Sunday, February 28, 2010

Using Logic In Grant Proposal Content - Yes, Logic...

I don't want to sound like one of your high school teachers or college professors but...

Logic, is a great 'voice' to maintain when writing the content for an application for a grant, or grant proposal (or any other grant proposal document, such as a letter of inquiry). It goes without saying that any time you or I write anything, professionally, we work to make sense. I know this. Yet, let's admit it: it can be difficult sometimes to state exactly why the work our nonprofit is proposing to do is important. Yet, to make the argument for a nonprofit, in a proposal, it helps to articulate why its work (or mission) is necessary.

Let's say that you and I work for an organization that offers safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support for victims of domestic violence. It's called Domestic Assistance Assistants. You and I let's say are working on the grant proposal's organizational description and feel a little stuck with writer's block. We love our work. We believe entirely that domestic violence victims are some of the most powerless victims that exist because they, by the virtue of their victimization, have little or no resources, of their own. We get really proud of our agency's work, we get a bit touched by it, and then we try to come up with an organizational description, and we're all thumbs like, '...our organization tries to help those without resources to improve their lives...' But, then again, thousands if not millions of nonprofits could write this sentence, too, in their organizational description in their proposals. Also, "tries"?! That is not a word that will instill confidence in anyone considering donating a large contribution to our organization. We know we need to do better.

We want to always take advantage of every page, word, or character we're allowed by each potential grant donor that we apply to, in order to convey why our specific organization, in particular, should (above other applicants) receive a grant. So, we always want to assert an articulate, compelling, unique, affirmative description of our organization (and also in the proposed program or project description that we're seeking funding for). We want our assertion to clearly make the case (ideally, in a few words or sentences) such that it is easy for the potential donor to want to donate a grant to our agency. These descriptions should clearly state how your organization and its proposed project will edify the community. For these reasons (needing to be compelling, needing to set one's organization apart for the better, needing to be concise in content, etc.) using logic in one's proposal content is very helpful. Also, this kind of assertion may be used in any fundraising, marketing, public relations, volunteer raising, etc. brochure or written content.

Logic is sometimes given a bad wrap or may even be anxiety-raising because it is in its most basic form...well...math. I like to make myself feel more confident about my knowledge of and use of logic by telling myself that logic is "math-ish". I actually like logic (call me a nerd) and while I don't feel confident doing it, there is some math that just captivates me. Admittedly, though, compared with my comfort with writing, math is a foreign land.

Logic, to make it friendly to all of us, for our needs here, is the principal by which arguments are made. Logic is also used to determine if an argument is valid or a fallacy. Is that class way back in college coming back to you, now? Logic actually goes further than math, going so far as formulating the premise of philosophy, but for our purposes we are going to use logic to develop our reasoning (by virtue of critical thinking) to develop key content in our grant proposals.

Returning to our domestic violence example organization...

You and I were working on a grant proposal, together, for this organization. We got overwhelmed, though, when trying to formulate a description for the proposal to clearly articulate compelling facts about the nonprofit. It just seems like everything we come up with is either obvious, simplistic, or too general.

You and I know that we could go through the exercise of listing every attribute of the organization that we can come up with. Or, we could go grab the nonprofit's brochure or other marketing material and look at the description of the agency, written there. Finally, we could also create a single list of what the nonprofit is not. While this last example is not affirmative, it could be a first step in helping us come up with a perception the organization.

Instead, we try once more, between the two of us to get really clear. We start riffing and noting key facts onto a blank sheet.

First, we know that this organization is a nonprofit and that isn't a bad place to begin when starting our description of the organization (though, it may seem obvious or simplistic), because one of the grant donor's requirements, that we are writing this proposal for, is that all recipients be official 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity organizations. We always, when writing a grant proposal, tailor it to the specific grant donor's grant application requirements and requests (or giving guidelines), falling them, creating a unique document, per grant application submission. Also, we always want to tie anything that we assert in the proposal to the specific potential grant donor's requirements or requests (or preferences if we know them, beyond what's stated in the giving guidelines, perhaps by our research into the particular potential donor's recent giving history or pattern). Being relatively sure (though, it is not necessary to be 100% sure or even 70% sure) that everything written in the document ties to the grant donor's specific wishes or requests of the proposal's content, helps us grant writers to know sometimes, when editing a first or second draft of a grant proposal, what can get cut or deleted and what should stay in the document.

Next, we know that our organization's beneficiaries are domestic partners (men or women) and their children (if they have any) that are victims of domestic violence.

We note, too, that we provide the following services: safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support .

This is a very analytical, clear, succinct process; though it may seem simple. Yet, after our exercise, the fact is, we now have most of the words that we will need in order to write our organization's description (or at least the main point of it). We actually also know, because we are aiming to be as too the point in our proposal's content, we may only need a conjunction or qualifier here or there, but not many more words than the words we've listed. We don't need to get wordy. It's frowned upon for grant proposal content: to be laden with an applicant organization's professional field's jargon, to pontificate, or to over-use adjectives (because the point of the proposal is to raise a grant by making a compelling case why your agency and the proposed program should be funded, not to win a grant by making the reader's heart bleed).

Let's say we give our list some framework and we come up with, "Domestic Assistance Assistants is a recognized 501(c)(3), in good standing with the I.R.S., providing adult or child domestic violence victims with safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support."

Now, this is getting somewhere. It is not only specific, and responsive to some of the particular grant donor's grant applicant requirements, it clearly states what the organization is, what it does, for whom, and how. These are each and all affirmative facts (they do not disparage another agency in order to describe one's own, or they do not pound a haenous act that these victims were subjected to at home, over the reader's head to tug at their heart strings and make a case this way). These are also each demonstrable (or provable) facts. We are doing our organization better by being really clear and...well...logical in writing about it in our grant proposals.

I might go one more step further, with you, and fine tune the description by removing the words "in good standing with the I.R.S." from our excellent description. But if the grant donor that we are applying to requires that we assert in the proposal, somewhere, that the organization is in good standing with the IRS, if it is, then this is a good (logical) place to put this information, within the entire document.

Emotional or esoteric descriptions of the nonprofits that we work for are not "wrong" or inaccurate. We often work in emotional situations, in nonprofits. It's just that if we get a bit more logical in our descriptions, building arguments in our proposals that are compelling by virtue of their concise, fact-filled, and demonstrable assertions; we are affording our agency more of a chance to get that grant. Pulling on heart strings won't work if other applicant organization's grant proposals are written using affirmative arguments. You want your nonprofit to be a real contender - so get logical.

No comments: