3 Easy Steps to Write the Perfect Grant Application

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For many people — especially those new to grants — the thought of actually sitting down to write an application is frightening. After all, you’re really a police officer — or administrative assistant or financial expert — and writing just isn’t your thing.

The bad news is you will probably have to work a little harder at it than someone who is first and foremost a writer. The good news is you can, in fact, write a great grant application if you apply yourself.

Most grant applications these days don’t require 20 pages of narrative — they typically have word-limited sections to fill in. For some, that makes it easier to write, but it also means you need to make each word count by being clear and concise.

Just don’t let it overwhelm you, and keep in the back of your mind that your application will not be judged by how technically and creatively it is written, but by the quality of the project — and how well you are able to relay the information.

So, just how should you go about this daunting task? Follow these three easy steps for writing a perfect law enforcement grant application.

1. Gather Your Information

This is the most important step in the entire process. If you have made the decision to apply for a grant, you should already have most of what you need for each of the sections of the application. Here is what you need:

  • The need statement (the problem you are trying to solve).
  • The project narrative (what you will do and the expected outcomes).
  • The budget (what you will buy and the narrative describing each item and its value to the project).

While you are in the decision-making process, make note of any additional information that will be asked for in the application. This could include crime stats, UCR numbers or any fiscal issues that make it unlikely you can afford this on your own. Have this on hand to assist you in writing the narratives.

2. Start Writing Grant Application Components

Obviously, you don’t want to start the longer narratives at the last minute. This part of the process is where you will find those gaps that need answers, so give yourself time to finish it before the deadline.

Use a Microsoft Word document, Google doc, or a similar word-processing program to begin. You don’t want to do your initial writing within an online application. Put in everything you have. Then check the length against the requirements and ensure you have answered all of the questions for the section.

3. Review, Edit and Submit

There’s an old adage, “There is no good writing, just good rewriting.” Once you have all of the narratives complete, have several people not involved with the project read them. Don’t give them any additional information since the idea is to make sure your application is clear and complete. Once they have read the narratives, ask them what the problem is, how you are planning to solve it, and what you need to be paid for to accomplish the goals. If clarification is needed, ask how you could better address the issue to make it more obvious to a reader.

The bad news is that you will probably have to work a little harder at it than someone who is first and foremost a writer. The good news is that you can, in fact, write a great grant application if you apply yourself.

Do each section as a document, fully edited as detailed above, before you cut-and-paste into the online application. You can make changes at this point, but you don’t want to be making huge edits after the application is started.

You truly don’t have to be a great writer to submit a successful police grant application, but you do need to be able to write well enough that the reviewer can visualize your project — the why, the how, and the outcomes. Don’t make the reviewers wonder what you mean, show them.

This article, originally published November 19, 2014, has been updated.

Linda Gilbertson

Linda Gilbertson is a Grant Professional with more than 15 years of experience writing and managing grants for both non-profit and government agencies. She has 12 years of law enforcement-related experience in grant writing, grant management, crime analysis, and research. She has been responsible for the acquisition of millions of dollars in federal, state and local grants during her career. Linda is also an award-winning journalist and has worked extensively with non-profit organizations in public relations and community education.

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