Gearing Up for Grants: Prepare your Mind

Grant season is upon us and we anticipate the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) will release the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) program funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) soon. NSPN understands how important this funding is, and we're excited to offer assistance to help make the process easier. Last year, we launched the "Gearing Up for Grants" email series, and we are happy to be sharing the series again this year. You'll receive tips to help you get prepared, write your grant proposals, understand the review process, and handle the stress once your proposal has been submitted. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. NSPN is here to help!

Prepare Your Mind

Preparation is one of the main components of a successful funding proposal. One way grant writers can prepare is through mind mapping. A mind map is a visual representation of tasks, words, concepts, goals, and ideas. It's a visual thinking tool that takes a tedious list of information and turns it into a colorful, memorable diagram. Mind maps help organize your list in a way that is natural for your brain. Because mind mapping is an activity that is analytical and artistic, it taps into both sides of your brain, opening doors for a stronger outcome.

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Mind maps can be used for note taking, brainstorming, problem solving, planning, researching and consolidating information, and more. Try it out!

How to Use a Mind Map

  1. Start with a blank piece of paper. 
    If you're an NSPN member, you can download Mind Map Templates created just for you by logging into your NSPN Support Center at If you wish, you may also request them directly from April at [email protected]
  2. Place your main topic, goal, question, etc., at the center of the page.
  3. Let the answers flow through your mind onto the page-in no particular order. Write each down as a "branch" extending from your main starting point-keeping them to keywords or short phrases. Try using different colors and thin and thick lines or doodling small images. Be creative - "branches" can be all shapes and sizes, and they don't always go in the same direction.
  4. Take it further by thinking of ideas, examples, and anecdotes as "stems" drawn out from your "branches."
  5. A great way to strengthen your map is to share it with colleagues and encourage them to add their thoughts, ideas, and examples. 
  6. Most importantly, have fun with it. Grant writing can be stressful. Why not take control of your planning process by having a little fun?

Here are topics or "branches" you might consider while creating your mind map:

  1. What is the problem your organization is attempting to solve? (need)
  2. How is the community affected by this problem? (need)
  3. How do you know there are RHY in your community? What are the numbers? (need)
  4. How can your organization make a difference? (action plan for services)
  5. How will you evaluate impact? (logic model)
  6. What are you going to do? Who is going to do it? (staff/experts)
  7. What documents do you have to support your case? (appendices)

Thinking about these specific questions (and more) may bring to mind other documents and information you may need for your proposal.

Here's a sample of a mind map someone created for "Writing a Grant Proposal":

Prepare Your Materials

Once you have fun mind mapping, start preparing your materials. There's no need to wait until the FOAs are released to gather information. Hopefully you've identified these items through mind mapping, but just in case you missed anything, here are some items you can pull together:

  • Mission and vision statements
  • RHY program relationship to the strategic plan
  • Estimated budget
  • Grant history (think about what worked and what didn't)
  • Organizational chart, job descriptions, resumes, and biographies of key staff
  • An identification of community partners and updated Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)
  • Pertinent statistics (prioritize local)

Prepare Your Space

Preparing your mind and materials are only two parts of the process. Your work-space can help or hinder your funding proposal. An unorganized work-space can cause additional stress, along with delays due to searching for documents or supplies, and more. Make sure your materials are easily accessible. In last year's "Gearing Up for Grants" email series, we shared tips about setting up your "Zen Zone." If you missed that series, here's a great link to help you learn about feng shui. Feng shui provides a natural way to set the "tone" and energy of your office.

About Feng Shui:

Feng Shui for Cubicles:

However you prepare your work-space, make sure it feels right for you. Being comfortable will help you focus and prepare a successful proposal.

Watch for more NSPN "Gearing Up for Grants" emails. You may also visit and contact us at [email protected] if you have questions. 

Don't forget, NSPN members with the Organizational Development package may utilize their technical assistance and review benefits for all types of funding proposals. Don't delay in contacting NSPN for assistance.


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