Monday, November 23, 2015

My Disconcerting Truth: Write the Grant First and Then Do the Research

Every once in a while, I’m surprised at the power of my own techniques. Recently, I was putting a grant application together for a new client with a new potential funder. Following my usual strategy, I started writing the client’s application without doing any research – except, of course, interviewing a staff member and a Board member.
As I wrote the application, I quickly figured out that the funder needed a much more narrowly defined project that what I was currently writing for them.  In other words, my efforts to answer the funder’s questions had given me a much more precise understanding of exactly what the funder was willing to pay for in terms of a model grant program.
Ironically, I was already about 3/4 of the way through the first draft when I noticed the funder’s own website had a lot of the information I was looking for regarding the proposed grant project. If I had scanned the funder’s entire website beforehand, I do not think I would have noticed – or paid much attention to – the valuable information posted there, information that was immediately relevant to my client’s grant application.
Since I was already writing the first draft of the client’s application, I was hypersensitive to the exact information I needed and it just jumped out at me when I flipped to the funder’s website.
I think you will have this sort of time saving experience too if you give this technique a try. Often, I find I do not need to do the all extensive research I anticipated once I actually look at the questions posed in the actual grant application paperwork.
Moreover, the client’s staff experts can often quickly provide me with the most relevant research – once they have read a draft and understand the internal logic of the application.  In a world of severe time constraints and limited rationality, I think it is usually a waste of time to ask the client to figure out the fundamental issues of significance by reading the funder’s guidelines. I have found the client’s staff can often be more helpful if they respond to a fully established rough draft of the full proposal.
Best of all, I think that if you do your research second, you will sometimes find you already know more than enough to write a tolerable solicitation document. With this technique, I have been able to avoid losing valuable hours and minutes researching things that may – in the end – have nothing to do with my client’s proposed project.

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