Grant writing is an important responsibility – if you don’t do it well, you’ll lose out on much-needed dollars from government, foundation, and corporate funding sources. Michael. Bloom has successfully written grants for non-profit, education and health care, organizations on a variety of initiatives including areas of: telemedicine, school improvement, technology integration, at-risk youth, and capital improvements. He’s offered to share some of the secrets to his success in generating more than $12,000,000 in new funding initiatives.
Most submitted proposals end up on one of two piles – Fund or Don’t Fund. What sets them apart has a lot to do with how the reader of the proposal is engaged in reviewing the executive summary and the methodology. The proposal will “rest in peace” if you use boring words, sentences and lengthy paragraphs. It will also reach the gravesite by using incorrect language, grammar, spelling and verbiage that is confusing or annoying to the reader.
To keep your proposal in play you must compose it keeping in mind the reviewer’s perspective and what they need to know. Emphasis must be placed on the actions you plan to perform or provide and the benefits to the population you plan on targeting. You must maintain a positive, friendly and professional tone and most certainly, respect their intelligence by not telling them how to feel and not talking down to them.
You will keep their attention by utilizing specific and articulate language, simple sentences, correct grammar and spelling, varied sentence structure, active verbs, active voice and integrated research. Take the “We” out of the narrative and reference the organization, staff professionals, teachers, students or clients in order to make an instant connection, identifying the population you intend to impact.
Try to avoid trite phrases and clichés and be careful with generic language that sounds like the same old and reused descriptors that have been repeated in the past. If you use bullets use no more than four. Remember the reader may be reviewing as many as 10 to 15 proposals so you will need to connect them with the outcomes as soon as possible. Make sure you are specific and utilize visual language.
Additional steps in developing your proposal should include the following:
- Develop a strong list of funders. Get lists from everywhere. First, look at the funders you have worked with in the past. Then look at other possibilities such as state departments of education, local foundations, governmentgrants.orgfoundationcenter.org, and other resources found through Internet searches.
- Target specific areas of interest Narrow the potential funder list and focus on specific areas that you wish to develop – maybe its literacy, child abuse, technology, or supplemental support services.. Find sources to match the specific areas of interest.
- Find out what programs grantors want to fund Try to make plenty of personal contacts—either on the phone or in person. Ask for brochures and information on what grantors want to fund. It’s important to find the flavor of programs they like. For example, do they like at-risk youth or school improvement initiatives? Do they grant to schools or libraries? Do they only fund certain geographical regions? This will give you a clear direction of where to go with your grant proposal.
When putting pen to paper or rather, fingers to keyboard, do the following:
- Be Clear on goals and measurable objectives First make sure that each objective has a relationship to the number of individuals proposed to serve, what is expected to be accomplished and what time frame for achieving the objective. This is very important since the project will be evaluated back to these measurable criteria.
- Don’t puff up your projections This is a trap many people fall into. Don’t say you’ll be 95% successful when its actually a 65% success rate. Its better to put down the more realistic figure – grantors appreciate realism.
- Include timelines Set up timelines to include program activities, completion dates, and individuals responsible for related tasks. Grantors know who’s accountable for everything this way and that you have a way to measure your success. The grantor will see that you have thought the project through and that it’s feasible.
- Be clear on your budget and budget justification As you articulate your budget line items make sure they tie back to the objectives and your methodology. For example, if you identify any needed equipment, it must relate to the measurable objectives of why you need it and how it will allow the program to be successful.Also, make sure you calculate the correct salaries, fringe benefits, travel, supplies, operations,equipment, space costs, consultants, conferences, and program evaluation costs.
- Get letters of support Try to get two kinds of letters. The first are written by important community/educational leaders or organizations. Other letters I try to get are from people who will benefit from the program. These letters are usually handwritten which adds an important personal touch.
- Create an internal review process Establish a review group or committee of employees, board members, and even members of the community to grade my proposal based on the criteria used to evaluate them by the specific grantor. Although there are strict time lines on submitting the grant by the due date, try to give yourself time for this process to occur. If you get less than an eight out of ten rating on any of the written components then rework that section of the proposal. At this point, everything needs to be clear and precise.
Remember, you need to have your proposal shine above the competition to render the proper attention. So relax, be creative, concise and talk to the grant officers of your targeted grantors.