Sunday, March 30, 2008

Be Strategic, Yes, 'Strategic' When You Write the Grant Proposal

I want you to get the money that the nonprofit that you work for, needs. You are writing that grant proposal for one reason - your nonprofit has a need because, really, your community has a need that your organization is setting out to address. For the sake of your cause, for your nonprofit's constituency, get strategic when you go after grant money.

What do I mean by "get strategic when you go after grant money."? You are putting your organization, its mission statement, your track record, and your organization's ability to succeed before the grant donor. Take each and every opportunity, to make your case why your organization should receive the grant. You may reply, 'Arlene, that is my intention,'. 'Great!', I say back. I'm just saying, let's be sure that you're aware of every opportunity that you (or anyone who applies for a grant) truly has.

How do you "get strategic when you go after grant money."?

__ Do your research. Read my post, How Do I Prepare To Find Foundations Who Will Fund Us? and also read my post, Top Ten Ways to Find A Grant Donor Who Will Give to Your Foundation To my point, get strategic and be sure to only apply to grant donors: who give to organizations who serve the geographic region that your organization serves, who states (in its giving guidelines) that they give towards the cause that your organization works towards, and finally, only apply to organizations who have given recently (within the last two years, at the most), given to projects, programs, or items that are similar or the same as the one you're proposing to receive a grant for. If a grant donor does not maintain one of these attributes, apply to them, but after you've applied to grant donors who retain all three of these attributes.

__ Approach each and every foundation as the separate, unique, and different from one another entities that they are. Do not, for example send them all the same proposal. Differentiate proposals, to each grant donor, accordingly, by formatting, including in the content, attaching, etc. only what they request in their giving guidelines. Don't do what they request that applicants avoid doing (e.g. "no phone calls, please"; "please do not send us DVDs with your proposals", etc. - don't do it). Read my posts, Insert Photos? Fancy Paper? Professional Binding? and How Do We Tighten Up Our Grant Proposal?

__ When writing your grant proposal, do not repeat information, do not use large font sized headers, get good at self-editing, and ask someone who you know writes well to edit your proposal. The space that is taken to write your proposal on is an opportunity for your organization, so take advantage of all of it. Think of the piece of paper or (for grant donors who request that grant applications be submitted on their website) the web page response prompt space as an opportunity to make the case why your organization should get their grant, and then some. Get good at stating a lot of information in one sentence, let alone one paragraph. List, for the potential donor, with what attributes, experience, or abilities makes your organization uniquely situated to successfully alleviate or end the root cause of the cause your nonprofit works for. Do not state the obvious, information that is extraneous to the project or item that you need the grant for, etc. Stay on topic (your organization, the information the grant donor requests, and info about the item or project you're asking for the grant for). Read my post, Top Ten Grant Writing Tips From Foundations

__ Follow through in a timely manner providing everything that was requested of your organization and nothing more. For instance, if a potential donor, in response to your grant application, requests your nonprofit's financial audit from 2005, get it to them, in full, quickly. Every interaction with any potential donor (or past donor) reflects on your nonprofit. Never hand anyone in your organization's community cause to be disappointed, unclear, or even upset with it. Read my posts, What Motivates Giving? , and Yet Another Example of Donors Expecting Results .

__ Be professional and polite in all interaction with the potential grant donor. Get organized before speaking with anyone at the foundation, so that you give them what they want, or get what you need, without waisting their time or burdening them. Make interacting with your nonprofit easy and perhaps even pleasant for them. Read my post Healthy Nonprofits Know That Customer Service Is Required...Relationships Are Everything

When applying for grants, always keep in mind that other nonprofits applying for the grant that you're after, when you apply, are probably doing everything that they can to get it; so you should do everything, and then a couple steps more. Being strategic reduces costs to your organization by saving it time, it forces you to get organized, (read my post, Tracking Grant Writing Work & Organization ) and it ultimately helps your organization get a leg up, over other applicants.

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