Monday, March 07, 2011

What To Say About This Economy In Grant Proposals - Or Not To Say

When applying for a grant, as described in the potential grant donor's giving guidelines, it is often required that there be some content in the nonprofit's grant proposal describing the organization's financial picture and its financial outlook.

It is very tempting, here, to say something about how hard hit the nonprofit has been by this down economy, isn't it?  In fact, any nonprofit applying for a grant could say this.  Remember, though, you always want to be indicating and demonstrating why your organization (and the program or project you're proposing in the grant application) are a sound investment for anyone considering donating anything, including a grant.  In this way, you always want to set your organization apart from other applicants by your organization truly being the better investment - enabling the grant donor to select your organization as a grant recipient in that giving cycle.

What do you want to say in a grant proposal (in the financial portion of the document), and what do you not want to say?  See the following...

__ Always say something.  Never think that there is some power retained by being extremely discreet or not providing a grant donor with the information that they request.  Anything requested of your organization by a grant donor (within normal professional practices and standards) should be provided to that grant donor.

__ Keep in mind that all of the organizations that are applying for a grant from that grant donor, when you do, have also been impacted by the difficult economy.  Most likely, even the grant donor, itself, has.

__ Any nonprofit that "seems too good to be true" as depicted in their grant proposal or application for a grant, (and remember, grant donors read tens and tens of grant applications during each giving cycle) is a red flag warning to them.  Don't make it easy for a potential donor to put your organization's request into the "not at this time" pile, after they review your request.  Never suggest your organization is perfect, impervious, and likely to succeed at everything 100%.  It comes off as it sounds: like you and the organization's leadership are either not being fully honest or perhaps you don't have much experience.

__ Say a sentence or two (not a whole paragraph, unless it's requested by the grant donor) about how your organization has been effected by this economy beyond simply stating "it's been effected by this economy" or (even worse) "we have had a difficult time from this economy".  These are both pieces of information that the person who reads the grant request can already guess (so why waste precious space in a grant document stating the obvious?).  Instead, articulate, in clear (honest and quantifiable) phrases how the economy effected your nonprofit?  Getting long winded or too detailed isn't appropriate, here, if it isn't requested of the grant applicant.  If the grant donor wants more details, they will ask you for them.

__ State the true repercussions of the economic downturn and how it impacted your organization's ability to deliver the goals of its mission statement to the beneficiaries of your organization's work.  State in clear quantifiable data how this impacts the beneficiaries and their needs that your organization meets.

__ Indicate (and this is important - this is how you can set your organization apart from other applicants, for the better) clearly, again in quantifiable factual data, how your organization is surviving this economy intact, and how it will continue to operate, grow, and achieve its mission statement's goal.

__ Never assume that any success, accolade, or achievement is obvious to the grant application reader (no matter how good your organization's public relations and marketing has been).  If your organization has achieved successes among organizational goals or programs and services - clearly state each of these that are recent.  Not all organizations run well enough to achieve successes - so being clear that your organization has is powerful to the grant donor and their weighing whether to give to your nonprofit or not.

__ Indicate how your organization's leadership prepared for the pending economic decline, if they did; or state how the leadership coped with the budgetary challenges as the economy changed; and explain how the decision and changes that were made enabled the organization to further its work and successes.

__ Keep to succinct, poignant, defensible, factual, and confidence-building facts and sentences.  Again, write sentences and paragraphs that get to the point succinctly.

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