5 ways of making your message clear

The purpose of a grant proposal is to communicate your organization’s message in a way that instills confidence and inspires support. “When a funder is reviewing your proposal, you’ve got a private audience,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “Don’t squander that opportunity by burying your message beneath a barrage of static.”

Floersch defines static as “anything that gets in the way of clarity and obscures what you’re trying to communicate.” She offers these examples:

  • Poor writing: If your writing is confusing and hard to comprehend, it can’t accomplish what you want it to do.
  • Muddled logic: If the points of your argument don’t add up, the proposal is a loss. Funders won’t support a call to action they can’t understand.
  • Poor layout: A crowded, poorly formatted document repels rather than attracts. It’s uninviting.
  • Fontitus: “Using lots of different fonts throughout both the headings and the body of the document produces a dizzying effect I call fontitus,” said Floersch. “It’s as if the proposal were infected with an uncontrolled virus.” Choose a font and stick with it.
  • Sprinkling rather than clustering information: Don’t take a tossed salad approach with your proposal. Define the major types of information you plan to include, establish a heading for each, and cluster related information under the appropriate heading. Under the heading of PROBLEM, for example, don’t discuss the methods your organization will implement to address the problem. Keep information organized.

“There’s a lot of static you can’t control,” said Floersch. “The reader might have a headache or a difficult deadline. But there’s a lot you can control.” Challenge yourself to develop clear, logical grant requests that are well organized, attractive, and interesting.