Presenting a program worth funding

April 28, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

How can I write the grant proposal so that it will get funded? How can I make my project stand out in the crowd?  These are million dollar questions to which all grant seekers want million dollar answers.

“There are no silver bullet answers,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor to the Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “All grant makers are different and have different values and funding priorities that grant seekers need to understand before applying.”

A common misconception among beginning proposal writers is that they only need to make the project sound exciting and cool. “The reality is, winning grant proposals do much more than that. They make a case for funding—one that is both compelling and convincing,” she said.

When crafting a convincing case, be sure to show:

  • There’s a need for the project. Present community data that demonstrates the magnitude of the problem. Are a lot of people affected by this problem? Is there a shortage of programs or resources available to meet community needs? What do experts or leaders say about the need to address this issue?
  • The project is a good idea that’s been shown to work. Some funders will take chances on brand new ideas, but most don’t want to reinvent the wheel. It’s helpful to cite research studies or evaluation data that link your approach to successful outcomes. You can also highlight “success stories” that illustrate the positive impact your project has had on constituents.
  • The project will be well run and it won’t break the bank. Grant makers invest in people as much as projects. Who will execute the project and will they get the job done? Do they have a track record of success? Are the costs of the project reasonable given the expected benefits?
  • It will make a difference. What will be the impact of your project? What unique or noteworthy contributions will it make to your field? What results can you expect to achieve in the short run? How will the people or community you serve be different as a result of your work in the long run?
  • Make your case as logical and foolproof as possible, and don’t forget to tailor it to the funders’ interests. “And you should still try to make your project sound exciting,” Thompson said. “Just don’t leave it open to hole-poking — and rejection — by leaving out a strong case for support.