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Appleton PowerPoint - Writing Winning Grants


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This PowerPoint slide presentation was originally developed for an Advanced Grant Writing Workshop (2010), sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission. As it continues to be one of my most popular, I continue to update it now-and-again.

The presentation is based on many years of personal experience (real grant experiences are included). I have also included a link to this slide presentation on Carolyn's Nonprofit Blog ( Follow the link for additional commentary.

Questions? New email:

Published in: Education

Appleton PowerPoint - Writing Winning Grants

  1. 1. Writing Winning Grant Proposals Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE
  2. 2. “It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.” - Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
  3. 3. Before you start, consider … • Can you explain the project both succinctly (“elevator speech”), and in detail (for the proposal)? • Can you explain how the project fits into the overall budget of your organization? • Do you understand the project budget, and how the funds specifically being requested will be spent?
  4. 4. And … • Does the project dovetail with your organization’s mission. Do you believe it is worthy? • Is the project endorsed by the Board, and are they willing to vouch for it? • Are you willing to keep your funders informed about your progress?
  5. 5. Think … •A grant is a contract between your organization and the donor. If they provide the funding, you must agree to do the work. •Feel comfortable with your answers? Then you are ready to write and submit a grant proposal.
  6. 6. “If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
  7. 7. • Conduct research using the most recent information. • Ask advice of those who have received past funding from these sources. • If possible, meet with your prospects in advance – even a brief, advance telephone call can help guide your work.
  8. 8. Carolyn’s Research Tools • Hard-copy files, constituent management system (computer) data, e-mail and mailing lists, etc. • GuideStar or The Foundation Center online, IRS Form 990s (tax returns for recent grants, board list, etc.) • Directory of Texas Foundations (for Texas nonprofits, available online) • The Foundation Directory, The Foundation Center, New York (and/or their specialty directories) • Google and other search engines • People who have personal knowledge about the potential funder(s). •WealthEngine for larger campaigns, if budget available to support it.
  9. 9. •When writing, put yourself in the shoes of a lay person. •Take the time to explain your program clearly. Don’t assume they know or understand anything about it. •Don’t overuse abbreviations. Ask a friend to critique your drafts.
  10. 10. •If you “cut and paste,” be sure to remove the name of the other funder you were approaching, in the new text. •Follow guidelines (and forms) provided by funders to the letter. Not to do so suggests arrogance and laziness.
  11. 11. Keep in mind … When asking a person, family, or an organization for funding, the operative word is …
  12. 12. •Submit your grant proposal on time, if there is a formal deadline. Avoid “rushed” requests if possible. •Include the enclosures the funder has requested, and any additional items that could be helpful (but don’t overdo it).
  13. 13. •Patience is a virtue. It takes time to review grant proposals. •You’ve undoubtedly got competition. •Give yourself some “breathing room” before re-contacting the funder for an update on the status of your request. •Keep communicating about your good work (social media, mailed pieces, word-of-mouth, etc.).
  14. 14. Did you not receive the grant? •You are not alone. •Sometimes a letter thanking the prospect for considering the grant is a good idea, sometimes it is seen as “B.S.” •Keep good prospects on the mailing list and continue to cultivate, because they may change their minds and contribute later on.
  15. 15. •Keep in mind, there are other competing, pressing problems to solve. •What kind of “no” did you receive, and can you turn it into a “yes” later? “No, not this.” “No, not you.” “No, not me.” “No, not in this way.” “No, not unless ...” “No, not now.” “No, too much.” “No, too little.”
  16. 16. •Once you receive a grant, thank you letters on letterhead (it’s the law), and personal, hand-written thank you notes are important. •E-mail and social media are nice, but not enough. Develop an acknowledgement plan. •If it is not anonymous, share the good news with the public (but discuss this with the donor in advance).
  17. 17. •Caution advised - don’t just, “take the money and run.” •Stewardship is an essential but often overlooked part of the grant making process. •Ignore at your peril! Donors can punish your organization by telling their colleagues about your thoughtlessness.
  18. 18. MemorableConversations
  19. 19. Memorable Conversations “If you can’t explain it all on one page, you can’t explain it.” I did just that, and was awarded $1,000,000 from a major corporation based in Dallas. It is best to follow the instructions you are given by the prospective donor, and sometimes these go, “against the grain.” What you learned in that grant-writing class may not apply in the end ….
  20. 20. Memorable Conversations “I need more information. Again.” [And, again.] I had already provided a great deal of supplementary information, and thought I would throw up my hands at having to provide even more! But, responding courteously and quickly to requests for additional information led to a $1,375,000 grant. Initially, I did not think we had a chance.
  21. 21. Memorable Conversations “Please have your director review and sign the enclosed contact.” By carefully reviewing the contract upon approval of our $100,000 grant, I learned a series of reports regarding the progress of the project were required by a highly regarded Texas foundation. We happily complied. A few years before I arrived on staff, the director had failed to comply with a similar request, and had to return $1,000,000 to this same donor. We were lucky to have secured the new grant at the smaller amount!
  22. 22. Memorable Conversations “If you do not grab their attention in your cover letter, your request will never make it to final review.” One foundation’s administrator was direct. They receive so many requests, they have trouble considering all of them. The Board members sit down and read the cover letters to see what projects “stand out.” What’s needed then, is a succinct, captivating statement that is not buried in the text.
  23. 23. Memorable Conversations “Sure, you can have a grant of $250,000. But if you want to make it worth our while, come up with a marketing plan and I’ll consider $1,000,000.” The chairman of a major American corporation issued a challenge that our nonprofit gladly accepted. We arranged follow-up meetings with his marketing division (not our own), developed a plan to market one of his products through a new exhibition, and secured a $1,000,000 grant. It took a lot of time, attention to detail, and follow-up, but was well worth the effort.
  24. 24. Memorable Conversations “Enclosed is a check for $1,000,000. Please call our office immediately upon receipt.” A letter from a generous foundation was received by the secretary of a university president with this statement. The secretary gave the check to the CFO for deposit, and filed the letter. I learned the grant had arrived a week later, only by a casual remark by a dean. I immediately contacted the foundation. You can imagine how that conversation went! Internal communication is so important.
  25. 25. Memorable Conversations “The economy has ‘tanked’ and no one will give until the financial markets are on the mend.” Admonished that my efforts would go unrewarded, I forged ahead with prospective donor meetings. It took 8 months, but a grant of $250,000 was awarded by a local utility company. Not everyone is negatively affected by an economic downturn, and even some of those who are affected will rise to the occasion, regardless of what may seem like impossible odds!
  26. 26. Received a grant? •Keep contributors informed about the project as it unfolds. Provide information without asking for money. •If you helped secure the grant but depart the organization, make sure someone else follows through. •Regular communication binds funders more closely to you, and can lead to additional grants.
  27. 27. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” - Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)
  28. 28. Thank You! Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE 512-954-4477 or •WordPress Blog: •Fundraising Resources: •Corporate:
  29. 29. Production Credits •Alistair Cooke, Capturing What Alistair Cooke Saw,, November 22, 2008 •Aretha Franklin, Respect and Other Hits, CD cover, Flashback Records •Portrait of Louis IV 1701, Hyacinth Rigaud, Louvre, Paris. •Microsoft Office Online (clip art) •The Nonprofit Times, Donors: 9 Reasons ‘No’ Can Be ‘Yes,’ December 3, 2009 •Take the Money and Run, movie by Palomar Pictures International starring Woody Allen and Janet Margolin (a Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffee Production), 1969, VHS tape cover. Carolyn M. Appleton, Inc. Updated: October 10, 2014