This year I was part of a group of grant reviewers for the Humanities Council of Washington, DC (HumanitiesDC) and for the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. We were the first stage of reading, commenting, and rating the applicants for funding. An interesting process that allows for an unbiased and fair attempt to make recommendations on worthwhile non-profit organizations’ projects. There are many grant opportunities for artists and organizations based in Washington, DC through these two organizations. Each grant has a volunteer review committee that gives recommendations to the next panel for funding.
As each reviewer reads each grant, they add comments and rating to a scorecard. Previously, we would meet in person, but this year the group of reviewers met via an online meeting to discuss and compare notes. It is great to hear other’s comments and reactions. Most often we agreed to our ratings. The power of group ‘think’ if something was missed and a rating would be changed. It is wonderful to hear the reasoning from the talented and knowledgeable group assembled for this vital task.
From this experience of reading grants this year and previously, here are some thoughts when you are preparing your grant proposal.
1. Clear, concise, and cohesive writing is essential. Is your objective and all your writing easily understood? Keep sentences to one thought. (A thirty-word sentence is often hard to comprehend.) In each paragraph, state your premise and give supporting information. Simplify but give details.
2. Provide a comprehensive plan and implementation of project/program(s). Nice to have a mission statement but as important how that project or program operates. If you don’t have a history, explain the history of items that you have completed. This helps to prove that you are capable and deserving of the grant.
3. Get letters of recommendations, but as important, get testimonials from participants. Success stories help to prove your project/program works and has a positive effect on the community you serve.
4. Provide biography of not only of yourself but staff and key personnel involved in your project. It’s helpful to disclose the education and job experience but why each person involve is suited to carry on their job responsibilities for your program
5. Budget, provide as much detail as possible. It is even better to have Non-Profit accounting standards for all financial statements.
Your purpose is to provide quality information, in order for grant reviewers to fully comprehend and understand your mission. Additionally, you want to provide the confidence that you and your organization are qualified and accountable.