Working with Stakeholders in a Grant Writing Environment

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS

You are getting ready to put a narrative description together for your grant application, now you will need to get organized.

Continue to identify your goals, objectives and assessments. What is your project going to do that meets your goals, and how will you know it has (assessment)?

We are not identifying a donor who will provide resources yet. You’re not ready to approach him/her. You’ve got work to do. You may explore the Discount School Supply's Grants Database but you're not ready to make calls to foundations just yet.

You’ll need to learn to make bulleted lists and create an outline. Think about the focus of your project. Answer the following questions; they may help you narrow it down, using the 5 W’s process from journalism:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve? Why is this project important?
  • Who are you, who will benefit from your project? What are the characteristics of your student and his/her community?
  • Why is this project important to your larger community?
  • When will the project begin? How long will it take to meet your goals? Can you draw a timeline?
  • Where will the project take place? In school, in a community agency, in the student’s home?

“W” number 2, "Who" is the one we're focusing on today. You will also use the 5 W's when you plan to get your stakeholders together. You should be able to answer the question, “Who are the stakeholders I should consult for ideas and guidance as we work through the writing process?" This is not the same thing as writing a grant in a committee. In fact, I don't recommend writing grants in committee, but it is important to identify the people that will be impacted by the project, and getting them together for a focus conversation. The idea that the narrative can be divided up among well-meaning people may sound great, but it's horribly inefficient and you end up with 5 different "voices" and dissimilar ideas of what needs to happen.

Your focus session will be a one-time event; your invitation may say “Please help me approach supporters for funds for our school." Many minds are better than one, you may find some folks who have done this before, and their expertise will be valuable. Or you may find one kindred soul who will keep you on task. There's a fine distinction between working in isolation and writing the grant alone. The former means you have shut out any input that may or may not guide the grant application process. The latter can be taking the opportunity to seek suggestions and then putting it all together in your own narrative.

You will ultimately write it on your own. This is really important advice. This first attempt may be a failure; this is a skill that needs to be nurtured. The work you do now will pay off in dividends later. If you are a successful grant writer, you become a very popular person. You don't want to be accused of shutting anyone out, but you need to set the tone that you are ultimately responsible for the application that is submitted.

Please add comments below, you may have other opinions on this issue, all ideas welcome!

Next time: more about writing narratives.