Managing the Pre-Planning Process for a Grant Application

Managing the Pre-Planning Process for a Grant Application

I strongly believe (based on experience) that being successful in applying for government-funded grants, at the state or federal level, requires a focused approach with pre-planning and a supportive grant team. Last month I wrote about, “What to Do BEFORE You Start a Government Grant Application,” and the general idea of pre-planning and a grant team. If you missed the post, you can read it here.

I define pre-planning for a grant application as completing the following tasks PRIOR to a formal RFP/NOFA being released: completing required registrations, conducting initial program and budget design conversations, and bringing collaborative partners to the table.

Some primary benefits to you, as the grant-seeking organization, to engaging in pre-planning for your grant application are:

  • Increasing your competitiveness in the application process;
  • Allowing for proactive planning for application details;
  • Allowing for maximum buy-in from collaborators and staff;
  • Allowing for redundancy in the feedback loop from your grant team and partners; and
  • Reducing stress of the staff and grant professionals involved in the process.

How do you decide which applications might be available, and which to engage in, for the pre-planning process? Use formal government agency forecasts such as the Department of Education’s fiscal year forecast. In the absence of formal government agency forecasts, use the previous applications of a department listed through to determine what funding streams you want to consider for the upcoming fiscal year. Then use tools like the Federal Register to follow the progress of legislation related to the funding stream you are planning to apply to, in order to follow its progress and timing, for the formal release of an application.

Once you have determined the best potential funding source, and looked at how you will use your priorities and action plans stemming from your strategic plan to determine an application focus, it’s time to begin the pre-planning process with your grant team.

Throughout the process, in situations where you are engaging collaborative partners, be sure to identify tools that everyone is comfortable using as part of the pre-planning process. Document sharing such as Google Drive and Dropbox make sharing the most current version of pre-planning documents, and eventually application documents easier, without worrying about which version everyone currently has in their email inbox. Utilizing communication tools like conference calls, web meetings, and Google Hangouts can also help facilitate more frequent full-group meetings without increasing travel expense for partners.

The key action steps to follow in starting a pre-planning process for any new grant opportunity are:

  • First, determining who will facilitate the pre-planning process, whether an outside facilitator, internal grant professional, or external grant professional.
  • Second, looking at the previously funded applications and the previous RFPs/NOFAs to understand the information that will likely be required as part of your proposal.
  • Third, identifying key timelines and objectives for the pre-planning process based on the anticipated release of the RFP/NOFA.
  • Fourth, holding an initial grant team meeting for the pre-planning process to identify the goals for the process, define expectations and responsibilities, and agree on/modify the timeline and objectives outlined in the third step.

Next month I will discuss how to form an effective grant team and who should be a part of it in order to support a successful pre-planning effort.

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