Compete – Truly Compete – For Federal Grants

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Compete – Truly Compete – For Federal Grants

The competition for federal grants is fierce. Not only are you competing with organizations across the country, but you’re also competing with nonprofits whose proposals are put together by consulting firms.

With a professional project manager, writer, editor, and editor experienced in targeted competition, clients get a high-level grip and competitive edge. “The stakes are so high that those who can afford it consider spending on consulting services worth the competitive boost,” said grantmaking expert and author Barbara Floersch. You’ve Got a Hammer: Developing Social Change Grant Proposals. “Not all of these propositions win prizes, but clients generally win more than they lose and find the risk acceptable.”

But smaller organizations can rarely afford the cost of buying a work-in-progress with a consulting firm, and for a massive proposal asking for millions of dollars, the fees of an independent consultant may also be out of reach. A complex federal grant can take over 200 hours to produce, and senior consultant fees range from $100 to $200 per hour.

To help lean nonprofits stay in the game, Floersch offers these suggestions.

  • Invest in professional development: Make sure several people on your team are comfortable with the maze-like online systems through which federal awards must be submitted. Make sure the lead writer is connected to professional networks and participates in ongoing training.
  • Study federal agencies related to your issue to stay on top of possible, planned, and breaking competitions: losing a week or two on the timeline puts you at a significant disadvantage. When competitions reopen each year, use last year’s guidelines to begin developing the program plan, collecting data, and engaging community partners
  • Only enter the races you think you can win: if there will only be three awards, the federal agency may already know the toughest competitors and likely winners. Even though 30 awards are expected, do not enter the contest unless you have the time and expertise to produce a quality application.
  • Set up an internal system to imitate a consulting firm. Appoint a project manager to keep the work organized and moving. Make sure the writer has access to information when they need it, not later. Pay a qualified grants professional familiar with the federal agency to review a project. You’ll need to complete the draft a week or two before the hard deadline, but the feedback and guidance you receive will be invaluable. Appoint an editor or hire an editorial consultant.

Even if you can’t afford a consulting firm to develop your proposal, you can be a top contender. Develop an internal system that supports proactive proposal research and development and includes the judicious use of professional consultants. © copyright 2022, Barbara Floersch

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