Credibility rules in final proposals

When it comes to grants, funders are looking for organizations that can deliver what they promise. “You’ll either gain or lose credibility in every section of the proposal,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles. “You’ve got to prove that your organization is a serious player.”

When it comes to building a credible proposal, every section presents specific opportunities and challenges. But following these three rules will help you stay on track.

  • Show, don’t tell. Simply telling the reader that your organization is “unique” or “effective” or “successful” is meaningless. The most likely response is, “Says who?” Instead, give specific examples of successful innovations the organization has developed. Explain what it does that others don’t. Provide evaluation data showing effectiveness. Cite awards or accolades from respected sources.
  • Let others make your case. Praise from knowledgeable, objective people or institutions is much more convincing than self-promotion. Use excerpts (with permission, of course) from flattering thank-you letters and news articles or glowing quotes from those you assist or from colleagues. Cite outstanding conclusions from the evaluation contractor. Have an independent CPA comment on your organization’s pristine business procedures.
  • Never assume. When describing the issue the grant will address, include relevant, recent data and testimonials from credible sources. Show that you flat-out understand the issue and its significance and aren’t making assumptions. Be sure the program approach is up-to-date and supported by literature, research, or experience. Provide evidence that the proposed methods are likely to produce results. Cite literature or explain experience. Assumptions won’t cut it.

“Assumptions and vague self-promoting statements can sink your proposal’s credibility,” said Floersch. “Check yourself. Build the proposal on a foundation of relevant, specific facts.”