How Long It Takes to Achieve Goals
No one has to tell you that nearly everything takes longer than you think it will. It's true about writing the grant narrative, and it's especially true about implementing a project. Grant awards are most often for one year or three years. If you have a one-year grant, you have to be very realistic in writing your plans about what can be accomplished in one year. With three-year grants you have more latitude in planning your timeline and meeting your goals.
With a one-year project, you must make sure that your agency can accomplish what it sets out to do and that it can achieve or make progress toward the outcomes in one year or less. One-year action plans must be very detailed. Think of the year as being the first step in a long process of change — it will take longer than the grant period to reach your desired outcomes. Therefore, action plans should list just those steps your organization can make in one year, not all the effort that will take place later to achieve the outcome.
Assign every step, from developing a job description for a new position to hiring that person; from sending out product bid requests to purchasing them. This is a good way to give your organization time to plan and put things into place before you launch the project.
One way to handle this task is by structuring the timeline for a year-long funded project by each month of the year, beginning in the month that the organization is likely to receive the grant funding.
If you are applying for a multiyear grant (usually three years), you must submit a three-year action plan. In three years you can come closer to achieving an outcome for change, so you can use many of your objectives and outcomes as the framework for a three-year action plan.
You don't have to be exact in your timeline. Provide a month-by-month breakdown for year one, and a much more generic timeline for years two and three, incorporating only recurring activities and next steps in the process that began in year one. At the end of the first year, write out a detailed action plan for year two. This will help you accomplish your stated goals in the time allotted.
If you are asked to write a detailed action plan, it's implied (if not stated) that the grantor wants a timeline of activities. It's sometimes easier to develop a plan of action by asking yourself what needs to be done first, second, third, and so on, so your thought process becomes the structure of the plan. The third sample at the end of this chapter provides a simple illustration of a timeline-centered plan of action.