Salesmanship in proposal writing

Most nonprofit professionals believe passionately in their organization’s mission, and new grant seekers often believe that articulating their organization’s good work is all that’s needed to win funding. “Their commitment to the issue is so strong that they can’t imagine the funder won’t feel the same way and jump on board,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center, in Los Angeles, Calif.

“But funders have varied interests and lots of people knocking on their doors. To win grants you’ve got to step back and consider the most promising approach,” she said.

Effective grant seekers try to learn what’s important to the prospective funder, then work to present a well-considered argument for support that’s focused on the funder’s mission. When the proposal makes a professional and genuine connection with those who will make the funding decision, it’s more likely to be successful.

“There’s some salesmanship involved,” said Thompson. “Really good salespeople work to set up win-win scenarios. It’s not about cajoling or misrepresenting. It’s about matching up needs.”

According to Thompson, good salesmanship in proposal writing starts with thorough research of the funder and its grantmaking aims. What does it care about? What does it hope to accomplish with the grants it makes? “Until you understand that,” said Thompson, “you won’t know if your project is a good fit, and you won’t be able to articulate your case in a way that’s empathetic to the funder’s perspective.”

Another important quality of effective salesmanship is an appropriate level of assertiveness. “Salespeople who are overly passive have trouble closing the deal,” said Thompson. “And, those who are too aggressive are off-putting and alienate their audience.” Strike a professionally assertive tone in the grant proposal by making your case clearly and confidently. Use straightforward language and an active voice.

While passion for your organization’s cause may keep you fired up for the work, neither that nor good works alone will result in grant funding. Do the legwork to find truly appropriate funders for your project, then articulate your case confidently with a focus on the funder’s interests. “When a good salesperson closes the deal,” said Thompson, “everyone is happy.” ©The Grantsmanship Center. All Rights Reserved.