Writing the Grant Narrative

We have talked about demographics, statistics about your school that help you demonstrate need for the funding you seek. We’ve set the stage for writing the successful proposal you know you can submit to a foundation.

We’ll talk today about setting your goals. You can’t define your goals or objectives until you’ve firmly established that your school needs support for your project.

We’ll start with a good outline for a standard grant application, but always check with the grantor, they may have very specific ideas of what this should look like.

1.Table of Contents ( the last thing you write)
2.Mission Statement (30 words or less)
3.Abstract (not done last, 3rd person statement of goals, objectives, impact)
4.Statement of Need (with demographic support, stay with one need)
5.Project research base (literature review)
6.Project Narrative
a.Goals and Objectives
b.Proposed Activities
c.Facilities and Resources (laying the foundation for your budget)
d.Evaluation (how will you assess whether you met your goals)
e.Dissemination (how will the public be informed of your project and results)

7. Budget
a.Budget worksheet (excel spreadsheet)
b.Budget justification
c.Sustainability – who will pay for costs going forward

8. Attachments (if allowed, always ask first)
c.Letters of Support/Endorsement
d.Relevant Publications (if allowed)

The next few blogs will concentrate on the narrative portion of the application, your story. How did you get to this place where you realize you need additional funds for your school? Today we’ll look at critical step one, what are your goals and objectives?

Formatting of your word processing document must comply with the grantor’s rules for font, font size, spacing, margins, etc. If you can’t find this information in their application package, call them to see what they have in mind. When you know how they want the document to look, you can create a template in Microsoft Word that “freezes” those rules in place so that as you write, it formats itself. Some people like to do their work in longhand on a big yellow tablet. I like to just start typing, so it helps to have the document formatted ahead of time. There’s a good description of how to do this on the Microsoft website.

Once your need is defined, you’ll want to work with stakeholders to clearly define your goals and objectives. This is where the focus group comes in (if you’re a focus group person). A goal is a broad statement of the final result of the change you’re trying to make. You may already have a school committee that is working on long range planning. You will need to review their notes and try to be part of that committee. You want your grant to help meet goals already defined by the organization.

A sample of a goal might read: “The school library will develop its collection to align with state standards for library media programs in New Jersey”.

An objective is a measurable result that occurs in a specific amount of time. It is a more narrow definition and description of your goals. The objectives (like the goals) need to be tied to your need statement. The objectives need to be stated in terms of outcomes. They will define (like behavioral objectives) the specific change that will take place in the school as a result of the work you will do with grant funds. You should define the population you will serve (expanded in demographics).

Above all, objectives should be realistic, you will be able to meet them in the time you have specified. Words to use are “to reduce”, “to increase”, “to decrease”, “to expand”. Later in the application you will explaining how you will measure whether you met your goals, keep this in mind as you write them.

Keep your goals to one or two. You are not trying to save the world with this grant, you have a need (your library collection is terrible), and you have specific goals and objectives for improving it. When your grantor reads your application he will be confident that his support will help solve your problem because you have so thoroughly described how it will be done.

Next time, we’ll talk about describing project activities.
What will you do and how will you do it?

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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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