In Funding Proposals, Formatting Matters

Even a great argument for funding won’t bring in a grant award unless reviewers understand your point. “A clear, active writing style is important,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “And because you’ve got to deliver so much detailed information, strong formatting can keep concepts clear and help readers follow your logic.”

Good formatting is more than a nicety, it’s a technique for guiding readers smoothly through a document, according to Floersch.

“When application guidelines use headings, subheadings, or numbers to organize information, incorporate that exact formatting into your grant proposal,” said Floersch. Use the funders wording for the headings and subheadings. Use the same numbering when responding to sequential questions, and give each numbered question a short title to immediately orient readers to the information it contains.

When the funder doesn’t provide application guidelines, organize your proposal into specific sections so that each contains one specific category of information, and give each section a logical heading. Proposal categories from The Grantsmanship Center model are: Summary, Introduction of the Applicant Organization, Problem, Outcomes, Methods, Evaluation, Future Support, and Budget.

The methods section of a proposal, in which you explain exactly how a program will be implemented, tends to be the longest and most detailed. Given the specific nature of what it must deliver, formatting in the methods section is especially important. Typical subheadings within the methods section include: Overview (justifying why you chose the approach), Description of Participants, Details on Major Components of Activity, Collaboration with other Organizations, Staffing, Facilities, Equipment, and Timeline.

All grant proposals are different, and the requirements and guidelines of funders vary widely. “Following directions is the number one rule,” said Floersch. “But whether you’re responding to detailed instructions or preparing a document for which no guidelines are provided, be smart. Give readers a helping hand by formatting the document to guide them through the logic of the request.” © Copyright 2016, The Grantsmanship Center