To Win Grants, Know Your Field

To plan a good program and make a convincing case for funding, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. “Without a solid grounding in your field, it’s easy to recreate wheels, propose approaches that have proven to be futile, and show up at the back of the curve instead of on the cutting edge,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

You don’t need to be a take-it-to-the mat subject matter expert, but you do need an understanding of current theories, data, and discussions. You also need some understanding of the past — where the field has been and how it’s moved forward. To be effective, you need to understand where the backwaters and frontlines are.

“Think of this task as self-education, professional development, or simply preparation for the job,” said Floersch. “Your goal is to become well informed and to stay current.”

There’s not a roadmap for this process, so you’ll have to set your own course. Give it thought, then dig in. Talk to experts and ask them what to read, what data sources to examine, and with whom else you should speak. Visit the websites of government agencies, think tanks, and national organizations to find bibliographies, evaluation reports, the names of experts, and the names of respected publications. Explore academic journals. Join state and national associations to connect with others in the field and tune-in to current conversations.

Your understanding of issues from a national and state perspective will provide context, help you interpret what’s happening locally, and give you credibility. “But focus on your home turf,” said Floersch. “When you plan programs, rally the community, and work with funders, a deep understanding of what’s happening locally counts most.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center