Grant Proposal Writing
Session 6 will cover these items: transferability of the project outcomes, dissemination, budget, and your role in the process. In this session we will explore the ways that the successful results of your project can be shared with others. We will also build a budget that contains some extra money for you.
Granting agencies want to see you get maximum results from their money. Is your project one that will become a model for other institutions? Show genuine concern for the "transferability" issue by considering how other institutions or programs can either adopt or adapt your project's models, techniques, or products.
Convince the granting agency that if you receive their money, you will be able to help rectify the industry-wide problem that your proposal identies. That is called TRANSFERABILITY.
As an example, for the Distance Learning Institute that I previously mentioned, one of the project objectives was to design a start-up manual for the faculty participants. Each participant took a set of 20 copies back to their respective community colleges in order to implement their own Distance Learning Institutes. That is transferabilty AND dissemination.
You have addressed WHO will benefit from information about your project, now you need to address HOW this information will be distributed. Dissemination of your project will be characterized by your organizations' communication resources and methods.
You need to design a marketing strategy that will makeyour plan available to other institutions. how will this happen? When will this happen? How much will it cost? Here are some ideas.
* Send a press release to various newspapers;
* Send an article to trade newsletters;
* Place the final report on your web site;
* Write about your program in a specified listserve on the Internet;
* Present a project-related workshop at a conference that you plan to attend (however, don't expect the grant to pay for your workshop attendance);
* Present a workshop at a staff development meeting at your organization;
* Send a copy of the final report to your state-wide counterparts (If your dissemination plan requires that a copy be sent to all your state counterparts, build this cost into your proposal budget).
When word gets out about your success, requests for copies will continue for months. Consider the ramifications of disseminating your final report AFTER the funding ends. Prearrange for covering the costs of printing and mailing your document. For instance, in the past I have made arrangements with my college's book store to accept checks for document requests, to arrange for necessary duplication, and to handle the mailing.
Most granting agencies require a final report, and you can write yourself into the proposal as the person responsible for it. This document often is the only tangible evidence of your project that the grantor receives. Judgments from those outside your organization are frequently based on the final report, as are your institution's prospects of receiving future grants. Do a good job!
Building the budget is the topic that the proposal novice fears the most. An experienced proposal writer knows that the budget is an "operational" statement of the project stated in monetary terms. Developing a good project idea with a realistic implementation plan is the hard part. The rest is easy if you can find someone who knows the costs of such essentials as clerical staff, video tapes, computers, etc. Make friends with someone in Accounting or Purchasing.
Take comfort in the fact that the budget you submit is not necessarily final. It is often subject to negotiation after the decision has been made to support the project. In negotiation, the total may go up or down (usually down). The grantor wants the proposal writer to have enough money to realize projected goals, and project amendments can be made if an adequate reason is given and the funds are available. There are limits placed on the size of amendments that staff can negotiate without having to submit a new proposal. For instance, a granting agency may allow up to 10 percent of the total budget to vary from one line item to another without asking for permission. The maximum amounts of amendments vary, so it is important to be aware of your agency's limits in advance. (These limits are usually small compared to the average size of the grant.)
At the end of a project, you may be able to negotiate "carry-over" funds that extend into the next fiscal year. You can also formally request a carry-over if circumstances beyond your control prevent you from accomplishing your objectives. This request may not be approved, but it provides a potential safety net if you need it.
MATCHING OR "IN-KIND" FUNDS
Many people panic when the RFP requires matching funds. They assume that matching funds are requirements for real case to match dollar-for-dollar the amount of the funds requested. Not so! Here are various ways to meet the matching funds requirement.
* PERSONNEL COSTS: Time spent by indivdiuals who are working with the project but who are not being paid by the grant. Such indivdiuals are administrators or clerical and duplicating staff. (Don't forget the lesson of the overly generous adminsitrator I discussed in the Project Management session.) You can also include the time spent by your advisory committee members.
* EQUIPMENT: Special equipment that will be accessible to individuals on this project, thereby saving the grant from buying equipment for short-term use.
* SITE: A location to be used specifically for the grant. I have written a couple of proposals for vocational faculty to obtain summertime internships at their respective business and industrial sites. These sites and the accompanying equipment and personnel add up quickly. Keep in mind, however, that the operating costs of your own work environment are part of the anticipated project overhead.
* PARTNERSHIPS WITH BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY: This is ideal matching funding. Establishing a relationship with an entity that will provide equipment, training, or a site for your special project impresses a grantor.
* ANOTHER GRANT: Yes, this is acceptable. If you have already received a grant that has given you funds to complete Part A of a project, you can ask for funds to pursue Part B. Be careful NOT to request (or even APPEAR TO REQUEST) funds for an ongoing program. This is the kiss of death!
Don't hesitate to ask your administration for some ideas for matching funds. If your organization has written grants in the past, they should be able to help you find solutions.
BUILDING THE BUDGET
I build a budget "upside down"; I start at the bottom line and work back up to the top. An efficient way to do this is with an Excel work sheet.
I begin on the bottom line (or the maximum allowable request). If the maximum amount you can ask for is $50,000, request that amount if you can use it. Don't sell your program short. Chose a space on your spreadsheet about 20 lines down and 4 columns in and input $50,000.
Next, check to see if the RFP allows an indirect support cost. Sometimes an allowance of 4 to 10 percent is permissible. If that is the case, deduct that amount on line 19. What remains is a subtotal on line 18. The indirect percentage pays your overhead. Your financial office generally uses this money to pay utility costs, phone bills, and accounting expenses.
The subtotal on line 18 now gives you the bottom line for your project. If is imparative that you consider any outside costs NOW. Are you going to hire consultants? If so, subtract those "hard cost" or committed cost from the subtotal.
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
Allowable equipment expenditures come next. Be absolutely sure to include ALL expenses with their EXACT costs. Remember incidental costs such as the connecting cables, security devices, software, installation fees, manuals, disks, and print cartridges that are part of a computer purchase.
Supplies and materials come after equipment. The difference between "equipment" and "supplies" can be rather subtle depending on yor organization's accounting procedures and the grantor's guidelines. The USOE (US Office of Education) states that supplies are items purchased under $5,000. Some colleges regard purchases over $200 as equipment. Just be consistent with the definitions approved by the financial department at your institution.
Be generous in your supply estimate so that the cost of disseminating the final report will be covered. Contact a printing company or your duplicating department for an exact figure for your printing expenditure. Don't forget to include all the components of the duplication process such as paper, collating, stapling, binding, printing, and mailing.
I usually compute the personnel costs last. You will find you have a little more flexibility here because you are dealing with employee time and benefits rather than materials. After you deduct the costs we have already discussed, ask Human Resources for benefit information. You may be surprised at the real cost of employee benefits. Currently, I use a round number of 30 percent for faculty and 50 percent for support (clerical) staff. If you are working with a spreadhseet, you can build in the benefit percentages to help you calculate how much is left for hourly wages.
I divide the remaining amount by a typical hourly wage. I then know how many hours are left. This probably sounds as if I am doing the process backwards, and that is correct. Next I go to the folks to be involved and say, "I can pay you $X to be involved with this grant for a year. What do you think?" The number of people I end up with varies according to the personnel required for the project.
That's how a budget is built!
BUDGET DETAIL SHEETS
You are often asked to provide budget detail sheets to show how you arrived at your numbers. Here is an example of what I may write.
Supervisor salaries: Researcher @ $50 per hour x 10 hours = $500.
Faculty salaries: 5 faculty @ 2 hours @ $60 per hour x 100 hours = $6,000.
How did I come up with numbers such as 2 hours or 10 hours? Be developing the budget backwards, you end up with a number which may or may not be the actual hours to be worked.
Involvement in the grant proposal writing process can be rewarding in many ways. If you want, it can also mean some extra money for yourself.
My former job description included proposal writing, so I could not be paid for writing the the proposals. When I moved to a management position, I was prohibited from accepting payment for any supplemental task. However, when I was a faculty member, I wrote proposals as part of a team (team members often receive compensation for their participation in a project). As a proposal team member, I requested jobs that sometimes did not appeal to the others: writing the final report, compiling a manual, managing the dissemination effort, or participating in activities.
If your job description does not include proposal writing, you can write yourself into the process as the Project or Grant Manager. It is considered a conflict of interest to receive grant funding for a task that obligates you to complete it during work hours. If you will be the Grant Manager, demonstrate in the proposal text that your participation will take place outside your normal work load.
As an example, one proposal at my institution involved a team of colleagues who compiled over a thousand teaching stragegies that had been submitted by faculty members. We designed the proposal to allow us to work on the compilation during semester breaks. We received payment and experienced quality interaction without interrupting our work schedules.
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Distance Education office at Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa, CA USA
Last updated: 19:00 on 1 March 2005
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