Six “Simple” Steps to Grant Funding Success

I’ve done a lot of writing over the course of my career, but grant writing was new to me when I joined Morrison last June. This year has truly been a crash course in the genre. I keep hearing from those on the team more seasoned than I about a so-called “grant season.” I have yet to see it. With billions of dollars of grant opportunities released in the past year, rarely has a week gone by when we’re not scrambling to wrap our heads around some new grant program and analyzing how it may align with clients’ needs.

Even within the same agency, grant programs can be wildly different in purpose and structure. It’s no wonder clients rely on us to navigate these complex programs. Over the past 12 months our team has submitted 42 applications to 18 separate grant programs. While each request for proposals (RFP) requires different elements, the following six steps are universally critical to grant funding success.

1. Understand the grant program. This is a big part of our work up front – assessing not just your eligibility for a certain grant program, but also your competitiveness. Sometimes a project might appear on the surface to check all the boxes that the granting agency is looking for, but as we dig into the RFP, it’s not uncommon to uncover language that makes it clear that the project is not going to be competitive for a specific program. We would rather discover any deficiencies early in the grant writing process so we can make the necessary adjustments.

2. Define your project. Part of our early work is outlining the goals and objectives of your project, which don’t always end up being exactly what you expect at the outset. Let’s say you really want to build a processing facility. Most grants don’t allow for construction costs, but perhaps you could apply for a marketing grant, freeing up working capital from your operation to help you pursue the construction separately.

3. Rally your partners. Once we have alignment on your project’s goals and outcomes, we’ll start drafting letters for your project partners to sign. Whether it’s letters of commitment of matching funds or of support from community groups impacted by your project, most grant programs require some tangible demonstration of external support. These letters are often scored elements of the proposal and require specific language to be admissible, so we spend considerable time ensuring that we have the right partners lined up and letters signed.

4. Detail your work plan and budget. Sure, the program won’t fund for another 6-12 months, and my to-do list for today is still a work-in-progress, but that doesn’t mean we can cut corners on detailing exactly what it will take to execute the project. A clear and comprehensive work plan that aligns with a realistic and documented budget is one of the first things grant reviewers will evaluate in assessing your project’s feasibility.

5. Establish accountability. Whether the agency is giving you $250,000 or $25 million, they’re going to want something in return. All grant programs will require you to establish and report on the grant’s anticipated outcomes. Whatever they are, we will want to present realistic and achievable outcome measures that advance the program’s purpose.

6. Describe your expertise. Another common element among grant applications is a section summarizing the expertise and availability of key personnel. Actual resumes are sometimes required, but even when they aren’t, we will usually request them from our clients for each person who will be critical to project success. Each resume should include the individual’s education and work history, professional accomplishments relevant to the project, and expected contributions to success.

If these six “simple” steps to grant writing success don’t sound so simple, the Morrison Grants Team is here to help manage the process. Feel free to call us at 530.893.4764 or email with any questions or to set up an introductory meeting.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah DeForest is a manager at Morrison working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Sarah, reach out to her by email at or by phone at (530) 809-4680.


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