Tips for Successful Grants

  1. Use an "active" voice. Avoid too many pronouns. Keep sentences concise and to the point. Examples of what and what not to say:

    • "The project steering committee will conduct four seminars for state and local representatives of the four networks" instead of "Our team will conduct a total of 4 seminars on an invitation-only basis for state and local representatives of the four identified networks."
    • "The project steering committee will draft the letter of understanding" insetad of "A letter of understanding will be drafted by the project steering committee."
  2. Use strong verbs in goals and objectives that denote definite action. For example, say, "The committee will develop a plan that..." instead of "The committee will work to develop a plan that..." The following is a project abstract for a grant. Note the verb selection.

    "Tri-Tech 2000 is an innovative service-learning program that links youth service to the ever changing field of technology. Tri-Tech 2000 integrates the skills and abilities of today's youth with real world technology issues. By developing school-based service-learning models in three states, this grant program will...

    • Allow students to acquire technical skills and service experiences as part of a student technology leadership team.
    • Provide an opportunity for students to become an active partner in their school district technology planning and implementation activities.
    • Enhance the development and application of technology in the classroom and community through youth leadership and service."
  3. Create objectives that provide specific, measurable "outcomes." A good way to structure an outcome is to ask, "What is the change that will result from completing this objective?" For example, say, "Fifteen teachers will be able to demonstrate use of one or more new computer classroom applications as a result of" instead of "teacher use of computer classroom applications will increase."

  4. Avoid lengthy, unbroken text. Long, narrative text is difficult to read. A common impact technique is to break up paragraphs by using sub-headings or "bullets" that list major points. This paragraph structuring makes it easier for readers to see and remember the main points.

  5. Organize your proposal by using the same headings and sequence as presented in the RFP. Most reader score sheets are set up using the same sequence as the RFP.

  6. The abstract should be concise and well written. The summary of the proposal is the most important statement in the grant because it is the first item the grant reader looks for in their review. A confusing or incomplete abstract can cause a fatal first impression. Abstracts are best written last in order to accurately reflect the content of the entire proposal.

  7. Have someone from outside your grant team help edit the proposal. Someone who is not familiar with the grant will be able to find confusing sentences or bad grammar that is easily missed by the grant writer. With the number of sections in a proposal and the amount of re-drafting needed, a computer is a basic tool of the trade. It keeps material organized and is a tremendous time saver. Each time changes are made, throw out the old draft. Nothing is worse than mixing and matching various drafts. Placing a current date on the top of the page helps avoid this confusion. Use spell check.

  8. Think like a grant reader. Write the proposal based on what a grant reader would feel is important. Go through your proposal and edit out the extra sentences or material that adds nothing to the quality or understanding of the project. Grant readers are usually faced with reviewing many proposals so they appreciate a proposal that is clear, organized, and easily understood.

  9. Write a draft of the grant as early as possible. A common mistake is to wait until a few days before the deadline to write the grant. Once the basic plan is agreed upon (goals, objectives and general plan) it is wise to create a rough draft of the entire grant (no matter how messy or incomplete). This provides a much better opportunity for continuous editing and team input over a longer period of time.