Avoid assumptions in proposals

April 21, 2015       The NonProfit Times      

Grantseekers need to avoid assumptions when putting together a proposal. In the new book, Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing, Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif., suggests that an astute application reader finds any number of assumptions or unsupported claims in most grant proposals.

Here are a few examples of those assumptions:

  • The proposal includes almost no information about the applicant organization because the writer assumes the funder knows all about it.
  • The proposal describes the national scope of the problem but fails to document its existence in the community to be served.
  • The proposal presumes a cause-and-effect relationship but doesn’t back it up. For example, children from poor families are said to be at increased risk for failure in school, but no evidence is presented to show the relationship between poverty and school failure.
  • The proposal declares that a program is unique but fails to show why.

Statements starting with “we believe” signal an assumption. Without solid evidence behind a statement, it won’t carry much weight. Replacing beliefs with evidence is a check on logic, results in a more coherent proposal, and shows the funder you know what you’re talking about. If you can’t support a statement, consider eliminating it.

Present enough evidence to support your position, and no more. Don’t overkill. Pages of tables, charts, and graphs will probably not be read and too often fail to make the point. Cite sources in the body of the proposal and avoid footnotes. A proposal is not a doctoral dissertation. © 1974-2014 The Grantsmanship Center. All rights reserved.

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