Winter 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA5

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Grantsmanship - Third Wave Skills for the 80's

Knowing where and how to secure funding.

Linda A. Wilson
Extension Coordinator-Grant Coordinator
Cooperative Extension Service
Iowa State University

The 1980's is a decade of financial uncertainty for governmental agencies. Extension is no exception. Salary freezes, cutbacks in state funding, and salary savings through open staff positions force us to manage with fewer resources. The development and delivery of Extension educational programs today require us to actively seek outside sources of funding.

Toffler, in The Third Wave, suggests that people in our "information based society" will need to retrain with new job skills each decade in the future.1 Jenkins further points to developing new job skills of Extension personnel as a means of "managing with less."2 We must begin by thinking of grantsmanship, the skills of finding, obtaining, and managing money from external sources, as part of the regular program development process. In short, grantsmanship is one of new job "skills" needed by Extension personnel in the 80's.

Most of us are familiar with elements of proposal preparation. These include identifying needs, planning methods to meet needs, evaluating program efforts, and writing summary reports. However, grantsmanship also involves areas of expertise that are foreign to many Extension personnel-the identification of funding sources, the ability to write proposals effectively, and the management of external funds.

One Extension area's experience in a new program effort in southwest Iowa shows how grantsmanship fits into the program development process. Staff learned some basic steps to follow in good grantsmanship and, by following these steps, they were able to deal positively with the problem of fiscal restraint.

Program Planning

Eight counties in the Creston Iowa Extension Area identified citizenship, peer pressures, and substance abuse prevention as youth needs, on which the 4-H and youth program should focus during the next four years. Local community groups and public agencies were also addressing the problems of rural crime and substance abuse. In addition, Extension staff identified audience expansion as a priority need of the 4-H and youth program. The challenge was to meet the varied needs in cooperation with other agencies such as schools, local law enforcement, Iowa Highway Patrol, and local rural crime committees.

The Extension staff proposed a four year interagency project, using professional puppets and puppeteers, that would help schools introduce the topics of crime and substance abuse prevention to youth. However, the staff faced a big problem. The current operating budget didn't provide the funds (about $2,000) needed to purchase puppets and equipment.

Locating Sources of Funds

Literally thousands of public and private grantmaking agencies exist. The Foundation Directory indexes over 20,000 private foundations in the United States.3 The Federal Register details guidelines on federal grant programs.4 In addition, state agencies publish guidelines of grant programs disseminating both federal and state funds.5

After developing the program idea in cooperation with other agencies and determining legitimate financial need, the next step was to identify possible sources of funding. This required investigating grantmaking organizations. Were the goals of the new program effort compatible with the grant program goals? What kinds of projects have the organizations funded in the past? What size grants are usually made by the possible funding sources? Was the new project consistent with interests, priorities, and legal requirements of the possible funding sources?

Writing Proposals

The staff identified two possible sources of funding: the Iowa 4-H Foundation's competitive program expansion grant and the Iowa Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning Agency's competitive grant program for juvenile delinquency prevention. Formats for writing differed somewhat, but both applications required the following components:

  1. Introduction-describes the applicant's qualifications and establishes credibility.

  2. Problem statement or needs assessment-documents the need to be met or problem to be solved by the proposed funding.

  3. Objectives-establishes the benefits of the funding in measurable terms.

  4. Methods-describes the activities to be employed to achieve the desired results; includes plans for evaluation.

  5. Future or other necessary funding-describes a plan for continuation beyond the grant period and/or the availability of other resources necessary to implement the grant.

  6. Budget-clearly identifies costs to be met by the funding source and those to be provided by the applicant or other parties.6

The Extension staff in southwest Iowa followed the grant application guidelines precisely and submitted two proposals. Proposals were neat, free of typographical and grammatical errors, positive, and brief. The staff eliminated Extension jargon. Two individuals critiqued the writing and checked budget figures. Letters of support from cooperating agencies and current ordering information for equipment were attached. A cover letter written by the area Extension director accompanied the proposals.

Grant Management

Both sources of funding provided grants that allowed the Extension staff to complete the program development process. In preparing to receive the funds and to begin program implementation, the staff studied the guidelines and procedures required by the grantmaking agencies. One grant program required grantees to file quarterly progress reports on standardized forms. The staff scheduled these reports on the calendar and became familiar with the type of information needed to complete the reports.

The staff constructed a timeline for using project funds that coincided with the starting and completion dates for the grant programs. The staff documented expenditures and kept copies of itemized receipts for purchases made with grant monies. They collected program statistics, such as clientele reached and written evaluations completed by classroom teachers for use in final reports. Newspaper clippings published during program implementation were also collected. Finally, the staff prepared summary reports and the annual Extension report.


The staff in southwest Iowa demonstrated how Extension personnel can deal positively with budget restraints of the 80's. They solved the problem by including grantsmanship in the program development process.

Sources of funding are available. The key to success is to develop "skills" of good grantsmanship: carefully documenting the problem and determining legitimate financial need, finding a grantmaking agency that has goals consistent with program goals, writing 'a proposal that clearly communicates and markets the program to a grantmaking agency, and effectively managing grant funds.


  1. Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980).
  2. David M. Jenkins, "Managing with Less," Journal of Extension, XXI (November/December, 1983), 28.
  3. Loren Renz, ed., The Foundation Directory, 9th ed. (New York: The Foundation Center, 1983).
  4. Federal Register, published daily Monday through Friday by the office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service, General Services Administration, providing a uniform system for making available to the public regulations and legal notices issued by federal agencies.
  5. For example, the State of Iowa Office for Planning an Programming issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the Iowa Youth Corps/Volunteer Component program in late May, 1984, with applications due on June 29, 1984. The RFP, mailed directly to previous participants and youth organizations, was available to the public on request.
  6. Norton J. Kiritz, Program Planning and Proposal Writing (Los Angeles: The Grantsmanship Center, 1980), p. 1.