Busting 2 myths about writing proposals

November 19, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Don’t stymie your grant proposal efforts by underestimating or overestimating the difficulty of the process. According to Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif., two misconceptions are common:

1. “Writing grant proposals is easy. The money is out there and if I write my idea up and send out proposals, the money will come.”

It’s true. Writing grant proposals is not brain surgery. Money is available and it never hurts to be optimistic. But it’s also true that producing winning proposals requires planning, attention to detail, clear thinking, clear writing, and diligence.

You can’t dash off a proposal, send it to a list of funders, and expect to win a grant.  Winning proposals are thoughtfully prepared, well documented, and tailored to the interests and criteria of each funder.  “Program officers can spot sloppy planning and thinking a mile away,” according to Thompson, “and proposals that don’t specifically respond to a funder’s guidelines are doomed.”

2. “Writing a grant proposal is too hard. I need to hire a consultant.”

It’s true that creating a compelling grant proposal takes time and work. And yes, consultants can bring valuable experience and skills to the table. But if you want to develop winning proposals with in-house resources, you can do it.

Is there someone on staff who is curious, detail-oriented, and thorough, who writes well, and who knows how to execute and follow directions? This might be just the person you need to get started. Perhaps you’ll engage a consultant to train this budding proposal writer by highlighting the pitfalls and shortcuts and laying a foundation of best practices. Before long your organization should be fully capable of winning on your own.

“In reality, this work is both easy and hard,” said Thompson. “Strong grant proposals grow out of sound planning, well-researched funding prospects, well-written and tailored prose, and total organizational commitment to the process.”

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