Part of what makes grant writing so time consuming and frustrating is that no two applications are alike.
While the information each application requests is similar, they often require it to fit within a mold they’ve created. However, there are several core areas you can count on to be present somewhere in the application, and each of these areas can give you a competitive edge if you know what the grant reviewers are looking for. Having been on all sides of a grant application process, I’ve identified seven core areas to focus on and how you can construct a digital project to gain a competitive advantage in each.
The 7 Core Areas for a Fundable Digital Project
These 7 core areas are critical to successfully constructing a fundable digital project:
- Match Scope for Scope
- Show Your Work (Research and Test)
- Identify Every Activity
- Create a Timeline
- Assemble a Team
- Budget Realistically
- Commit to Compelling Outcomes
Match Scope for Scope
All granting agencies and foundation have a mission that guides their work and a set of criteria they use to identify eligible project. It is your job as the applicant to demonstrate in the application how your proposed project is aligned to their funding mission. If your application isn’t clear in how your project is relevant to the funder then it will be removed from further consideration.
Show Your Work (Research and Test)
Digital projects are inherently technical and a good portion of our work in this area can be to establish new work flows, innovate on available tools, and test out new equipment. Most funding opportunities won’t require a guarantee that the workflow, tool, or equipment will work exactly as conceived. However, they will require that you show what research, reading, and testing you’ve done to establish that the project is at least viable.
Identify Every Activity
Identify every activity, every task per activity, who will perform the activity, and how long it will take. If you’ve never done this type of project before then the research work you performed in the previous section can provide helpful examples and data points to play with. It’s OK if you don’t conceive of every activity, but I encourage you to be as inclusive as possible as each activity will take time and resources.
Create a Timeline
With each activity identified from the previous section, it’s now time to assign an estimated duration for each. Do the math and calculate how long each activity should take and construct a timeline from this information.
Assemble a Team
Identify the personnel, contractors, and specialists who will be required to execute the digital project successfully. Large or small, the team you assemble should collectively have all the knowledge and experience you need to conduct the project successfully. This can be done in a few different ways, depending on your need. For example:
- If you need more capacity to conduct the project work then hire a project-specific contractor.
- If you need expertise or consultation, then consider working with one or more consultants on those areas of specialty.
- If you need more generalized support and counsel, sometimes a volunteer advisory board can meet your needs.
No matter which you choose to include, be sure to outline how they will be included in project activities and account for them in the budget.
Working with real, or as close to real numbers is a must. Most reviewers will know enough about our work to know that digital projects are expensive. The budget you create will make it very clear to the reviewers just how well you understand the project. Research, ask colleagues, gather prices, and where possible and appropriate: bids. Then, calculate the total budget and make sure it’s appropriately sized. More on this in our next post.
Commit to Compelling Outcomes
Finally, list the deliverables (products) and outcomes that will result from successful project completion. The larger the award request, the more impressive the list should be. The Return on Investment (ROI) needs to be undeniable regardless of it can be measured quantitative or qualitatively.
No matter the grant, these core areas should always be considered when crafting a grant application. Museum digital projects can be complex due to their dual nature of requiring collection expertise as well as technology expertise. With that in mind, it’s especially important to be as clear as possible in addressing each area to ensure the reviewers understand and to demonstrate your ability to complete the project successfully.
Additional Reading Available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “How to Fund Your Next Museum Digital Project” on April 27 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And remember to check out Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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