Well, if your nonprofit organization has never received or applied for any grant before, the idea of getting one could be daunting at first. One thing that you have to bear in mind when writing your first grant proposal is that you are not the only one competing for that money. There are many other organizations like yours with real problems they intend to address and are interested in the same money, hence making the competition intense.
However, the good news is that you can follow a few tips and tricks as you acquaint yourself with the grant writing process. This will increase your chances of getting your grant proposal to attract the attention of the funders. Some of the tips we will discuss in this section include:
- Understanding the amount of work that goes into the writing process.
- Researching the funder so that you can tailor your plan
- Keeping your data and resources for the grant application well-ordered and easily accessible
- Writing the grant application clearly and boldly
- Not getting afraid of being personal when writing the grant proposal
It is these tips and tricks that will help you familiarize yourself with the right mindset as far as a winning grant proposal is concerned. Just remember that there is nothing to be intimidated about. Stay relaxed and thoughtful so that you can cover all the important bases and grey areas of your grant proposal.
Tip 1: Understand the amount of work that goes into the writing process
Well, as much as you are eager to win funds for your upcoming project, your team must not lose sight of the shore. In other words, you should pay attention to the amount of dedication and hard work needed in drafting a successful grant proposal.
For instance, if your organization devotes time and effort in developing prospects and researching to target major donors, then the same level of precision is required in grant writing. This is mainly to ensure that you hone your strategy and precisely hit the right targets.
Because grants represent a significant sum of money for the organizations that ask for them, it means that the organization receiving them has to prove that:
- Its mission is worthwhile and is in alignment with those of the grant-giving body.
- Its operations are sustainable.
- Its projects and plans will work as far as the grant funds are concerned.
Therefore, it is critical that you first have fully-formed concepts and objectives that need to be funded. You also have to bear in mind the time that goes into writing the grant proposal and making an application. Some grant programs require submitting an initial letter of intent before they go ahead with the full proposal. In this letter, it is important that you add the following information:
- An outline of the organizational structure.
- Comprehensive background information and context.
- An in-depth explanation of the program’s model and plans.
- The projected budgets.
- Prospective partnerships.
Based on the fact that the grant proposal requires so many moving parts, it is not always a good idea to write it alone. Look at the bigger picture! The best way to do this is with a dedicated team and ensure that each one of your members understands the scope of the whole process. Once everyone understands how each element fits into the whole design, you can now assign separate sections of the application to each.
Tip 2: Researching the funder so that you can tailor your plan
During the writing process, one thing that you should remember is that grant writing starts with your specific mission. It does not necessarily have to begin with the grant that you would like to receive. When you look at things this way, the approach will be effective in the long run. This is mainly because:
- Starting with your mission forces you to develop plans hence making them more defensible.
- Defining your goals with clarity allows you to find a grant-giving program whose mission is aligned closely to yours.
It is these two that will eventually boost your chances of writing a winning proposal. Additionally, they will also minimize the wastage of resources throughout the process. In other words, you will need to conduct serious research to identify a suitable grant to apply for. Once you have identified a particular grant whose description matches your main concerns, the next thing is to research the source of that grant. Such important information includes:
- What it’s known giving history is like.
- Its leadership.
- Its mission.
- Its political and social standings.
This information will help you align the angle of your grant proposal with their angle of things. When you understand what motivates the donor, you will better tailor the grant proposal to best attract their attention and interest.
As you do that, it is also critical that you let the integrity and dedication of your organization to shine through the whole application. Do this by fielding the thoughts of the stakeholders on the initiative that needs funding. This way, they will identify areas of the plan that are unique, significant and impactful. This will now serve as an excellent talking point in your grant proposal.
The big picture here for you is to understand the mission and goals of the program and then identify opportunities that align with them. The trick for you is not to plan your proposal to suit the requirements of the grant. Rather, it is about tailoring the plan to ensure your relevant idea suits the grant requirements.
Tip 3: Keeping your data and resources for the grant application well-ordered and easily accessible
Your focus should always be to ensure that all the relevant data is kept organized as a general nonprofit organization’s practice. The truth is, once you begin the grant writing process, all this will begin to pay off. You can easily retrieve digital tools in which data is recorded systematically. These platforms can be website analytics, online donation platforms, automated matching gifts, prospect data services or membership software among others.
Apart from the ease of retrieval of important data you can use in your proposal writing, this will also help you make a strong case for support. Back all your project plans with stories of descriptions of issues, impacts, and data. Yes, you can write a very long proposal, but what makes it worthwhile is the use of persuasive data that will go a long way in justifying the decisions to give a grant.
Ensure that you authoritatively refer all the data you give in your research to streamline the grant writing and back up all the claims made about your organization’s work. Some of the data that will help you make and back up all the connections include; donor and volunteer engagement rates, the social impact of the work on the community, wants and desires of the community, effective communication channels and growth of the local and regional networks among others.
The big picture is that insights and connections between data differentiate a good proposal from a winning one. If you already adhere to set smart data protocol, organizing that data and making it accessible during the application process will boost your chances and it takes only little additional efforts to effectively implement.
Tip 4: Writing the grant application clearly and boldly
It is important to note that writing a grant is not something that you do in one day. Ideally, you should work on the grant proposal for at least a month. This allows you to continually brush the language used in the application and ensure that it is not only persuasive but also convincing.
- Your proposal should be:
- Descriptive and specific.
- Concise and focused.
- Offers all relevant details where possible.
- Supports your plans with data and direct quotes.
To bolster your case, you can add some concrete stories as well.
In other words, what are some of the most successful outreach initiatives your organization has taken part in? Are there any local partners you collaborated with? Are there families or individuals who have benefited from what you do and would like to share their stories? Trust me, personal stories on how your projects impact the community can be extremely persuasive.
One mistake that most people make here is going on and on about the values of their organization. On the contrary, your grant proposal is more about explaining the specifics of your intended project. Use that to emphasize the return on investment of the planned project. When you use a strong and effective language supported with illustrative data and personal stories, the whole application reinforces the value of your proposition. When striking this balance in your proposal, your case will not only be persuasive but also moving.
So, what is the big picture? Well, the style of your grant proposal should be bold and clear. Ensure that you keep the language straightforward and to the point so that it is as persuasive as possible. Include relevant data and smart insights to make it even more convincing. It should be concise and jargon-free.
Tip 5: Not getting afraid of being personal when writing the grant proposal
As we have already mentioned, relationships are very important in the world of nonprofit organizations. The ties between the organization, its stakeholders, community, governments, and constituencies serve as the key to your success. This is true as far as grant writing is concerned especially if the grant-giving program is locally based.
One of the best ways to initiate contact is when you are requesting for more information or discussing the requirements further. However, never make the mistake of contacting the grant office just to make an impression. Some grant programs always request that the applicants do not contact the grant officer, therefore, ensure that you check first before making any move.
The big picture is to ensure that you contact the grant officer or someone else who has the expertise of offering you an insight into what the funding program is looking for. Do this only if it is not explicitly discouraged. This will not only help guide your writing process but also significantly pays off.
With that being said, writing a grant proposal is quite serious especially for nonprofit organizations. This means that you should approach it with careful planning, belief in the values of what you do and realistic expectations for you to develop a winning grant proposal. It also requires a special mindset to know that you have so much to learn even in trial and error. However, these tips will help steer you in the right direction.