Strong Proposals Have Strong Connections

December 12, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

A successful grant proposal sorts the details and moving parts of a complex plan into a precise description of how things will work. “It’s somewhat like writing a brief explanation of how a Rube Goldberg machine works,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “Each piece of the plan must be distinctly articulated and the connections between pieces must be clear.”

    “Beware of disconnects,” warned Floersch. “Those are places where the connection between elements of your argument are based on assumptions rather than facts, where you’ve substituted beliefs for documentation, or where there’s a gap in the chain of logic holding the argument together.” Disconnects can happen anywhere in a grant proposal, but these are typical culprits.

  • Problem-Outcome Connection. If the results you propose are not specific, measurable changes in the problem you’ve described, you have a major disconnect. Funders expect their investment of grant funding to directly impact the situation you plan to tackle.
  • Methods-Outcome Connection. It’s important to justify your choice of methods. Funders need to feel confident that the approach you’ve chose is capable of achieving the results you expect.
  • Budget-Methods-Evaluation Connection. Anything in your program approach or evaluation plan that will consume resources (grant funds, other cash, or in-kind good and services) must be included in the budget. And on the flipside, every item included in the budget must be discussed in the methods or evaluation sections. A proposal in which the budget does not align perfectly with the methods and evaluation suffers from a huge disconnect that can easily kick your application into the rejection pile.
  • Methods-Attachments Connection. The job descriptions in the attachments must match the staff responsibilities described in the methods section. Partners’ commitments of time or resources described in the methods section must be linked to an attached letter promising that exact support.

    “It’s about attention to detail,” said Floersch. “But it’s also about clear thinking.” A successful grant proposal is a cohesive, logical argument for financial support. To be convincing, all of the pieces of the argument must connect. © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.