- Before starting the application process, be clear about what you want to
accomplish. Draw up a long-range plan that projects goals at least five years
- Research potential funders thoroughly -- a cursory look through a
foundation directory isn't good enough. Then apply what you've learned.
Don't just ignore a funder's guidelines in the hopes of "fitting" your
proposal into their niche.
- Only preview successful applications from grantseekers whose projects are
similar to yours. You'll not only get some good ideas, but an understanding
of the competition too.
- Once you verify available funding, divide your efforts into three further
phases: writing the proposal, marketing, and management.
- Writing the proposal should take only about 40% of your time. Try to get
program officials to review a 3-5 page summary of your plan first, to make
sure you're on the right track.
- Basic rules of proposal-writing: don't ask for more than you need; take
your time writing the proposal; never lie; never use the same application
twice; be up-front about asking for money; and don't waste time -- get
straight to the point.
- Don't overlook marketing. It should take at least 10% of your time. Make
sure your organization will appeal to a potential funder, try to look
professional, and involve key community figures where possible.
- Management is vital. You must be able to demonstrate that you have the
management skills and experience that can deliver success.
- Know the funder. It's been estimated that your chances of success improve
by as much as 300% when you make contact with the funder before and during the
proposal--writing process. Don't ask for hidden agendas, but find out about
general trends or new ideas the funder is currently interested in.
- Always work to a timetable. Make sure you have enough time to complete
your applications o it meets the funder's deadlines. If you don't have tie to
do it properly, don't compete for the grant at all.
- Give thought to the idea of cooperation. Many funders, particularly
federal agencies, like applications where more than one organization is
involved. If you submit a cooperative proposal, remember to make sure that
there is both a formal and informal relationship between grantees.
- When dealing with any funder; but especially federal agencies, remember to
read the instructions before applying. It sounds simple, but federal
competitions live by two rules: 1) The agency is always right, and 2) When in
doubt, refer to rule 1.
- Don't just tell the funder about the existence of the problem you intend
to solve. Prove it with statistics, case studies, testimony, and any other
- Know your budget. It's probably the first thing a funder will look at in
your proposal. It needs to be realistic and give credibility to your entire
proposal. Present the budget separately from the rest of the application and
make sure the figures are correct and that the budget accurately reflects your
needs. Keep a record of how you arrived at your costs.
- A few other writing hints: 1) Avoid filling your proposal with jargon.
2) Begin each section with a strong, clear sentence. 3) Don't go overboard,
but do try to make your proposal interesting to read. 4) Check with the
funder to see if there's a preferred format, typestyle, etc.
- If your proposal doesn't win support, keep calm. Never berate funding
officials or grant reviewers. Try to get more information and ask whether it
would be worth submitting another application in the future. Go back over
your proposal with care and see you can find places where it might have been
- The key to a strong proposal is proving the likelihood that it will
achieve its goals. Result areas should always be clearly determined and
measurement indicators should be outlined. It may not be easy to do, but the
value of having clear performance standards can't be underestimated.
- Remember that often the key to a strong proposal is simplicity. Don't
waste words. Funders are looking for a proposal that will succeed, so keep
things clear, factual, supportable, and professional.
- Don't give in to pressure. A rushed proposal rarely wins. Keep a file
with standard information enclosed and updated, like staff resumes and
community statistical data, so you can concentrate on the specific grant
information needed when the time to apply arrives.
- When dealing with foundation or corporate funders, don't overlook the importance of the original contact letter. Make it as strong as possible and keep it to the point.
The following are just a few of the invaluable grant tips you'll find in every twice-monthly issue of FEDERAL ASSISTANCE MONITOR. Plus, you'll get dozens of new private and federal grant listings, too! Don't wait another minute -- call 1-800-666-6380 to subscribe now!
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