Grantwriting help.
January 14, 2010 6:00 PM   Subscribe

How much can I cut-and-paste from last year's grant proposals?

I work at a small heritage sector NPO that runs a historic site. It's my job to apply for operating and programming grants, as well as getting the funding to hire summer staff. I didn't work here this time last year, so this is my first time applying for these particular grants. I'm in eastern Canada, FWIW.

Our organization applies for these grants annually and their applications are almost always successful. One of our board members is going to sit down and go over the applications with me before they're due, so that's a big weight off for me.

I have copies of previous years' applications and have been using them as a reference. So how much can I pillage from those? They follow a pretty straightforward format and a lot of the sections on the applications (ie. job descriptions for summer staff) do not really change from year to year. Is it acceptable to just cut-and-paste from parts of previous (successful) applications and edit a bit?
posted by futureisunwritten to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have copies of previous years' applications and have been using them as a reference. So how much can I pillage from those?

About as much as they pillage from each other, I would suggest.
posted by flabdablet at 6:26 PM on January 14, 2010


You should just recycle (cut and paste) from previous grant proposals.

If any numbers of changed (if you've done more things or have experienced more success doing some quantifiable that was discussed in a proposal from the previous year) change the numbers in the boilerplate.

Your executive summary should be somewhat new. It should talk about all of the great things you have done because of last year's funding. If there have been positive changes that you can quantify, list them in the summary.

Review this year's proposal documentation and make sure that you hit all of the key messages and requirements of the funder, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:07 PM on January 14, 2010


Pillage away; we do it all the time. Check to make sure you update any dates/numbers with the new information; make sure the most recent year's highlights replace last years; and check to make sure that you are still hitting the high points of the funders key priorities and investment areas.
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:17 PM on January 14, 2010


As much as humanly possible. Why reinvent the wheel? Especially if the proposal was successful the last time around...I am always scared to change something to our detriment!
posted by Pomo at 7:22 PM on January 14, 2010


Almost all of it. You should update it to account for changes, but the basic document of a grant application (especially a successful one) is usually the same from year to year.
posted by OmieWise at 7:30 PM on January 14, 2010


Make sure the applications are the same or similar (it would suck to miss new info they want from you because you are relying on last year's applications) and pillage away.

If you are applying for the same grants from year to year, the granters are going to want to know that the money they have already given you wasn't wasted. In the section where you prove you are the right org to do the job (or whatever is relevant in your field) talk about how "last year we received XXX to do XXX. We were able to use this grant to train XXX participants/tour XXX groups or XXX individuals/ hire a person who contributed in all these amazing ways." That stuff should all be new with your most recent stats.

Who you are and job descriptions, though? Recycle!
posted by arcticwoman at 7:31 PM on January 14, 2010


Just nthing that pillaging is totally ok, generally. My first year as a grant writer I did it A LOT. I do it less now, partly because I get bored at my job so sometimes I start fresh for the fuck of it, or sometimes I want to experiment with new proposal strategies etc. But in general, it's fine.

Obvs make sure dates, foundation names, and the like are changed appropriate. From experience, I encourage you to check this about 37 times before you mail.

Now all of that being said, there is something to be said for coming at the proposal with a new voice, a fresh and renewed sense of interest, eloquence and ideas. You're the grant writer now! You get to be a little creative. This will sound cheesy, but a really convincing proposal will, while being formal and such, sound as though it comes from the *heart,* and that can be tricky if you're using really stale copy. Even though your constituents will probably continue to support you anyway - as you mentioned - it's still nice to keep them on their toes and reassure them you don't take them for granted. They get bored of reading these things, and seeing something fresh, new, creative that isn't the old language and structure they're used to keeps them interested, ensures that they know you are staying relevant, and that your organization is always moving forward and not just maintaining the status quo. You may think that, because they are loyal supporters, they don't really care that much about the proposal - and they might not, though you might be surprised how many of them do. For a lot of family foundations especially, making grants might be their sole occupation and passion, and putting in the effort to continually revise and rethink your proposal - and tacitly your organization and mission - can really mean a lot to them.

I would also encourage you to really look at what you're trying to get funded - even if it's just general op - and how the landscape of that project and your role as an org has changed in the past year. A lot has happened, economy and otherwise, in the past year, and a little tweaking to really make your proposal relevant to the now can make a good proposal a really great one. You're going to be competing for funds potentially with basic needs orgs - the food bank, the family shelter, etc., - and that can be stiff competition (hate to phrase it that way) for a cultural org. Showing in your proposal how, even when so many people's basic needs aren't being met because of the economy, your cultural organization is still relevant, vital, purposeful in the context of 2010 may do you wonders.

Once I got a bit more confident and got to know my org better, I was appalled at some of the old writing I copied and pasted into new proposals. Just because it's old and has worked in the past doesn't mean it's any good. YMMV.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:40 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do this all the time...no reason to reinvent the wheel if the program descriptions, needs assessment, staffing descriptions, etc are all still accurate.

I do update any numbers, evaluations, etc. I also make an effort to do some re-wording where possible...I try not to get complacent about RFP's like this.

If you KNOW that the same person is reviewing the proposal as last year, make sure that you've done some updating...

If this is for a DIFFERENT funding source than the original that you're cutting and pasting from, be VERY careful to make the necessary changes to make it specific to the NEW source.

good luck.
posted by HuronBob at 7:40 PM on January 14, 2010


If you are applying for the same grants from year to year, the granters are going to want to know that the money they have already given you wasn't wasted. In the section where you prove you are the right org to do the job (or whatever is relevant in your field) talk about how "last year we received XXX to do XXX. We were able to use this grant to train XXX participants/tour XXX groups or XXX individuals/ hire a person who contributed in all these amazing ways." That stuff should all be new with your most recent stats.

On a side note about this - a BRIEF recap of this sort of thing is sometimes OK to put in the new proposal. However, almost always that should be included in an in-depth report to your funder BEFORE submitting a new proposal. You should send a report even if they don't explicitly ask for it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:42 PM on January 14, 2010


Awesome - thanks everybody! I had sort of suspected as much (cut-and-paste but don't forget to edit and highlight the past year's activities and spruce 'er up as much as I can). Our final reports are normally due with the new applications; in a few other cases, they're already finished.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:17 AM on January 15, 2010


I've been on the other side of the equation, evaluating grant proposals. Cut and paste where reasonable, but don't skimp on updating when needed. When a proposal focuses too much on old results and accomplishments, or (depending on how fast your field changes) includes older background material, it reflects very poorly on your program.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:45 AM on January 15, 2010


« Older Is US Bank any good?   |   What causes intermittent blurry vision? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.