Proposal Writing and Grantseeking

Leading With Strength

Much has been said about a shift in how we describe the communities we serve. Instead of writing a classic “problem statement” detailing what is wrong, or missing, we’re urged to write instead about what’s right--what strengths a community already has that it can build on. This “asset-based” approach doesn’t deny that work needs to be done, it simply affirms the resources and resilience that already exist.

Less May Be More

Great writers agree: it’s harder to write short than write long. Mark Twain said “a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. . .a five-minute speech will take two weeks to prepare.” Thoreau said “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

Government vs. Foundation Grants

When it comes to applying for grants, most small to mid-sized nonprofits don’t have a lot of staff resources or a bountiful budget for consultants. The challenge is to decide what funding “suspects” are actually good prospects and to make choices about what to pursue. Often the decision is about whether to put more effort into public / government funding vs. private foundation grant-making.

How to Know You’re Ready to Compete for Grants

Thousands of foundations, billions of dollars and only 1.5 million nonprofits. Let’s get our tax-exemption and snag that first, free money! Spoiler alert: this story does not end well. Most proposals get rejected, most brand-new nonprofits do not get their first dollar from a foundation and some have estimated that half the new nonprofits will fizzle out in a year or two. What about the “other half?” What are the characteristics of nonprofits that stand the best chance of winning foundation support?

For the Record

Our last blog, about avoiding jargon in your proposals, has caused some in our community to respond with anger, dismay, and/or a gentle reprimand to walk our talk. “To err is human” and we sure are. So let us be clear: we do value older people, we do think women are intelligent, and we do think seniors are capable of high-level, important contributions. We’re sorry for any consternation and/or offense caused by our poorly chosen words.

Numbers Tell the Story - If They’re the Right Numbers

Good proposals show that there’s a need for the program being proposed. One way to do this is by presenting statistics that give an accurate picture of the situation. Your organization’s credibility rests in part on demonstrating that you understand the problem you’re addressing. And numbers can tell the story, if they’re the right numbers.

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