Great Proposals Are More Than Stories

January 9, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

A winning grant proposal combines different types of information, but the purpose of every word in the document is the same — to communicate with the funder in a clear and powerful way that will result in a grant award.

“To make their proposals stand out in the crowd, grantseekers are often advised to tell a good story and to produce a sparkling, riveting narrative,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “Beware. Don’t make the mistake of elevating form over substance.” At the end of the day, grant awards are investments in positive change. If you don’t make a logical and well-supported argument, you won’t win.

    Quality grant professionals are good communicators. “If you can put together a riveting story within the confines of character limits, page limits, and other constraints of the application guidelines, go for it,” said Floersch. “Just remember that the basics are non-negotiable. They come first.”

  • Document the issue your organization is concerned about. Show what it looks like in your service area and explain its impact on the community. Use up-to-date facts and figures and reference recent reports. Quote those affected by the problem. Let their voices bring the situation to life.
  • Be clear about the positive change your organization intends to produce. Don’t speak vaguely about improved quality of life or improved health. Give your proposed outcomes deep consideration and then lay out specific, measurable changes you plan to track.
  • Provide a detailed description of your program approach. “The funder needs to see a roadmap of how your organization expects to get from point A to point B,” said Floersch. Provide documentation showing why the methods should work.

Good storytelling and sparkling narrative up your game, but to successfully engage funders as partners in change, you’ve got to have a solid case and a workable plan. “I’ve read thousands of proposals and can say with great confidence that a logical, well-documented, and clearly expressed argument is the best strategy for winning a grant,” said Floersch. © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center