No Trust, No Money

After submitting hundreds of grant proposals, it’s easy to get lackadaisical when completing yet another description of your nonprofit. But, don’t do it. Pump yourself up and snap to, because the funder’s belief in the integrity and credibility of your organization will tip the scale for or against an award. 

Until the grantmaker believes your organization can deliver on its promises, nothing you propose will matter. 

“It’s a natural reaction,” said Barbara Floersch of chief of training and curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “If a stranger asked you for thousands of dollars, I bet the first question you’d ask is, ‘Who are you? ’Until you were certain the stranger was trustworthy, nothing the person could say would count.”

Floersch offers these suggestions for ramping up the power when introducing your organization. 

  • Develop a detailed, thorough description of your organization covering every aspect of its work. If your nonprofit runs 10 programs, address each of them. Review and revise the document at least annually, and more often if there are changes in leadership or programs, or if you get new data from evaluation reports. Keep it fresh and up to date.
  • Be sure to include a description of internal operating systems: the board of directors, administrators, annual audits, policies and procedures, staff supervision and training, evaluation approaches, etc.
  • Include hard data — facts and figures that demonstrate the scope of your reach and impact. How much service do you deliver? How many people benefit, how much, and in what ways? How do you know?
  • Work in some powerful stories and quotes–soft, qualitative data that give a human voice to the numbers and help funders identify with the importance of your work and its results.
  • Engage staff members, board members, and clients to get the language just right. You’re looking for a balanced mix of head and heart that clearly describes what you do, the change you produce, and why that matters. 

Use this treasure trove of information to craft a tailored narrative highlighting accomplishments and expertise in the subject area relevant to each grant proposal you prepare. You’ll seldom if ever use all the information in one proposal. You’ll pick and choose and sift and sort to fashion a description of your organization that convinces funders you can and will deliver what each grant proposal promises.

Never take a slap-dash approach to presenting your organization as an applicant for funding. Grantmakers receive more requests than they can support. When they believe in the quality, integrity, capacity, and expertise of your organization, that’s a great competitive advantage.