Take A Deep Breath and Squeeze

It’s easy to get lost in the details of a proposal or an online application for funding. Do you have all of your tax documents together, resumés for the key personnel, data on major activities, data about who will be served, who’s on your board and their profiles?  

Now try getting all of that into 500-word boxes. It’s like trying to get a refrigerator in a jewelry box.

“Take a deep breath,” urged Thomas Boyd, chief editorial consultant for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.  “There are three basic questions you need to answer when you plan a program and gather material for the proposal. If you ground your work on these three issues and they line up to tell a clear story, chances are you’re going to be able to manage the entire process with a lot less frenzy and a lot more certainty,” according to Boyd.

First, what needs to change? In plain language, what situation, condition, fact or circumstance needs to be addressed by your nonprofit? “To help low-income young people improve their chances for attending college” is a good mission statement but it’s not specific enough for programs or proposals. What is it that hurts their chances — can’t afford tuition, not enough counseling or guidance, no role models? 

The challenge is to identify the “thing,” the problem or need that you believe your organization can address and be specific about it. Tell which young people, where, how many and describe other dimensions of your target population. Be sure after you define the change needed (the problem or need) specify the results you expect, the outcomes you’ll accomplish. Remember, funders have goals too. Your outcomes should align with the grantmaker and with the community’s own expectations, according to Boyd. 

Second, what activities are you planning? If you decide that your focus should be on training and guidance, e.g., how will you strengthen college counseling? What will your staff or associates or other people actually do to change the situation? If, for example, there are 11 high schools in your community and only six have good counseling, what will it take for your nonprofit to improve counseling in the others? How many people, which people, what interface, details of the help you plan to give. What is your plan to structure and implement specific activities to create your proposed change?  

Finally, what’s the budget? What are your personnel costs, fringe benefits, contract or vendor costs, all of the true costs to create and deliver the amount and kind of training you plan for the schools? Nonprofits need to identify all the costs of a program (and of the basic operations of the organization) so they are able to tell funders, who might want to support training for counseling, what it will cost, according to Boyd.

There are a lot of details to support these three issues and you will need to gather and present supporting information. But if you start with these three — what you’ll change to get results, how you’ll do it, and what will it cost — you’re on solid ground. © Copyright 2021 The Grantsmanship Center