Grants: Focus On Concepts, Not Terminology

Is an objective the same thing as a goal? Is a method the same as an output? “It depends on who you ask,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “When it comes to terminology in the world of grants, the only thing you can count on is inconsistency.”

But while the terms funders use vary, the information they’re trying to get doesn’t deviate. That means when you understand the types of information necessary for a thorough grant proposal, you can translate a funder’s language into common concepts. “Don’t panic when you see unfamiliar terms, or when you see common terms used in new ways,” said Floersch. “Consider the information every grantmaker needs to know.” Here are the core concepts that show up somewhere in every funder’s application guidelines. 

Who are you and canI trust you? Guidelines might ask you to explain your organization’s background or history, or to provide an organizational overview. No matter how the question is phrased, the funder is asking you to provide basic information about your organization, what it does, its reach, and its impact. You’re also being asked to show that the organization is professional, effective, and connected to the community, and that it has expertise in the issue area your funding proposal addresses. 

What’s compelling you to submit this proposal? Guidelines might require that you describe and document the problem, the need, or the situation that concerns you. No matter how it’s phrased, every funder wants a solid description of why you’re requesting support and why the issue is significant enough to warrant the investment of grant funds.  

What do you expect to accomplish with the funding? This pivotal concept is about results. the terms funders use here are especially variable. They’ll ask for outcomes, goals, objectives, impact, etc. No matter how it’s phrased, you’re being asked to specify the positive change you expect the grant-funded program to produce. Vague, general expectations won’t do. You’re being asked for specific, measurable, realistic statements of what you expect to change.

How will you accomplish the results you expect? This concept is about the activities you’ll use to accomplish the results. application guidelines might ask for a detailed description of the program plan, approach, methods, or some other new or repurposed term. Because every funder wants to know how you’ll produce the results, you can provide a spot-on answer no matter how the guidelines phrase the question.  

Focus on concepts, not terminology. “If the language in the guidelines confuses you, seek clarity from the funder. but you won’t always be able to speak with grantmakers,” said Floersch. “When you’re on your own, use the basic concepts to guide your response.” © Copyright 2020, The Grantsmanship Center