Who Holds Workshops?
In most cases, grant-seeker workshops are provided by the granting agency or consultants to that agency or government department. On occasion, however, a central support agency for a large group of similar nonprofit organizations, such as an intermediate school district, will provide grant-seeker conferences for its constituents when new funding opportunities become available.
Grant-seeker workshops are rarely mandatory; however, in a few instances, attendance at the workshop is an absolute prerequisite if you want your project to be considered. Read through notices carefully; if you miss an opportunity because of carelessness, you could disqualify your agency for consideration.
Grant-seeker workshops vary in size, site, and value depending on who offers them. State grant-seeker workshops are usually held in a convention center or another large site in a state capital. You'll find hundreds of people whose grant-writing skills vary from complete novice to professional writers attending on behalf of their clients. Grant-seeker workshops can last anywhere from a half day to a full day. Many of them include breakout sessions in which you and other members of the audience can ask more specific questions and get answers from workshop leaders.
Some national foundations will request a preliminary proposal and then invite the “short list” agencies to attend one of two or three workshops (for instance, one East Coast, one West Coast) prior to submitting their final proposal. Such grant-seeker workshops are mandatory.
If a federal department is issuing an RFP for a brand-new funded program, and if a lot of money has been allocated to the grant program, the department is likely to hold three or four grant-seeker workshops throughout the United States. Don't plan on any sightseeing, though — most of your day will be spent indoors at the convention center.
Locally sponsored grant-seeker workshops are usually attended by no more than 100 people. They tend to be more valuable to grant writers for several reasons. The smaller audience allows more time for questions about specific projects, and even when it isn't your project being discussed, you can use the answers to frame your own narrative accordingly.
If you are invited to attend a personal meeting with a member of the foundation staff, always accept the opportunity. You'll get insight into what the foundation is looking for in proposals, tips on what to include, and the ability to form a professional relationship that you will value for years.
A benefit to attending local grant-seeker workshops is that it's an opportunity to listen and learn what others are planning. You may hear about another project that meshes well with what your organization wants to do. If you can get together, it would give you an opportunity to collaborate with another agency in a unique and mutually beneficial way. At the very least, when you listen to others talking about their projects, you will be able to gauge the strength of your proposal in comparison to what others are submitting for the same funding.
Local grant-seeker workshops are usually provided by large supporting organizations such as city governments, arts councils, intermediate school districts, or intermediary grantees. Specialized funders such as local Rotary or Variety Clubs that offer once-a-year grants programs may also be hosts.
On occasion, some foundations will hold seminars for the grant-seeking public after they have changed their grant-making focus or process. Go to these seminars even if you don't have a grant-proposal idea in mind for the foundation.