Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Success in grant writing - $1MM+

I am proud to share that I coordinated a six week effort to produce all the appropriate paperwork and budget to be successfully awarded and funded by a government grant. If you'd like to read more about this program and what the funding entails, read here. In summary, the grant is for $1,050,000 to develop, disseminate, and implement four clinical practice guidelines on muscular dystrophy. This is really exciting stuff!

So I will be the first to tell you that I'm not a good writer AND I've never written a grant in my life. So what was the secret to success? A few things including the remarkable talent I have on staff and wonderfully passionate physicians. Like any association, when you hit the sweet spot between hard working staff and passionate volunteers, you want to ride that train all day long! Another reason for this success was because of open communication and clear coordination. And finally, a lot of editing and reading. Each night I took the paperwork home and read, reviewed, and edited. I felt like Miranda Priesly in The Devil Wears Prada, reviewing the files each night and making edits. I will let you know I never called a staff person into my office to belittle them and then say "That is all."

I printed and read through the funding announcement 2-3 times making notes each time. I also saved these notes in a public folder on our network so multiple staff had access to them. I also asked myself the following questions: What is required? When is this due? What are my organization's strengths? Weaknesses? Who needs to be involved right now? In a few weeks? Staff? Committee members? My boss and co-workers? CEO and Board Chair?

Instead of sending out the announcement, requirements, and application and asked people to read it, I sent out the requirements calling out a few critical pieces of information and summarized in a 2 paragraph email and meeting invite. I told them who needed to be involved and who was funding this opportunity. I told them what needed to happen and mapped out a timeline. I gave them the network path where all the files were to be kept (I was quite particular with version control and backups, password protecting all documents and making daily backups). I shared with my staff how this project is directly related to the mission and vision of our organization, and I told them how they were to be involved.

In my own mind I knew that 6 weeks would fly by, and they did. I blocked out all open times I had on my schedule for the next six weeks to ensure I would not be pulled into an unnecessary meeting and began to write. I also sent calendar invites to my key staff that would be involved in the review and got firm commitments from them to review, edit, and turn the document around to me. Since I knew that not everyone needed to see the intricacies of the budget, I began to write the narrative first. (I smile thinking back on this because I was limited to 30 pages of single spaced text in the narrative which I thought I'd never come close to). I finished my draft of the narrative and sent it to staff keeping with the deadlines we agreed to do. Then I got into the budget and cranked that out in another two weeks, knowing that my boss, our finance staff, and CFO would need to sign off on it. Once my staff were done reviewing the document and sent me their edits I went through and read them one at a time. Because I was paranoid about version control I didn't let them touch my master document, rather, I took a slightly more inefficient route and emailed them the document, read their changes, then picked and chose what to incorporate into the master document. Then I sent for physician review using the same methods of having them respond via email with edits in their word documents.

Once I received the edits, I reviewed, incorporated and sent out for one more brief review. Concurrently I worked with our CFO and our Controller to ensure the financial pieces fit into place. I'm happy to share that the stars aligned days before the application was due. Not once did I feel rushed or pressured, which would've caused mistakes and frustration. When it was all said and done, I submitted our completed application, including the required narrative and budget, 36 hours before the deadline.

The most important thing I did once this was submitted was made personal face to face visits with the staff in the office and said thank you. I know it certainly went a long way to see them in person over an email. I also made individual phone calls to all our volunteer physicians that worked on this project.

What success stories are you happy to share? If you write grants, what are some of your tips?