Although I have written many proposals together, grant writing is a skill I have picked up over the last few years, partly because I have pursued more and more grant funding for several of my clients. Therefore, I pivoted my proposal writing skills to preparing grant applications. In truth, the two are not that different. In both cases, you determine whether your work/project is appropriate to pursue and whether you meet the requirements. In addition, many grant projects require other conditions, such as hiring, results reporting, and inclusion of volunteer staff. That is why I always approach a grant application as a project, even though I do not necessarily prepare a project management plan. In general, however, I do include a schedule, since grant applications are time sensitive; a risk analysis, since it is crucial to eliminate, or at least minimize, the risks that could lead to the grant application being rejected; and, perhaps most importantly, a stakeholder engagement and management plan, since not only do we have to identify the grant awardees and their expectations but also include the community members and volunteers who will work and benefit from the grant funds.
Grant Management vs. Project Management
Grants in public improvement projects are a bit more challenging because you are trying to execute the construction work and raise funds (sometimes 100% of them) to carry out the work. However, although this may seem like an extra and sometimes difficult step to have in project work, it helps to feel more invested in the work. When raising the project funding, you need to have an even more detailed understanding of the design and construction costs associated with public works projects, for example. And there is a higher level of accountability since the project manager agrees to the budget from the start when s/he determines the amount of funding to pursue in the grant and ancillary donations.’
We have been awarded a large grant to build a park and are pursuing another grant for additional watershed management projects. In both cases, we made a point to contact the awarding agencies ahead of time to ensure that our project met the grant’s requirements. Additionally, meeting with the awarding agencies gives us a better understanding of their expectations, which we can highlight in the grant. And although grant awards must be very fair and transparent, meeting with the decision-makers in the application process is appropriate as long as the information collected is available to all interested parties. Therefore, communication is paramount and also another component of effective project management. And even though writing a grant may just be considered in most cases to be a part of a project plan, we recommend that a grant application be made as a standalone project ahead of the actual project for which the grant is requested.