Leave No Rock Unturned in Your Grant Research

Finding a needle in a haystack.

Finding a diamond in the rough.

Leaving no rock unturned.

Casting a wider net.

Once in a blue moon.

Looking for a polar bear in a snow storm.

Ignore fool’s gold.

They are all excellent idioms you can use to describe your grant research process when you are focused on expanding the list of grantmakers that you have funding relationships with.

They imply that you are looking for a rare opportunity. They acknowledge that finding the right fit for a potential new grant funding relationship between a grantmaker and your grant seeking organization are not a foregone conclusion simply because your keywords for your mission statements are aligned.

To be successful in your grant research efforts, you need to be prepared to go the extra mile to research and learn the ropes of a potential new grantmaker relationship after trusting your knee jerk reaction and gut feeling that this funder might be your diamond in the rough.

Grant research is a serious business. It is a critical first step in grant seeking best practices to ensure that the applications and proposals you are going to spend countless hours writing will be well received by the correct funders so that you are as competitive as possible in the process. However, I believe that acknowledging the scarcity of a great fit, not just a *good* fit, and how special new grantmaker relationships are helps to keep us grounded in our work as grant professionals. The purpose of using idioms to describe grant research? That is to help our colleagues understand the nature of what we as grant professionals are looking for when we are researching funding opportunities and to remind *us* as the professionals that we are looking for something very special and unique.

Are you struggling with how to make your grant research work more effective and successful at identifying high priority, best-suited matches for your organization?

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of How to Find a Needle in a Haystack: How to Successfully Research Grants on October 5th or October 13th. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have! Register here.


6 Tips to Improve Relationships with Grant Makers

As Valentine’s Day approaches, in addition to thinking about your personal relationships, take some time to think about your relationships with your current and potential grant makers for your organization. Here are my 6 tips to improve your grant funder relationships:

1 – Contact your potential funding source prior to applying (whether a new or existing relationship!). Follow their communication preference and capacity guidelines regarding communication. Bottom line, ALWAYS call or email to talk about if your proposal will be competitive if they will allow such a dialogue.

2 – Be sincere. Always. In all interactions. Enough said. Each interaction is building trust with the grant maker. Recognize and respect that.

3 – Always meet deadlines. No exceptions. Set false internal deadlines for yourself. Look over the Finance Department’s shoulder related to submitting grant billings. Look over the Program Department’s shoulder related to submitting midterm or final reports. Do not miss deadlines. Even when extensions are given or late submissions are still accepted, your funder will remember your tardiness, yet not the situations that brought about the missed deadline.

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Walk a Mile In Your Grant Reviewer’s Shoes

Have you ever received a rejection letter from a grantmaker and wondered what you could have done differently?

Have you ever wondered, as you clicked submit for a significant government grant via online application, how your proposal will be received by reviewers?

You aren’t alone!

Grant writing is more of an art than a science if you consider how to customize your application and your organization’s story to meet the needs of each unique set of grant reviewers for each grantmaker.

The best way to successfully achieve this art? Walk a mile in your grant reviewer’s shoes.

Step back and look at your proposal as if YOU were the reviewer. Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself as you try to think like your grant reviewer.

5 Key Question to Help You Think Like a Grant Reviewer

1. What is the scoring criteria used by the grantmaker?

2. Where might you miss points?

3. Is your story consistent across all elements of the application?

4. What is unique about your work and proposal that would make a reviewer advocate for your application?

5. What do you know about your reviewers? Do they focus on evaluation plans? Do they want to see more comparative statistics in the need statement?


Thinking about these questions as you review and edit your grant applications will get you started to thinking like a grant reviewer…but there is so much more to consider! I go into great detail about How to Knock Your Reviewer’s Socks Off  with tactical suggestions for you to implement including:

  • How to grab your grantmaker’s attention in all aspects of your grant application;
  • How to write a concise, compelling and competitive narrative grant application;
  • How to compel your grantmakers to advocate for your proposal through the common elements of narrative grant applications; and
  • How to create a mock review process in your organization as part of your editing process.

In the recorded webinar, oOur bonus materials, especially utilizing the mock review process , will absolutely make your grants more competitive in the review process! Check out more details about the recorded session and bonus materials here.

(Side note: This is our highest rated CharityHowTo grant writing webinar with a satisfaction rating of 100% excellent! What better way to learn how to impress your reviewers with an on-demand tutorial in the comfort of your own desk?)

Common Grant Seeking Challenges

At the start of 2016 I asked colleagues and CharityHowTo webinar participants about what their biggest challenges were for a successful grant seeking strategy in 2016.

There definitely was a theme to the challenges for 2016 that I received. Countless responses focused relationships with grantmakers. How to establish them. Who should hold them. How often to reach out. How to make them stronger.

The other common theme to the challenges shared was around capacity/grant readiness. Wondering if an application would be competitive if an organization did not have a current strategic plan in place. Working to implement a formal grant team in an organization. Working to increase the amount of pre-planning an organization did for grants prior to an RFP or NOFA opening.

There there are all the other challenges that I hear about during the CharityHowTo bonus sessions I offer with all of the grant writing premium webinars….

  • Trying to find new funders to add to an existing grant strategy when it feels like you know who *all* the grantmakers are for area;
  • Trying to establish and lead a grant team to create a stronger and more consistent grant seeking process;
  • Trying to decide if to start using grant management software, and if so, which software is the best for your organization; and
  • Trying to establish metrics for success for your personal performance goals for the year that are more than just the dollars raised and percent of proposals funded.

While the answer to grant seeking challenges always include some personal interpretation to ensure that the solution and approach are best suited for your organization, know that you are not alone in wanting to address common concerns like those I outlined above as well as others. There are best practices, solutions and tools to assist you with overcoming common grant seeking challenges in order to have a successful year!


Looking for more detailed information about how to handle the challenges outlined above and more?



Then please join us for the live premium webinar of How to Overcome Common Grant Seeking Challenges on December 15th or December 21st. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have! Register here.


Have a challenge that you want to be sure I address in the upcoming live premium webinar on challenges? Drop me an email (diane @dhleonardconsulting.com) to share your challenge and I will include it along with recommendations in the presentation!

Key First Step In Grant Seeking: Effective Grant Research

There are numerous paid databases available to assist you in your grantmaker research. They can make your grant research much more efficient. Yet how do you decide which one is right for you? Or if purchasing a subscription versus utilizing library access is most effective?

The answers to these questions depend on what type of organization you are, what sort of grant projects you want to have funded, and what sort of research process and tools you have utilized in the past. There is no one recommended tool that is the perfect solution for all grant seeking organizations.

Tools aside, there are some tips for things to consider as part of your routine for grant seeking that will make research an ongoing habit in your work as a grant professional:

  • Spending 15 minutes one afternoon each week researching new RFPs and potential funders and putting that research onto the calendar for additional follow-up and outreach in the upcoming weeks;
  • Setting aside one day each month to research, dig, and make phone calls related to potential new grant revenue sources including federal, state, and  private opportunities; and
  • Saving research as the unscheduled “filler” when an application narrative or budget is giving you particular trouble and you need to step away from what you are writing in order to give yourself some fresh perspective.


Still looking for more detailed information about grant research?

Wondering what is proactive grant seeking?

What are the options for grant research tools? How to access the tools at discounted rates or as the result of professional memberships or other partnerships?



Then please join us for the live premium webinar of Grant Writing 102: How to Effectively Research Grant Funders on April 12th or April 20th. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have! Register here.

5 Tips To Knock Your Grant Reviewer’s Socks Off

As grant professionals, we rarely know exactly who will be the reviewers of the grant proposals we have toiled over for hours and hours. We assume that they have some subject matter expertise, but are unsure whether they possess a Ph.D. in the subject or are self-taught and a passionate volunteer. We assume that they have received some training from the grantmaker related to what they are looking for in a proposal, but are unsure as to if this is their first time as a reviewer or if they are a seasoned grant reviewer. We assume that they are excited to help review and recommend proposals that will help move the grantmaker’s mission or policy goals forward, but we are unsure about what their personal understanding of different methods to achieve the mission or goals may be.

With so much uncertainty and room for assumptions to be made about the reviewers of our hard work, how can we as grant professionals consistently wow our grant application reviewers? In fact, how can we be sure that we are knocking their socks off?

Here are 5 tips for “knocking your grant reviewer’s socks off:”

  1. Create a consistent story across all grant application elements.
  2. Write in a way that is concise and compelling in order to be competitive.
  3. Write using language that reflects the language you read in the grantmaker’s materials, request for proposals, etc.
  4. Avoid industry jargon and acronyms.
  5. Synthesize complicated data or information to help reviewers quickly understand – when allowed look to use infographics, custom charts, etc.

Still looking for more detailed information about how to knock your grant reviewer’s socks off?

Wondering about:

  • What are the steps of writing a letter of inquiry that grab your reviewer’s attention  
  • What are the steps of writing a concise, compelling and competitive narrative grant application
  • How to wow your grant reviewers through the common elements of narrative grant application
  • How to create a mock review process in your organization as part of your internal editing

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of How To Knock Your Reviewer’s Socks Off on March 30th or April 5th. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have! Register here.

How to Write a Bulletproof Grant Budget

Would you believe me if I told you that the grant budget is often the *first* reviewed portion of a grant application packet by the grant reviewer, grantmaker staff, or grantmaker board?


The budget by itself tells the reviewer the entire story of your proposal. Or at least it should!

The grant budget you create should be a consistent and compelling component of your overall grant application, not an afterthought or element that finance puts together for you at the very end right before submission.

You want your grant budget to be bulletproof! To tell a story on their own. A story that is consistent with the rest of your application. A story that does not leave the reviewer with questions about how you calculated the expenses included in the budget. A story that is aligned with what expenses are allowable or ineligible for a grantmaker.

Bulletproof grant budgets tell your story by:

  • Being consistent with all aspects of the grant narrative including work plans and logic models
  • Showing calculations when appropriate
  • Explaining components of fringe benefit rates
  • Outlining detail of travel expenses
  • Defining generic “supplies” or “program materials”

Bulletproof grant budgets:

  • Only contain expenses that are related and allowed by the grantmaker
  • Tell your story regardless of the format required by the grantmaker
  • Tell your story of how else the program or project will be funded beyond the requested grant funded
  • Contain budget justifications/narratives when allowable within the grantmaker’s format


Still looking for more detailed information about how to create a bulletproof grant budget? Wondering about:

  • What are the steps of developing a grant budget

  • What are the best ways to approach the variety of grant maker required budget forms

  • How to write and develop a grant budget when the grant maker does not provide a required format

  • How to write a grant budget that tells your program’s story

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of How To Write a Bulletproof Grant Budget on March 16th or March 22nd. Can’t make the live event? The recording and all of our bonus materials will still be delivered to your inbox along with Diane’s promise to answer any questions you have!

What Makes Your Grant Proposals Stand Out?

Just getting started in grant writing? Trying to be more competitive with the applications you submit?

There are numerous qualities that describe excellent proposals regardless of the program focus. I believe that they can all be encompassed by these three tools:

Clarity – The goals and objectives for the project are measurable and the evaluation plan for the project is clear and outcome-based.

Concise – The answer directly answers the question. The answer does not contain irrelevant information.

Compelling –  The proposal is written in a way that leaves the reader/reviewer wanting to take action (make a grant award!) to support your idea.

While these qualities are subjective in nature, they are qualities that you should strive for in all of your funding proposals. One of the best ways to display these qualities in your funding proposals is to develop a review team to keep you from writing in a vacuum. My biggest recommendation is to have a trusted colleague who is not intimately familiar with the proposed program review your application to see if it is clear, concise and compelling.

In a grant seeking environment of ever tougher competition, it is imperative to provide a proposal that provides the clearest, yet most energized proposal that will excite the reader and make them want to financially support the program.


Looking for more detailed advice about getting started with grant writing? Wondering about:

  • How grant applications vary by funder type?
  • What are the common key elements of a grant proposal?
  • How to develop an initial outline for a grant application?
  • How to create compelling grant application elements that tells a story?

Then please join us for the live premium webinar of Grant Writing 101, or if more convenient for your schedule, join us for the on-demand tutorial of Grant Writing 101 here.

Is Your Organization Ready to Apply for Federal Grants?


Are you an organization that is considering applying for your first federal grant?

Do you think you are a “grant ready ” organization?


You are likely part of an organization that is ready to have grant revenue in your budget; I would agree with that.

The big million dollar question, though, is if you are a grant ready organization and if you will be competitive in the federal grant seeking process.

How can you tell if you are a grant ready organization? How can you tell if your organization which has been successful with private foundations, or maybe with state agencies, or better yet both private foundations and state agencies, will be competitive with federal agencies?

You should begin by looking at three key areas to determine your overall readiness:

Type of Eligible Organization – Is your organization an eligible organization for the specific funding opportunity or specific federal agency you are interested in pursuing? Do you need to collaborate with an eligible lead applicant instead?

Documentation and Capacity – Do you have a strategic plan? Do you have an existing diversified operating budget? Do you have sufficient grant management capacity?

Registration, Policies & Procedures – Do you have your organization’s required registrations completed/updated? Have you reviewed your federal grant management policies and procedures, and are they OMB Uniform Grant Guidance and DATA Act compliant? Have you assembled your grant team?


Looking for more detailed advice about getting started with federal grants? Join us for the live premium webinar of Federal Grants 101: Securing Millions for Your Organization, or if more convenient for your schedule, join us for the on-demand tutorial of Federal Grants 101: Securing Millions for Your Organization here.


If you have questions about how to:

  • Be “grant ready” to be a federal grantee;
  • Identify potential federal grant opportunities prior to a NOFA/FOA being released to allow for pre-planning;
  • Structure and conduct your pre-planning and application development process; or
  • Create and submit a competitive federal funding application

You don’t want to miss Federal Grants 101!

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