape Grant Applications

You have been asked to write a grant to a specific funding source. You will want to take several steps to ensure your application is current and on target. Your research efforts will help you uncover changes in procedures, clarify your understanding of the grant donor’s goals and may even provide a glimpse of other successful proposals. Some information takes time to collect, so for large requests, get started several months before the deadline.

How much research you do will depend on the size of your request, the importance of the request to your agency and the amount of time needed to develop the proposal. Ideally, invest about 20 to 25 percent of your preparation time learning all you can about the grant, the review process, the rating criteria (if any) and the grant donor’s goals.

Alternatively, if you are writing a letter request to a local foundation for a small amount just 30 minutes of research may suffice. In this case, try to review a grant source book, complete a quick Internet search and check to see if your organization has applied to this program.. Sometimes there is very little to learn or find out without extensive research and, given other opportunities, your request will not justify more time investment.

Search the Internet

  • Using your search engine, key in the grant or funding organization’s name. This search often leads to both the grant’s website and funded agencies.
  • The Foundation Centers Foundation Finder( offers searches by foundation name and by location. Each individual foundation’s listing provides a link to the agency’s IRS reports.
  • As a back up, at GuideStar ( you can quick search for a foundation. Here you also can find links to view the IRS reports.
  • Search the grant donor’s hometown newspaper’s database for articles.

Check Out the Files

In the case of government funding, local and state rules often govern information availability. For instance, under Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine regulations, you can inspect all previous grant files and related materials. You may wish to spend part of a day reviewing this material at the grantor office or, for a price, request copies of the materials.

You may want to request the following items as well:

  • A successful proposal from an organization like yours or the highest scoring application from the most recent grant cycle,
  • Score sheets from your previous application or those of a like organization. (Note: review panels often assume you received these score sheets and complain if you did not respond to their suggestions in subsequent applications.)
  • Names of organizations that did a good job on questions you find difficult or confusing. Then request those sections
  • Minutes or the audiotape of review meetings.
  • The dates of any grant review meetings that are open to the public.

Attend Meetings

Many programs offer helpful and required pre-application meetings. However, the pre-apps may not be specific enough. A meeting with a staff member can provide additional information. To prepare for the meeting, at the very least, type or copy the application’s questions into your document to see if you understand the type of information sought.

At a meeting, ask questions like:

  • What changes, if any, have been made since the last cycle of funding?
  • What aspect of the proposal does the funding panel consider the most important?
  • What are the timelines and steps between a submittal and a decision?
  • If your organization experiences any changes, can information about these be provided after the submittal?
  • What, if any, are the pet peeves of the staff or panels with submittals?
  • What kinds of grant proposals make the grant donor or review panels enthusiastic?

These are just a few ways for you to get current. With up-to-date information, not only will you write with confidence, but your concern for the funder’s needs, interests and guidelines will show in your submittal-thus helping you get funded this round and opening the door for future requests

For more than 20 more articles to help you with grant writing see this directory.

For six audios to purchase that will help you write grants if you are a newbie or an expert, follow this link. Each offers one hours of training from Karen– and contains the content of her famous grant writing workshops.

For other sources of nonprofit income to augment your grant opportunities, read this article, Can Your Organization Obtain More Income?