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3 Tips for Boosting Your Grant Writing Process

by Kimberly on October 20, 2010 · 5 comments

A couple months ago, a friend of mine was applying for his first grant and asked me for some tips.

I have applied, either by myself or with a team, for about a dozen different grants, some successfully, some not. I’ve applied for a clinical research grant, I’ve applied for seed money to start a pilot program, I’ve applied for money to continue a program, and I’ve applied for money for instruments and other supplies. I’ve applied for grants that were just a couple hundred dollars and I’ve applied for grants that were tens of thousands of dollars.

Based on my experiences, I was able to offer my friend–and I now offer to you–a couple bits of advice when working on your own grant application:

  • Include both quantitative and qualitative data. The people who hold the purse strings need to know that they’re paying for something good. They need numbers, so it will be important to include numbers in your application and report. These can be numbers about money (e.g. was it cost effective?) or numbers about whether what you did worked (e.g. did it lower perceived pain levels?). However, these purse string-holders are also people–and people are driven by emotions. Therefore, in addition to your numbers, it would behoove you to share a story or anecdote of a session that made a difference for a client.
  • Start collecting data. This goes with the first tip about sharing numbers. As soon as possible start collecting data on the clients you are working with. When developing a data-collection system, I always try to start with what that facility needs–is there anything I need to keep track of that either already needs to be tracked for them or that may help their needs? Another option is to look at the grant application, which may outline report and documentation requirements. Finally, if those are a bust, I’ve just sat down and brainstormed what type of data I’d like to be able to show. A good starting place? Collect pre-post data whenever possible, as well as basic demographic data.
  • Stay involved. This is more for people who work with grant writers and/or a team of people applying for a grant. If you are fortunate enough to work with others when writing and submitting grants, stay involved in the process. Keep in mind that the team may not really understand music therapy and what it’s about. For example, one grant I worked with needed a mid-year and a final evaluation, as well as an annual re-application. There was a grant writer who puts all that together–but I always prepared the music therapy-specific information because I was the expert in that area. So  whether you’re a part of the writing process or part of the editing and review process, make sure your voice is heard and you have a say in the material.

Grant-writing is a huge topic and this article covers some very basic tips. If you have any other tips or advice about applying for grants, please share them with all of us by leaving a comment below!

P.S. I am exciting to announce that, based on your feedback and questions over the years, I am (finally!) working on an ebook about starting your own private practice!!! Titled “The Therapy Business Blueprint: A 7-Step Approach to Starting Your Own Private Practice,” it’s purpose is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the steps you’ll need to take to get your private practice up and running. More details to come!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny October 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

The most important tip I can offer is: Follow the rules. If you don’t, you won’t get past a first glance.

Jennifer Sokira October 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I am also with Ginny on that one…read the rules/qualifications yourself a couple of times before starting, especially if you are working with a team. You might catch something in the “rules” that someone missed. A few years ago a grant writer/fundraiser for a foundation asked me to provide several (very long and detailed!) essays and descriptions for a grant application. It wasn’t until after I’d finished my share of the work that my colleague told me they’d re-reviewed the criteria and we couldn’t apply. Definitely frustrating, but I learned from the situation. Thanks for the post Kimberly!

Barbara J. Carlisle February 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

I have composed a music therapy business proposal; but I am not sure what agencies to contact to apply for the grant money. I live in East Lansing, Michigan where the MSU Music Therapy Department was discontinued, recently, due to lack of college funds. They have closed down their music therapy clinic which gives me an opportunity to start up my own private music therapy studio. I have never applied for grants before. Do you have any recommendations of agencies to contact?

Thanks for your help!

Kimberly February 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hello Barbara–Congratulations on this important step! I don’t know the area well enough to be able to suggest certain agencies of type of agencies, but I think it will be important to just start contacting people. I recommend you focus on your intended target audience/market, search through the yellow pages and online, then start contacting the agencies and facilities that serve your target markets. Hope this helps! Best of luck ~Kimberly

Darlene Anderson March 6, 2015 at 6:12 pm

I am a disabled retiree who used to be a professional Jazz vocalist for over 40 years. In the past few years I have seen proof that music is good therapy for the elderly particularly. I have an idea to produce a program but will need grants &/or seed $ to begin, so I am looking for instruction/information, help on how to start – this was a good article is there anything else I can check into ? I am about to advertise for a grant writer to assist once I get information to put together a business plan.

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