Grant writing can be a stressful affair. Between the looming deadlines, the neurotic details some funders want, and the constant fear of not having enough funds to pay your staff, grant writing can stress out even the calmest people in the office.
While there’s no way to get rid of all the stress that comes with grant writing, there are some strategies you can use to reduce some of the stress. The strategies below are the same ones we use to manage multiple clients’ grant efforts simultaneously. These strategies have helped us meet all deadlines and secure over $3M in funding since 2017…all while keeping stress at a minimum.
Here are 7 strategies you can use to reduce the stress of grant writing:
CREATE A GRANT CALENDAR
One of the best ways to reduce the stress of writing grants is to create a grant calendar. Your “calendar” can be a true calendar, or it can be a schedule, spreadsheet, Gantt chart, or any other task management system you prefer.
Regardless of the format you choose, your calendar should include:
- Name of the funder
- Name of the grant opportunity (if applicable)
- Amount requested
- What you plan to request funding for
- Dates and times of applicant webinars or in-person meetings
- Due dates for letters of inquiry and applications
- Anticipated date of award notification, if available
- Due dates for reports, if awarded
You may also want to create a section to keep track of all tasks you or your team will need to complete to submit grants on time. Common tasks include calling a foundation, starting the writing process, or finalizing your narrative drafts.
GATHER INFORMATION YOU NEED FROM OTHERS ASAP
You’ll likely have all the information you need for most grant proposals. But on occasion, you may need to collect additional information such as service data, program implementation plans, updated financial reports, or letters of support. And at some point, your co-workers or partners will be late in sending you the information you desperately need to write a grant proposal. Unfortunately, their tardiness can derail your grant writing process and seriously increase your stress levels. This is one of the rare occasions where a lack of planning on someone else’s part WILL cause an emergency on yours.
Avoid the stress of waiting on others by asking for the information you need as soon as possible. Once you know you’ll be submitting a grant proposal, review all the narrative and attachment requirements first. Then, immediately reach out to your co-workers or partners and let them know what you need. You’ll also want to give them a hard deadline, which should be at least a few days before the date you actually need the information.
MAINTAIN A FOLDER OF STANDARD GRANT RESPONSES
Unlike other types of writing, grant writing allows you to reuse a lot of the material you’ve written for other proposals. Take advantage of this by saving all similar responses in the same document. For example, you would create one document for all your organizational overview responses, one document for all evaluation responses, etc. You may also want to label each response with the funder to which it was submitted and the date of submission. This will help you reference the complete grant proposal if needed. Once you have standard grant response documents created, you can simply pull out the information you need the next time you have to work on a grant.
ESTABLISH A GRANT APPLICATION PROCESS
If you’re responsible for writing part or all the narrative for a large grant proposal that requires input from others, it’s important to establish a strong grant application process. At a minimum, this process should include:
- Convening all necessary staff or partners
- Identifying a system that will allow for easy document sharing and collaborative narrative writing
- Developing and sharing a project management plan
Check out How to manage the grant application process to learn how to establish your own process!
BLOCK OUT TIME TO WRITE
If you want to write a strong grant proposal that gets funded, you’re going to need blocks of uninterrupted time. But those blocks of time aren’t going to magically appear on your calendar! To ensure you have the time you need, block off all the hours you think it will take you to write each grant proposal. Ideally, this time should be scheduled during the days or hours when your writing easily flows and when you’re the least likely to be interrupted.
HAVE POSTAGE AND PACKAGING SUPPLIES READY
If you submit a lot of grant proposals that must be mailed, have your postage and packaging supplies ready. This will reduce the last-minute stress of running to the office supply store or rushing to get to the post office before they close.
For foundation grants, you’ll need basic folders, paperclips, printing paper, a mailing envelope, and pre-paid postage. I like to use the U.S. Postal Service’s priority mail flat-rate envelope; a basic folder fits inside the free envelope perfectly and since there’s no weighing required, I buy the required stamps in advance so I can put everything together and drop off at a box whenever it’s convenient.
Staying stocked to package and mail government grant proposals is harder, but not impossible. Some of the supplies you may need include large binder clips, notebook dividers, blank CDs or flash drives, printing paper, and boxes or large mailing envelopes.
HIRE A GRANT WRITING CONSULTANT
Bringing on a grant writing consultant to help you write grants is the best way to reduce stress. At Upstream Consulting, we offer a full range of grant writing services so that you can stress less and get back to doing what you do best. Schedule a free consultation so we can chat about how we can help you with all your grant writing needs.
There’s no doubt that grant writing can be stressful. But if you incorporate the tips above, your grant writing process will run smoother. So smooth you might even begin to enjoy grant writing! 😉