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Proposal Writing Pain Be Gone!

Jessica Walker Jessica Walker, Development Coordinator

A big part of life in any nonprofit development team is preparing grant proposals and applications. Grants represent an important revenue source for most nonprofits and offer the opportunity to connect with grantmakers whose goals and priorities align with your nonprofit’s mission.

Yet despite the importance of grants, it still sometimes feels like we’re drowning in online portals, check boxes, and repetitive questions.

When dealing with the complexity of grants, we’ve realized 3 key things for successful writing.

Know your nonprofit!

If you don’t have a comfortable knowledge of the projects and programs that your nonprofit is currently working on, planning, or wrapping up, it will be very difficult to share the information with anyone else. It can be difficult to get a strong grasp of some projects – we had to ask several times for an explanation about data and computer software development – but it pays off in the end. Try to keep up to date through internal newsletters, organizational meetings, and chatting with people from other departments. When you understand things, it is a lot easier to make others understand it!

Know your audience!

A proposal might be well-written, but if it isn’t tailored to each grantor, it could end up a dud. Each grantor is different – a corporate foundation will care about different things told in different ways than a small family foundation – so make each grant proposal speaks directly to the reader. You may have a few core proposal drafts that you update and adapt for each specific application, but it is key to ensure that you choose the right tone and style for each funder. Research grantmakers – including funding priorities – and ensure that their interests and priorities align with your needs.

Make a compelling case!

As above, you have to know what your organization is doing before you can talk about it with energy. Compelling proposals talk about the existing problems and then clearly point to the solutions your organization is providing or developing. Use concise, persuasive writing and always be sure to answer all the questions the grantor has requested. Keep in mind some key elements of most grant proposals:

  • Establish the need for the project/initiative
  • Define the outcomes with specific measurable objectives
  • Describe how you will achieve these objectives
  • Establish your organization’s credentials
  • Describe how you will evaluate the success of the project
  • Create a budget

With these three hints in mind, you should be able to reduce the difficulty and increase the success as your nonprofit seeks funding. If you have a compelling case with solid details about your programs, you’ll find the perfect funder(s).

What do you do to reduce grant proposal stress?

Need more info? Check out the Foundation Center – they have free classes, online resources, and libraries with more!

Jessica Walker is development coordinator for GuideStar. This is the forth post in our monthly Development Corner series. Click here and here for more Development Corner blog posts.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice