Do you remember the time when you needed to write your first research paper in MLA or APA format? The long list of guidelines, including properly formed in-text citations and a References or Works Cited page, seemed like learning a new language. The same holds true when approaching an RFP (Request for Proposal) and writing a grant proposal. Unfortunately with grants, most of us are in the dark without guidance. I am here to say, don’t give up.
Get Familiar with the Grant Writing Process and Terms
Take free online courses, such as the ones offered by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Grants and Proposal Writing course (Note: you do not have to be a medical librarian to take advantage of this free course) or WebJunction’s archived webinar – Winning Library Grants presented by Stephanie Gerding. Read a few books from the American Library Association (ALA). Browse the list below. This is a sure way to begin to demystify the topic.
Change the Free Money, Shopping Spree Thinking
I have failed at grant writing many times because I started writing a list of “toys” I wanted. I would begin browsing stores online and pictured awesome technology I wanted. Surely my patrons would enjoy them too. I never thought, will my patrons need this technology? Will they use it? As MacKellar & Gerding state in their books, funders want to help people. Learning about the community you serve is step one before you start your shopping list or even writing your grant proposal.
Write Your Proposal in Non-Expert, Jargon-Free, Lay Language
Some professionals may have the tendency, as they excitedly share their project, to go into tech vocabulary. This is a sure way to lose some of the grant planning or awarding committee members who may not be familiar with tech terms or a particular area of technology. Be mindful of the words you use to explain your technology needs. The main goal of a proposal is to make all parties feel included and a part of the game plan.
Start Small and Form Partnerships
To remove the daunting feeling you may have of writing a proposal, find community partners or colleagues that can assist in making the process enjoyable. For example, a library can participate in grant proposals spawned by others. What better way to represent our profession than to become the researcher for a grant group. Research is our secret weapon. The master researcher for the grant may add some items that help fund library equipment, staff, or materials in support of the project request. It may not be a grant proposal from the library, but a component may help the library in support of that initiative. Another idea is to divide the grant proposal process into sections or phases among staff members. As you know, each of us have strengths that fit into a phase of a grant proposal. Tap into those strengths and divide the work needed to get that funding.
Create SMART Outcomes and Objectives
Ensure that outcomes and objectives are SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. How will you know if the project is succeeding or has been a success? Also, it is helpful to see how your technology grant request correlates with your library’s and/or institution’s technology plan.
Grants are a great way to receive recognition from peers, administration, and the community you serve. For those in academia, this is a wonderful way to grow as a professional, add to your curriculum vitae and collect evidence towards a future promotion. It can even become enjoyable. Once you mastered writing MLA or APA papers, didn’t you want to write more papers? Come to think of it, forget about my research paper and grant writing analogy.
Find future posts on technology grant writing tips on our LITA blog.