Sunday, January 27, 2008

How Do We Tighten Up Our Grant Proposal?

The first priority when writing any proposal is to provide all of the requested information. It must be written clearly in cogent and concise manners. See my post, Top 10 Grant Writing Tips From Foundations

If we imagine the foundation's program manager receiving tens or even hundreds of applications for the grant that you're applying for right now, we know that they're actually reading for content, noting which of your organization's answers in the proposal match their goals, and probably providing notes to advise the decision making body (perhaps the foundation's board).

My suggestion is this; if you can provide a concept that ties the entire proposal together, you will tighten up, clarify, and solidify your proposal. You will demonstrate to the foundation that you submit the proposal to that your organization has a vision and direction. Your organization will appear to have done its homework, planned, envisioned, and committed to the program, project, or research that you're hoping to fund with the grant.

Let me give you an example...

Let's say that you and I work together in the fundraising department of a nonprofit, and you and I are working together on the grant proposal. Our nonprofit, Save America's Comfort Food, has planned out a new program that we're beginning in eighteen months called Keep Healthy But Don't Forget Macaroni and Cheese (a program after my own heart!). After prospecting foundations, we narrowed our focus on eight foundations that we are going to apply to, now, to raise the grants we need for this program. To understand how you and I did this, read How Do I Prepare to Find Foundations That Will Fund Us. You and I have written three drafts of the master grant proposal (the case). We're now sitting down to apply to the first foundation, People for Tasty Food, and we've found that we've provided them with all of the information that they request. Now, we want to bring it together. We want to give the reader a sense of our clarity about the program, we want to share a bit of our excitement for it, and we think of this grant proposal as an opportunity (as each one really is). We're going to nab it.

I'll share a secret with you. If your organization has a Public Relations (PR) & Marketing department, committee, staff, or even a PR & Marketing mandate in a new strategic plan - YOUR ORGANIZATION IS WAY AHEAD. Not only that, your organization has done the leg work and either begun the process to develop a potential unifying concept (or angle) for you to use in your current grant proposals; or they've completed the work. The best angle to tie your grant proposal together is the message, concept, or even organizational direction that your agency's leadership, PR & Marketing department, or whomever that is driving the future of your nonprofit has envisioned THAT 60% OF THE NONPROFIT TRULY BUYS INTO. Don't go off half cocked. Remember, successful grant writing is teamwork. To understand how to unify the office for successful grant writing read How to Coordinate the Executive Director, Board...

Back to our work...we've decided that since our PR & Marketing Committee developed a marketing campaign to roll the new Keep Healthy But Don't Forget Macaroni and Cheese program out - we're going to use it. The marketing message is going to be 'healthy does not have to be tasteless'. It may seem obvious, but it is the motivation behind Save America's Comfort Food's new program is that Americans want to be healthy, but are driven by their taste buds. As an agency, we decided that isn't a bad thing!

In our proposal we have an opening paragraph that right now says,
"On behalf of the volunteers, board, and staff of Save America's Comfort Food (SACF), please accept this $10,000 request for our new June, 2009 program, Keep Healthy But Don't Forget Macaroni and Cheese."

You and I look over the paragraph, then we review the concept behind the new program, and then we look again at our paragraph. After trying to get the concept into the paragraph ten times, we like,
"On behalf of the volunteers, board, and staff of Save America's Comfort Food (SACF); please accept this $10,000 request for our new June, 2009 program, Keep Healthy But Don't Forget Macaroni and Cheese. We are honored to invite People for Tasty Food, to join SACF in successfully provide Americans, who desire affordable great taste, with tasty healthy food options."

Why reinvent the wheel, and also, why not use it? If the foundation that we're applying to, People for Tasty Food, is going to receive even just 30 applications for the grant that we're applying for - that is still 30 applications that they're going to have to read and dissect. The name of the game is to set our proposal apart by providing the information that they request, but also to sell our proposal by indicating that we're planned out, excited, and frankly, that our program is one that they want to be a part of.

The skill in doing this is first, deciding on what that concept that will tie the proposal will be. Second, you must lace this concept throughout the proposal without taking precious space that should be used to provide the foundation with the information that they request. Third, the concept must be real. In other words, you can not come up with a concept that would sell the proposal but does not have anything to do with reality. Fourth, the concept should be relevant to the project or program that you're hoping to fund - but it should also be relevant to the kinds of programs/projects that the foundation has funded within the last two years. Last, after the proposal's in its final draft and ready - the proposal should read well and only demonstrate this concept - it should not be a document describing the concept.

Set your organization apart by providing a compelling but exciting grant proposal.

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