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Pithy Pointers for Great Proposals

January 22nd, 2010

Here are a few tips for effective grant writing. These were presented during my grant writing worship for Impact 100 Sonoma earlier this month:

1. Avoid jargon. An average person, not a specialist, is your target audience. Stay away from bureaucratic “industry-speak” and non-concrete words. Have a friend or outsider read your drafts to hold you accountable.

2. Don’t be afraid of emotional goals. For example, Redwood Empire Food Bank says: “Our mission — to end hunger in our community — can only be accomplished with community support. “

3. Invite readers into your world. Point out telling details, ask readers to use their senses to listen, to smell, to hear and to see what you do.

4. Eschew the “could” word. Use the verb tense will to describe potential future accomplishments. The conditional tense, “If we receive the grant, then we could double our floor space, “ is much weaker than a definitive statement: “The Impact 100 Sonoma grant will fund 3,000 square feet of a new vocational training center.”

5. Use active verbs. “Here is a collection of verbs plucked form headlines in The Wall Street Journal: mauled, devour, looms, spark, threaten, embrace, sputters, sowing, surge, reject, retools, blames, loses, clash, expand… Here’s a collection of verbs that I scored from headlines in nonprofit newsletters: establishes, listed, use, unite, reach, give back, plan, unified, build, sets, visits, shares, administer, awards, benefits.”

6. Let a third-party brag about you. Compile positive comments written by donors, clients, or media. If you don’t have testimonials, get them. Survey your program participants or ask them to write you a letter of support. Nominate your Executive Director or a Board member for local awards. Keep a clippings and/or “reviews” file close at hand; send out press updates regularly.

7. Be careful with your grants budget. Try not to wait until the last minute to compile the project budget; the budget should not only add up correctly, it also has to support the logic of the proposal’s narrative.

Ahern, Tom. Seeing through a Donor’s Eyes. Medfield, MA: Emerson & Church Publishers, 2009 p. 81 www.emersonandchurch.com

Fund Development, Grant Writing Resources, Non Profit Groups , , , ,

  1. February 17th, 2010 at 13:43 | #1

    sorry i took so long to let you know that this is a great post, great advice.

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