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The Proposal Writer’s Bookshelf
The Proposal Writer’s Bookshelf

The development writer, facing relentless deadlines and lots of scrawled notes from program staff, is certainly busy. There is, however, the risk of becoming a closed system — recycling previous language, replaying the “greatest hits” of earlier proposals, cannibalizing what was once fresh.

Reading is not a luxury for effective proposal writers. It is a primary fuel source and essential for growth and strength. “Replenishing your writer’s cupboard is a necessary element of lively proposal development,” according to Thomas Boyd, chief editorial consultant to The Grantsmanship Center.

What to read? In addition to the “how-to” books about the art and science of proposal writing, consider books that open new windows in your topic areas or program priorities. Climate and environment? Under a “White Sky,” Elizabeth Kolbert; “Extreme Cities,” Ashley Dawson. Education? “Uncommon Sense Teaching,” Oakley/Rogowsky/Sejnowski. You’ll find new writing and new thinking addressing almost every nonprofit mission and whether or not you agree with the authors these books stir up your thinking. 

How about books that help all writers write better? “On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction,: William Zinsser; “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” Verlyn Klinkenborg; “The Elements of Style,” William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Then there are some books that speak to the essential art of persuasive writing. “Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion,” 

Pratkanis and Aronson; “Rhetoric, Persuasion and Modern Legal Writing,” Brian Porto; “Political Writing: A Guide to the Essentials,” Adam Garfinkle and David Brooks. 

Finally, some authors are fun to have around because they mess with our well-schooled perfect prose and shake things up: Richard Brautigan’s “Trout Fishing in America;” “Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf; anything by Tom Spanbauer; “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,: Jonathan Safran Foer. There are thousands of other books out there—the trick is to make room and time to savor them.    

Writing proposals is nonfiction storytelling. The best at the craft are able to draw on a well-stocked cupboard and come up with new images, new examples, new ways of engaging readers and influencing actions. © Copyright 2022 The Grantsmanship Center