Collaboration is one of the most important aspects of grant writing, except when it comes to actually writing the proposal. A grant by committee is a painful document to read. Rarely does the writing come together by different people taking on different parts of the proposal. Don't get me wrong. I'm really in favor of the team approach to grant procurement. Teams help you brainstorm ideas, conduct an analysis of what is and what could be, develop goals and objectives, determine an evaluation plan and put the action plan into monetary terms with a best-guess budget. Teams also provide great feedback to a first draft and help the main writer of the proposal include areas that may have been over-looked or need additional work. The future director of the project may be the principal writer. However, as a team, you will know your talents.
Before I actually write the proposal, I look very carefully at how I will target the narrative. Many state and federal programs will provide you with a rubric and it is important to follow the rubric. Other request for proposals (RFPs) will provide you with a series of questions or statements with sub-headings that you will need to follow. Do so. Do not leave anything out. Some RFPs will give you a scoring guide and this will help you develop your narrative. For example, you may be allotted 10 pages for your narrative. Let’s say the scoring guide tells you that thirty percent of the points awarded may be possible for the evaluation plan. This gives you a rough idea that the evaluation plan of your proposal will be approximately three pages long; thirty percent of the allotted number of pages.
Your targeted proposal will more than likely be outlined by the grant request for proposal. This may not be true for a foundation grant. When given just a number of pages without specific points to cover, follow the basic guidelines of a grant proposal. Following all aspects of a basic proposal shows your funder that you are ready to implement all aspects of your proposal.
People always ask me for the "rules" or the "do's and don'ts" of the grant-writing process. I'm not sure there are hard and fast rules, but there are some guidelines that I have followed over the years. I try to write with just the facts. I don't provide judgment statements in my narrative. I try to synthesize the facts into an interesting to read narrative. Just the facts doesn't mean dry; it just means that you've cut out all of the superlatives.
I give the funders what they ask for. I follow the guidelines. I ask questions if I need clarification. If the proposal is to be no more than ten pages, I write ten pages. If the proposal must be submitted with three copies, I provide the copies. Sometimes I need to read and reread the RFP to make sure that I have covered everything. I keep check-off lists of what is needed and refer back to my lists to make sure that I have followed all directions.
I try to stay away from jargon and three letter acronyms (TLAs). For example, depending upon your audience, the CIA might mean the Culinary Institute of America. I try to write from the point of view that the reader will have no prior knowledge of educational terms. New terms become a part of the educational landscape each year. For example, currently, can you accurately define "RtI – Response to Instruction and Intervention?" Do you know what a "Community of Practice" is? Will your reader know?
Stick to the facts, follow the guidelines, and watch your jargon – now you are on the road to being funded.