The Complete Idiot's Guide series appeals to readers who want to understand the basics of a subject without being overwhelmed by too much information or undermined by industry jargon. But don't assume The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing is for dummies — rather, it takes a simple, straightforward approach to the subject and includes material that will benefit even experienced grant writers.
Author Waddy Thompson, director of external affairs for the New York Foundation for the Arts, has over twenty years' experience as a fundraising professional. With an emphasis on the importance of individual relationships, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing lays out the entire process, from identifying funding prospects, to managing contacts and writing the proposal, to dealing with rejection.
For the novice grant writer, section one, "Getting Started," provides a valuable overview of the topic, the various kinds of grants out there (project support, operating support, capital support, and challenge grants), and how you or your organization might qualify for them. Part two, "Where the Money Is," includes in-depth primers on various types of funders (foundations, corporate givers, government agencies, and individual donors) and explains how they are alike and differ. In section three, "Research, or Just How Nosy are You?," Thompson explains why prospect research is crucial in determining which funders' interests and needs match those of your organization — and why it's important. Before you approach a potential funder, however, it's a good idea to introduce your organization to the appropriate contact(s) — the first step in the all-important cultivation process outlined in part four, "Strategies for Success."
Among other things, Thompson stresses the importance of the relationship between the grant writer and the person who runs the program for which funding is being sought — not least because the program director's input is essential to understanding who the program serves and what it hopes to accomplish. That advice kicks off section five, "Writing the Proposal," which explains how to tailor your proposal to match a funder's specific interests, how to create a budget, how to personalize cover letters, and what to include — and not to include — with your proposal. This section also offers advice on details that may seem superficial but could make or break your proposal, including the use of jargon, submitting your proposal early rather than waiting for the deadline, and following, to the letter, each funder's instructions for submitting a proposal.
The last section of the book, "Everything Else You Need to Know," describes how to proceed after your proposal has been accepted or rejected, while reminding the reader that the cultivation of funders never stops. It also features a special chapter for individual grant seekers. The final chapter of the book condenses all six parts into one fast-paced grant-writing guide.
Although brimming with information, the layout of the book contributes to a brisk pace. Cartoons by Shannon Wheeler precede each of the six parts, hitting the funny bone as they set up the next lesson, and additional tips ("Philanthropy Facts," "Words to the Wise," "Definitions," and "How to Say It") appear throughout the text. A series of appendices at the end of the book includes helpful lists of online and offline resources, sample grant proposals, and a glossary, while even more information is provided on the enclosed CD-ROM, including worksheets that can help you organize your time and a program that assists in calculating budget costs.
A fun and informative read from first chapter to last, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grant Writing is also an invaluable reference tool for grant writers of any experience level. And even if you begin the book thinking you're a complete idiot about the subject, you'll finish it feeling like an industry insider!