Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top Ten Formatting Tips for Any Grant Proposal

Top Ten Formatting Tips for Any Grant Proposal

10. Follow all directions, requests, suggested omissions, and any additional requests in the grant donor's giving guidelines, and any conversations that you have with official representatives from the grant donor's organization, in regard to your grant application.

9. Edit and cull down draft grant proposals, going over them for not just content and readability, but anticipate that whomever will read it at the potential grant donor's office will likely not read it fully, but rather quickly scan it. Remember, they receive many tens of proposals, each grant cycle deadline, and must get key information from each one. Most grant proposal submissions are not fully read, word for word. Formatting key facts (i.e. mission statement, project goals, expected outcomes, etc.) in easy to spot bullet list formats (unless otherwise stated) helps anyone scanning a grant proposal to see key information, even on the fly.

8. Unless the grant donor requests them, do not insert photos, images, or use fancy binding or covers when printing and coalescing the final grant proposal submission if a hard copy is requested. Potential grant donors want to see that the nonprofits that they ultimately donate grant to spend money wisely. Printing proposals in color, with photos inserted, and under cover of a fancy binding can indicate that money has been spent on needless frivolous appearances when it can always be better spent on a nonprofit's programs or services.

7. Be on time. Be sure that you are clear and know when the grant donor's deadline is for grant proposal submissions, plan out all of the work that will be necessary to draft and then finalize an excellent grant proposal, and be certain that the document is not just done but is delivered to the grant donor's office (or wherever they require the proposal be submitted) on time.

6. Have another set of eyes go over the final draft grant proposal, at least. Ideally, it would be good to have two people, who are excellent writers, themselves, go over the document for content, clarity, spelling, grammar, flow of content, etc. It doesn't hurt to ask someone familiar with writing grant proposals to audit your final draft against the grant donor's giving guidelines to be certain that everything that is supposed to (and not supposed to) be in the document is there (or not).

5. Be certain that you know what attachments the grant donor requests be submitted along with the grant proposal application and that they are in the final submission package. It is not unusual for grant donors to require a list of the current board members, the past quarter's financials, and the budget for the proposed program. Each grant donor is different and each one requests different information and attachments be included with the grant applications submitted to them. Double check that, before you submit, you've complied every attachment (in its current, complete, and honest format) that is supposed to be sent in for consideration and that it's in the submitted package.

4. Check and double check word counts, word limits per page, number of pages per document, etc. Some grant donors require that the grant proposal be comprised of answers to questions that they posit and sometimes the answers provided in the grant proposal each have a word or even character limit. Other times, grant donors will limit how many pages the project description, cover letter, or other component of the grant application may be. If a grant donor does not limit any word counts, character counts, or page counts be sure to keep the proposal content concise and to the point, just the same.

3. Do not over use formatting such as bold, italics, underline, etc. Remember, you want the person who reads or scans your organization's submission to get all of the information that they request, in their giving guidelines; but also find a nice flow to the content including a clean presentation of the information. Giving the reader a headache because there's too much going on, per page, is a potential detraction to your proposal and you don't want to give any potential donor a reason to toss your grant request out.

2. Check the math. Most grant donors request that a budget be submitted for the proposed project that the grant is requested for. This usually involves both writing budget details content in the grant proposal, itself, along with providing the actual project budget (financial document). The logic and math in each proposal segment that refers to the budget must match. If, for instance, the budget states that $20,000 will be raised from individual major donors along with the grants being raised (to complete the total necessary income needed for the program); but the budget description in the proposal content says that $25,000 will be raised from individual major donors: that is bad math, at the least, and perhaps poor program management at the worst. Do not leave any room for questions in the reader's mind. Be consistent.

1. Create a proposal package that, when submitted, you are really proud of. This may sound obvious but the fact is that a confident submission is often the precursor to an awarded grant. Having done the due diligence, getting your ducks in a row, creating excellent submissions, and having the benefit of that confidence while you wait for a response is a much better experience than winging it, submitting whatever it is that you can, and crossing your fingers and sweating.

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