Grant Proposal Tips

40 Tips On Putting Together A Grant Request

1. Don’t use a committee.

  • The fewer writers involved, the better the writing.
  • Preferably, the project innovator should be the author with editorial assistance by a grants coordinator.

2. Write in the third person. It’s easier to brag about “they” than “I”.

3. Select an appropriate and interesting title of ten words or less, and don”t be cute or hammy.

4. If the proposal is ten pages or more, prepare a Table of Contents.

5. Use contractions. That”s the way you talk, isn”t it? It”s the key to more effective, personal writing.

6. Use quick openers (like newspaper openers).

7. Don”t make a mystery out of your proposal. Start right in on the most important point.

8. Accentuate the positive.

  • Emphasize opportunities rather than needs.
  • Funders would rather know where it”s at rather than where it isn”t.

9. Use simple words, but don”t insult the reader”s intelligence.

10. If you have trouble getting started, begin with the budget.

  • Money has a strange way of defining our methods and objectives.

11. KISS – Keep It Short and Simple.

12. Fill in all blanks on application forms completely. Write N/A (not applicable) if appropriate.

13. When responding to a specific request for a proposal (RFP), follow the suggested format as closely as possible.

14. Don”t try for perfection on your first draft. Get down your ideas, then edit and rewrite.

15. Have a strong first sentence.

16. Have a strong ending.

17. Let a client or expert state your need through a quotation. This lends more credibility than if you state it yourself.

18. Use a title that suggests the results you hope to achieve rather than what you plan to do. (Improving Reading of the 5th Graders is better than A Proposal for Reading Machines for Our Schools.)

19. Write your budget first, then make sure your proposal supports each item in that budget.

20. Write your summary last after you have finished the major parts of your application.

21. In your summary, emphasize client benefits of your work, and why the project should be funded now.

22. Make sure you say why this funder is the best source of money for this project.

23. Use one or two clear statistics rather than a number of ineffective ones.

24. Use graphs, charts, and maps to illustrate your points whenever possible.

25. Always include “donated” and “requested” columns in your budget.

26. Always include your plan for funding your project after the grant ends.

27. Use short paragraphs (4-6 lines, if possible).

28. Use active, not passive voice. (Example: “ACT will build the theatre in 1982” rather than, “The theatre will be completed in 1982.”)

29. Tell a story about people.

30. Use emotional words describing love, friendship, grief, etc.)

31. Describe emotions or feelings you or your client have.

32. Don”t be afraid to be humorous in a low-key way.

33. Personalize and tailor your proposals to individual funders.

34. Use metaphors, analogies, parables.

35. Use a proposal review committee to give you input on strengths and weaknesses of your proposal.

36. Have an associate or friend not directly involved in your project proofread your proposal, looking for:

  • grammatical mistakes
  • logical inconsistencies
  • unjustified budget items
  • undefined or confusing terms
  • unsupported arguments, unfounded assumptions, weak documentation.

37. Get your project idea critiqued by a number of associates before writing a full-scale proposal.

38. Know as much as you can about your funder before starting to write your proposal.

39. Talk to other grantees about their proposals to a funder before writing yours. Ask about the funder’s preferences in:

  • length
  • complexity
  • budget detail
  • statistical support
  • personal contact before proposal submission

40. If appropriate, quote enabling legislation, foundation founder’s words, or foundation’s or corporation’s annual report to show how your project fits the intent of the grantmaking organization.

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