“You need a particular skill set to develop and write a great funding proposal,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “And certain personality characteristics also help—a strong work ethic, tenacity, integrity, a team outlook.”
Beyond acquiring a solid grasp of the basic skills, here are three things you can do to raise your grant proposals to a higher level.
Know your organization: Be sure you can describe your organization’s mission, history, accomplishments, service area, constituents, programs and services, board, budget, funding sources, and collaborations. You need numbers, data, and stories. You need a genuine understanding of why the organization matters. The time you take to read internal reports and talk with staff will be well spent.
Know your service area and constituents: Be sure you understand the geography, demographics, history, social characteristics, and economic situation of the area in which your organization works. Get to know the constituents so that you can paint a vivid picture of those the organization assists. Who and how many are helped? Be able to discuss constituent characteristics—i.e., age, educational level, health status, economic status, race, ethnicity, etc.—relevant to the proposed program.
Know the field: Be able to describe your organization and its work within a broader context. How do its programs or services relate to best practices? Is its work supported by relevant research findings and expert opinions? Is the organization’s work or the proposed program innovative?
Some grant proposal developers bring only a limited knowledge of their organization and its field of work to their task. “Educate yourself. Make appointments with other staff members and dive deeply into what they do. Read reports and evaluation documents. Become an expert on your organization, its topic area, and its mission,” says Floersch.