Before I started writing grants, I thought all of them were similar in style to long essays where you go through the parts of your project just as you would a research paper. While there may be one or two like this, the vast majority are not; this is great for me as I have enough lingering nightmares about scrambling to finish monstrous papers left over from college to last me a lifetime. Most grants are much more akin to a short answer test mixed with a group project and while they can be difficult, I don’t believe they will cause me nightmares anytime soon.
Grants typically consist of a series of questions, each with their own purpose and character length restriction. Often a grant starts by asking for the overall scope of the project. This question, in my opinion, can be the easiest or the hardest depending on the project. Sometimes the project, like the grant for Bootleg Bucha (see my previous post “Brewing with Bootleg” for more details!) forms its own narrative; telling its own story about why it is important. Other times, for more technical projects such as Ellicottville’s grant on creating a joint engineering office for the Town and Village, it can be difficult. I believe this is because people can strongly connect to emotional, people-driven narratives (Bootleg Bucha), while more dry ones (Ellicottville) take more work to ensure that the uniqueness and importance of the project shines through. Don’t get me wrong; just because a project may seem dry, does not make it any less important.
As the grant continues, the questions evolve pertaining to the budget, timeline, approach you are taking, overall benefit of being funded, and how the approach you are taking is innovative, etc. With each question, you are tasked with highlighting different aspects of the project and explaining exactly why the project should be a priority to those reading. These questions seem as though they would be easy to answer, if you had all the information in your own head like you would for a short answer test. However, more often than not, many of those details are locked up in the heads of your clients and partners on the project and it is my job to ask the correct and specific questions to obtain answers, while not bugging everyone too much. Sometimes it does feel as though I am pestering people for these details, but with each budget, visual or statistic included, the narrative comes further to life. Each tidbit of information helps to add vibrant colors to a picture that was once black and white.
Once all questions are answered and the narrative complete, the marathon is almost over. Often there is one last sprint to gather letters of supports, complete small changes, obtain necessary approvals and finalize documents or attachments. Despite our best efforts and planning, this always seems to happen at the last minute. Perhaps it is the nature of the grant realm, or perhaps it is because of my perfectionist nature; I often want to make sure everything is perfect and this means endlessly tweaking the grant. Or it could simply be that pushing that big, scary “Submit” button is overwhelming, so I stare at it for at least 10 minute gathering the courage to hit it. Either way, I am happy when each grant is done, and look forward to finding the next grant and starting the process over again.