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Let Freedom Ring: When to Let the Team Run Wild with Your Grant Proposal

Just as a lack of control can create inefficiencies and even destroy your chances of winning a grant, in the same manner, it is possible to exercise too much control and blind yourself from the amazing insight, objectivity and skills of your other team members. A number of instances come to mind when I think about places where you really need to open up your grant writing process and encourage maximum participation.

Trish Drew Visits Orange County's Great Park

Trish Drew Visits Orange County's Great Park

First, I have had a lot of good luck in allowing staff and charity leaders suggest the most exciting dream project for their charity. Their brainstorming is often an inspiring way to build a stronger sense of community, a more intense devotion to the non-profit and an unparalleled opportunity to leverage the knowledge the staff has gained through their reading, conference attendance, or personal experience.  

Second, it is also a good idea to open up your grant writing to national or international consultants who may have an interest in your project. Often these policy gurus can be extremely helpful in terms of pointing you in the right direction, suggesting effective evaluation tools, and perfecting the details that will make your program more effective. 

Third, I have see that it really helps to have multiple people look over your first or second draft and give you their feedback. This does not mean that you should accept each and every suggestion. Nevertheless, it does make sense to notice whether or not multiple people are noticing the same issues. One of the ways I like to encourage honest and straightforward feedback from the team is to assert that the people who read and award these grants are not any brighter than us. Nevertheless, they are not any dumber than us either. Accordingly, if someone of the team sees a flaw in the proposal, it is important for them to speak up because I can guarantee that someone working for the funder will have the exact same issue or concern. 


As much as I encourage everyone to punch holes in the grant application, I don't recommend having multiple people write or rewrite it. If you involve multiple people in the process of writing the grant you are more likely to create a document with subtle writing changes which are jarring to those of us sensitive to writing style. Even someone who is not that sensitive will probably think less of the proposal when it becomes clear that it has multiple authors.

Finally, I think it is important to fully engage your team when it comes to doing research to support the grant. The larger mind of multiple people is infinitely more powerful, all though less focused, than an individual researcher. I go out of my way to encourage folks to bring to my attention the latest statistics, research, or observations in their field. Often large government databases are full of relevant articles. It would be nearly impossible for me to speed read them all, but a larger set of eyes can review these documents, report on trends in the literature, and call attention to the most recent studies which support or can improve the direction of your project. 

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