Sloppy grant proposals are rarely successful, but they’re even less likely to yield results these days as more budget-strained not-for-profits are dipping into a smaller pool of funds. If you haven’t brushed up on your grant proposal-writing skills recently, here are four tips:
1. Know your grant-maker. Just as you’d research potential employers before applying for a job, you should get to know grant-making organizations before you ask for their support. Familiarize yourself with the prospective grant-maker’s primary goals and objectives, the types of projects it has funded in the past, and its grant-making processes and procedures.
2. Focus on the essentials. Don’t overwhelm your target with paperwork. Your proposal should start with a succinct, single-page executive summary that defines your organization. Also include a statement of need that provides an overview of the program you’re seeking to fund and explains why you need the money for your program. Other application pieces include a detailed project description and budget, an explanation of your organization’s unique ability to run this program, and a conclusion that wraps up the proposal and briefly restates your case.
3. Provide support. Back up your request with facts and figures, but don’t forget to include a human touch by telling the story behind the numbers. Your organization, for example, may provide after-school activities for 500 at-risk children every year. Augment this statistic with a glimpse of the population you serve, including descriptions of typical clients or testimonials from the community.
4. Attend to the details. You’ll need to follow application instructions to the letter. This means meeting deadlines and ensuring that your submission is error-free. Don’t commit common mistakes such as leaving off signatures, exceeding page or word limits, making math errors, or using excessive industry jargon.
Even if you do everything right, you may not get the grant. Should this occur, contact the grant-maker to learn why you didn’t and ask if they’ll suggest ways to strengthen your next application. Also, give us a call for advice on finding grant-making organizations and writing proposals that succeed.