Writing an Effective Grant Proposal


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  • Writing an Effective Grant Proposal

    1. 1. Writing an Effective Grant Proposal Nancy L. Withbroe, CFRE
    2. 2. We Will Cover <ul><li>Writing an Effective Grant Proposal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideal flow and structure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other formats </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Putting it together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Basic rules </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Where to Learn More </li></ul><ul><li>Questions & Answers </li></ul>
    3. 3. Writing an Effective Grant Proposal
    4. 4. The Ideal Flow and Structure Telling your story
    5. 5. The Ideal Flow <ul><li>State the need </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ This group knows what they are talking about.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identify the solution you offer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Gee, that could really make a difference.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Present your plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ OK, I see what we need to do” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Back up with details </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ That makes me confident they can really do it” </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Proposal Narrative Components <ul><li>Statement of need </li></ul><ul><li>Project plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Goals and objectives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Activities and timeline </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluation plan </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Project budget </li></ul><ul><li>Background on your organization </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul>
    7. 7. State the Need <ul><li>What problem in the community does your organization/ project address? – not – what problem does your organization have? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify the target population. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use local statistics for local projects. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tell a story about a person. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who else is working on this problem, and where are the gaps? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Speak the funder’s language. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Mindset – Think Like the Funder, Not Like Your Organization <ul><li>What does the funder want? – not – what does your organization want to deliver? </li></ul><ul><li>What language does the funder understand and appreciate? – not – are these the terms we are accustomed to using? </li></ul><ul><li>Give the reader hope </li></ul>
    9. 9. Identify Your Solution - Project Goal <ul><li>How will you approach the need? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your goal? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>General statement regarding how target population will change as result of your project </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What difference will you make as a result of this work? </li></ul>
    10. 10. Present Your Plan - Project Activities and Timeline <ul><li>Put milestone dates in place for each project activity </li></ul><ul><li>Divide long tasks into shorter segments with milestones </li></ul><ul><li>Check to ensure that long time intervals are well explained and understandable </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t promise more than you can deliver </li></ul>
    11. 11. Present Your Plan - Staffing, Partners, Budget <ul><li>What resources do you need to fulfill your plan? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Staff/volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Partner organizations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In-kind donations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cash </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Present Your Plan - Budget <ul><li>Expenses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Personnel – % time for this project applied to salary and benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you include indirect expenses (i.e., overhead), break out as many elements as possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rent </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Utilities </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Office supplies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include items to be donated in-kind </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Present Your Plan – Budget <ul><li>Income </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ALWAYS balance with expenses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This proposal “under consideration” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other grants (under consideration, committed, to be submitted) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other sources (general operating funds, individual donations, fees for service) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include in-kind contributions </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Present Your Plan – Evaluation and Expected Outcomes <ul><li>What outcomes – changes in the target population – will result? </li></ul><ul><li>How will you know if these outcomes were achieved - what measurement tools will you use? </li></ul><ul><li>This becomes your outline for reports if the grant is funded </li></ul><ul><li>Donors give to the future, not the past </li></ul>
    15. 15. Introduce Your Organization <ul><li>Who are you? </li></ul><ul><li>Why are you the best organization to address this need in this particular way? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Track record </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proven staff and volunteer leadership </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Independent testimonials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clients </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Subject matter experts </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Partner organizations </li></ul></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Conclusion <ul><li>Ask for a specific amount within a specific time frame </li></ul><ul><li>Remind the reader of the need and your solution </li></ul><ul><li>Mention recognition opportunities, if appropriate </li></ul><ul><li>Inspire the reader </li></ul>
    17. 17. Putting it Together Pay attention to your package
    18. 18. First Impressions Are Important <ul><li>Appear professional, polished, but modest </li></ul><ul><li>Pay attention to requirements for margins, binders, number of pages, font size, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Most funders prefer simply packaged, unbound proposals on white, 8 ½” x 11” paper. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Cover Letter <ul><li>NEVER “To whom it may concern” </li></ul><ul><li>Summarize request </li></ul><ul><li>Reference conversations you have had with staff or board members about the proposal </li></ul><ul><li>Thank funder for past support, if relevant </li></ul><ul><li>Offer to set up meeting or call to discuss </li></ul><ul><li>Signed by Executive Director and sometimes by Board President </li></ul>
    20. 20. Executive Summary <ul><li>It’s the most important piece, because… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s the only piece everyone reads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s the first piece everyone reads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For some, it’s the only piece they read </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Write it FIRST and LAST </li></ul><ul><li>If the funder requires an application form, use that instead </li></ul>
    21. 21. Attachments <ul><li>501(c)3 letter </li></ul><ul><li>Board list </li></ul><ul><li>Key staff resumes or brief bios </li></ul><ul><li>1 pg org. budget </li></ul><ul><li>1 pg. project budget </li></ul><ul><li>Audited financials </li></ul><ul><li>Annual report </li></ul><ul><li>1-2 current media reports about your organization </li></ul><ul><li>1-2 letters of support </li></ul><ul><li>Put in same order as RFP/ guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Less is more </li></ul>
    22. 22. Other Formats Telling your story … how the funder wants to hear it
    23. 23. Other Formats <ul><li>Request for Proposal </li></ul><ul><li>Letter Proposal/ Letter of Inquiry </li></ul><ul><li>Online Applications </li></ul>
    24. 24. Request for Proposal (“RFP”) <ul><li>RFP can be formal, semi-formal (guidelines) or totally informal (verbal) </li></ul><ul><li>Use the RFP as your guide for what to say and in what order </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use their numbering system, format, and naming conventions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Put additional information in attachments </li></ul>
    25. 25. Answer Everything – No Exceptions <ul><li>Provide the answers exactly where the reviewer expects to find them </li></ul><ul><li>Refer, as needed, to attachments, but it is risky to assume every reviewer has the attachments </li></ul><ul><li>If you can’t or don’t want to answer an item, what should you do? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make your “no answer” the answer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Never leave a blank or “TBD” </li></ul></ul>
    26. 26. Check Your Answers Against Their Evaluation Criteria <ul><li>Evaluate their criteria </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What else might they REALLY want </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Plan your answers with the evaluation criteria in mind – Write for a good score </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluate every answer against the evaluation criteria as you write </li></ul>
    27. 27. Letter Proposals <ul><li>Letter of Inquiry/Introduction (“LOI”) may be required first step, or your only chance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow their directions, if provided </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If not, use short version of ideal flow (need, organization info, project plan, budget) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Request permission to submit full proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on essentials </li></ul><ul><li>Three pages MAX </li></ul>
    28. 28. Online Applications <ul><li>Increasingly common </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare your answers in a Word document, then cut and paste </li></ul><ul><li>Watch word limits </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t wait until the last minute </li></ul>
    29. 29. Basic Rules for ANY Proposal Don’t Do Anything Stupid
    30. 30. Meet the Deadline <ul><li>You absolutely must deliver the proposal on time and as promised </li></ul><ul><li>If necessary, send via multiple media </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fax </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UPS or Fed Ex </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In Person </li></ul></ul>
    31. 31. Don’t Skip Reviews – Style and Content <ul><li>Assign someone to review for grammar, punctuation and stylistic consistency </li></ul><ul><li>Ask subject matter experts to review for content </li></ul><ul><li>In tight proposal schedules, you will be tempted to skip these reviews – DON’T </li></ul><ul><li>Grammatical and spelling errors are a turn-off </li></ul><ul><li>Subject matter errors are absolute killers </li></ul>
    32. 32. Track the Consistency of all Proposal Components <ul><li>Do the details agree in all the parts of the proposal: Executive summary, narrative, timeline, budget, attachments, cover letter? </li></ul>
    33. 33. Explain Everything – But Don’t Insult Their Intelligence <ul><li>Avoid jargon, special language uses, acronyms and abbreviations </li></ul><ul><li>Do not assume the reader knows or understands what’s most important </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it short and simple </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t be patronizing or long-winded </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t take up proposal space with stuff that is not making your case distinctively </li></ul></ul>
    34. 34. Don’t Reveal the Boilerplate <ul><li>The major risk of using boilerplate is that you forget to customize it </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leave blanks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leave another funder’s name </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide information that is out of date </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Customize boilerplate for this funder </li></ul><ul><li>Boilerplate is a shortcut to better work, not a means to avoid work </li></ul>
    35. 35. Avoid Ugly <ul><li>Typefaces, small print, formats, graphics, pictures </li></ul><ul><li>Ugly words or metaphors (e.g., “abort,” “retarded,” “Jew-down the budget”) </li></ul><ul><li>Hard-to-read tables or charts </li></ul><ul><li>Badly copied pages </li></ul>
    36. 36. Develop a Relationship <ul><li>People give money to people -- organizations do not give money to organizations </li></ul><ul><li>Board to board, staff to staff </li></ul><ul><li>Build trust over time </li></ul><ul><li>It make take 2-3 years to get the grant you want </li></ul>
    37. 37. Where to Learn More Resources
    38. 38. Where to Learn More <ul><li>Foundation Center ( www.fdncenter.org ) </li></ul><ul><li>Charity Channel ( www.charitychannel.com ) </li></ul><ul><li>State and regional associations of nonprofits </li></ul><ul><li>Association of Fundraising Professionals ( www.afpnet.org ) </li></ul>
    39. 39. Contact Information <ul><li>Nancy Withbroe, CFRE </li></ul><ul><li>Manager of Consulting Services </li></ul><ul><li>CDR Fundraising Group </li></ul><ul><li>(301) 858-1500, x2202 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>www.cdrfg.com </li></ul>