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Preparing Now to Preserve the Past

Nine Grant Tips to Prepare Your Organization Now to Preserve Your Historic Treasure Later

by Kirsten

*This is the second in a blog series on historic renovation and preservation projects*

An ancient tapestry is unexpectedly donated to your organization.  An inspection found the walls of your historic building have compromising water intrusion.  You could welcome new programs and visitors if only you have the funding to renovate a blacksmith shop.

In each case, a strategic grants strategy could benefit your organization and preserve valued historic treasures.  But how can your organization be successful in a highly competitive post-pandemic funding landscape?

The fundamentals of good grant writing – determining what grants are the best fit, telling a compelling story, and creating sensible metrics – haven’t changed. But, in this new reality, there are new values, which can work for you, coupled with often condensed time frames.

Grant writing has become a bit like the TV show “Project Runway” – complex tasks that typically take months of thoughtful planning are due in an impossible time frame and judged against highly qualified competitors by a team of experts – and with tens of thousands of dollars at risk.

But what’s at stake isn’t just money. What’s at stake is our heritage, our ancestral stories, and their emblems– the architecture, the arts, the crafts, the tools, the weapons, the writings. Awarded money, coupled with the right expertise and application, can preserve those stories for generations.

So, what makes a successful grant proposal in this funding landscape?

The truth is that funding isn’t always awarded to the organization with the most historically significant project, the biggest impact, or the best and most sustainable solutions. Funding often is awarded to the organization that is simply the most prepared.

Ghost Writer has compiled a list of tasks you can complete now to ensure your organization has a competitive advantage.

  1. Register for SAM, UEI, and SAMS and UEI numbers are typically required for any federal funding, regardless of what entity is administering the grants locally. UEI replaced the long-standing DUNS system several years ago, so ensure you have the newer UEI. A account is needed to apply for direct federal funding. Do not wait until the need arises before obtaining such numbers and accounts. The processes are time-consuming, require a good deal of information, involve approval from multiple federal agencies, and are not intuitive for new users. Please note: registration for all three is FREE. Companies often advertise for these services, implying that there is a fee for registration.

  2. Create and maintain an organizational grants toolbox. Collect commonly requested organizational items in a central location accessible to anyone who might need them. We suggest including your 501(c)(3) determination letter; Form 990 or other business tax returns; organizational budget; audited financials; state business registration and licensing; articles of incorporation; bylaws, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code; a list of board members and/or owners and their affiliations; a portfolio of services and programs; corporate structure; and demographics about your clients and service area. Historic properties should have copies of historic designations. If you have specific programs for which you are seeking funding, include program information, budget, metrics and outcomes. Click here for Ghost Writer’s Toolbox download

  3. Use technology to stay up to date. Sign up for email updates and push notifications or set Google alerts to stay updated on opportunities. Contact your local municipalities and community foundations to ensure you are on their distribution lists for upcoming grant opportunities. Join the Ghost Writer’s email list. In a competitive environment, a lead time of even one day will make a difference. 

  4. Direct your energies carefully. Organizations, especially those new to grant writing, have a tendency to overestimate their chances of success, underestimate the importance of meeting grant qualifications, and misunderstand contextual language. In our experience, this is due to wonderful organizations truly believing in their mission and hoping others who hear of their good works will “bend the rules.” For most grantors, applications that do not meet qualifications are not even considered. Put your energy into opportunities for which you are objectively qualified and for which your organization is a natural fit.

  5. Read every word. NOFOs (Notices of Funding Opportunities) and guidelines can be robust, with state and federal funding guidelines consuming more than 100 pages. Read every word. Preview the application if possible, and review evaluations and reporting requirements if available. Take time to review past recipients. While time-consuming, this is a vital step to evaluating your organization's qualifications and readiness; predicting project or program fit; and developing a plan of action to complete the grant proposal on time.

  6. Start with what you need from others. As you assess the workload to complete the grant proposal, highlight what you need from others, such as budgets or financials from other departments, registrations from other entities and letters of support.

  7. Do your homework. Before seeking grants, you should have plans, estimates, quotes, or historic surveys in place. The need should drive the grant-seeking, rather than the grant-seeking driving the need. Obtaining plans, quotes, etc. can be time-consuming, especially for specific skill sets like historic restoration, ironwork, or theatre renovations. Get quotes with and without prevailing wage. Many public funding streams will require prevailing wages.

  8. Build your fundraising capacity. Grant writing and fundraising do not work well as an ‘other duties as assigned.’ Formally build capacity internally or externally with a service like Ghost Writer. There is a great deal of time invested in effectively researching, building strategy, preparing for, writing, submitting, and reporting. Well-done it will produce impressive returns on investment. Poorly done, it will headaches and strained relationships with funders, and impede progress.

  9. Protect your investment. Consider insurance implications to protect the asset and your organization from liability throughout the project, whether it be an invaluable tapestry or a building project. Click here for an insightful article about insurance considerations for renovations.


Feeling overwhelmed by the process? We can help.

Ghost Writer puts a entire team of professionals, from researchers to writers to editors to graphics designers at your service for less than the price of hiring one person. Click here to see some of our successes, capabilities statement, and to contact us for more information.


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