Updated: Feb 8, 2021
As we enter 2021 with continuing COVID-19 concerns, you may be struggling with the motivation to begin or continue your grant application. Let me share some considerations and offer you some tips on this process.
Amidst the financial crisis, funders are still making funds available for many different types of grants, from community development to K-12 and undergraduate curriculum enhancement, to student mentoring and training, and basic science biomedical research. Depending on your type of organization and how the pandemic has impacted your operation, your priorities may have shifted in the past year. Now is the time to re-assess goals and innovate to address your expanded or revised needs. This will oftentimes require an infusion of capital and this is where securing grant funding will be critical.
Be deliberate about carving out time to conduct research on traditional as well as newly available sources of grant funding due to any changes in the structure of your organization. Funders sometimes make small adjustments in the request for proposals (RFPs) that can be the difference between your organization or proposed program being eligible or ineligible. Take the time to research foundation, federal, and state databases carefully to see whether your idea can be molded to emphasize how well your proposed program aligns with the modified RFPs.
This is important because while there is a greater willingness on the parts of private funding agencies to address social justice, equitable access to social safety nets, and educational initiatives, to name a few, you still have to build a strong case for why YOU are the perfect partner to help them to advance these priorities. A little extra care in the pre-grant writing phase will make a world of difference in your success.
Given the reality of the uncertainties with which we are currently living, it is challenging for us to try to anticipate what the coming months will look like from a practical standpoint. However, to be successful at garnering funding in this time of increased competition and need, it is imperative that you look beyond your current circumstances and identify newly emerging and as yet unmet niches that will continue to be relevant post-pandemic.
Among the many provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares, is funding for non-profits in the form of grants. Therefore, your organization can identify options and apply accordingly.
Once you have secured funding, keep in mind that if your circumstances change, it is important that you maintain open communication with the agencies, keeping them abreast of your organization’s specific challenges and needs. Funders tend to be understanding of their grantees’ needs and ongoing concerns but you need to keep them in the loop so that they are true partners in working towards your shared goals. It is also critical that you ask questions and receive verification of allowable costs if there are any gray areas of which you are unsure BEFORE utilizing funds for the purpose in question.
It might also be challenging to stay on track and maintain a high level of productivity, particularly in the more widely implemented model of working remotely, which can create a sense of isolation. It is therefore important to remain engaged, for example, by creating strategic partnerships –some funding agencies are collaborating, creating mutually beneficial partnerships and you can too! In addition, take advantage of reduced cost, virtual offerings to stay abreast of professional development opportunities that will 1) improve your ability to perform your duties and 2) introduce skill sets that will expand the types of services your organization may be able to provide, further increasing your chances of success securing grant funding.
Happy grant writing in 2021!
Flona Redway, PhD, founding partner of Academic Training & Consulting Group, LLC, is an academician with over 27 years of experience writing and administering grants.