Grant Program Design

Program Design Pre-Grant Application

Who Does Program Design? You Might Be Surprised by the Answer!


This week on Grantchat we covered Part 2 of our 8 part series on the  Grant Professionals Certification credentials evaluated by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute. We asked the questions and our Grantchat community didn’t disappoint – in fact, they wowed us with their expertise.

Our roles as grant professionals vary when it comes to project design and program development. Many in-house grant professionals sit in on program design and development to gain valuable insights and to understand what they need to convey when they write the grant application. Grant Consultants, on the other hand, are often hired to lead and or facilitate the project design. In either case, the identification of the proposed outcome and how the project fits within your organization’s strategic plan and mission are the drivers for project design and, ultimately, for grant seeking.


Some Tough Questions & Brilliant Answers


How do you gain input from multiple levels of an organization and the stakeholders for the development of a new concept or program?

Programs have to come from a strategic plan. At some point, the program was through through from a cursory perspective. – Becky Jascoviak @NonprofitBecky


 I am constantly meeting with stakeholders to talk about their programs. I don’t create the programs, I just find the money to fund the programs. Amanda Day @WholeWheatGirl

We all agreed that planning for a new program or concept is best done long before the grant opportunity is announced.  The new concept or program needs to be part of a larger strategic plan for the department or organization, depending on the size of the applicant. When we invest time and resources to engage all levels of staff and potential partners through surveys, facilitated planning sessions, and interviews we to build the buy-in to the concept, we establish a strong need from many angles, and we can recognize gaps in services and resources to create a stronger grant application and solid program design.


What methods are used to build strong grant partnerships and how do you facilitate building collaborations among grant applicants?

 Assess and talk about the strengths of the project partners to identify what each organization brings to the table. Then, you are able to see the deficits and the needs to be addressed.  Amanda Ripstra @AmandaRipstra


 Finding partnerships that make sense before a deadline is rapidly approaching makes the process (SO MUCH) smoother. Amanda Day @wholewheatgirl


 Involving stakeholders early creates buy-in for a project before the project starts. Jessica Sharp @jessicasharp

Building strong partnerships in advance of the grant announcement is a key element to creating a strong program design. Find organizations – government, non-profit and community based – that, in some way, are seeking the same outcome, even if their activities are very different.

For instance, an asthma education program wants to reduce childhood asthma and a weatherization program wants to reduce energy costs. Both programs target low income households and both address the home environment. In the area of Healthy Housing, we have partners working together that never crossed paths 15 years ago. These partnerships are innovative and resourceful. I could go on and on about partnership building and healthy housing (a passion of mine -you can get a snapshot here and here – and I apologize for the soundtrack.)

To me, partnerships are what make grants fundable and great partnerships make projects more stable and flexible.


What are the likely effects of evaluation designs in the overall project and program success and ultimate sustainability?

 Data uncovered through program evaluation often identifies futher needs or ‘next steps’ for future funding. Jessica Sharp @JessicaSharp


 It is important for evaluation design to have common elements from project to project, so data can be compared in aggregate.  Len Mafica @lenmafrica

Designing your project evaluation process before you start a project gives you a strong foundation to measure your success, quickly identify problems and make adjustment before they are an irreversible problem, and to set up expectations for partners, program and funder. When I write a grant and build in evaluation I am thinking about data and the story  that will support our next application.

Project Design and Program Development are essential competencies for a Grant Professional

Project development and project design are, more often than not, part of the grant professional’s skills and the grant development process. Interestingly, many grant professional job descriptions don’t include program design and project development. If you are performing the work and want to have language to approach your boss or HR,  or you want add language to your client contracts that acknowledges your skills,  the Grant Professionals Certification Institute and the Grant Professionals Association have many resources to help you make your case.

Do you include program development and project design in your bids and contracts? Does your employer include this competency in your job description and evaluation? If not, what changes will you make to get this competency understood and appreciated by those who employ your expertise?



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