This article was originally a post under, “Recent Thoughts” (2015). The content is noteworthy and timely; I decided to make it a primary page.
I continue to meet nonprofit executive directors and development professionals who insist one must be creative when writing a grant proposal in order to grab the attention of the potential donor and to secure funding.
This, compounded with a flood of advice provided online by communications experts – sometimes misconstrued to apply also to grant writing – means there is a disconnect with reality. Yes, storytelling is an important aspect of nonprofit communications, but use it sparingly when it comes to writing grants.
A well-regarded grant professional I know in Texas once remarked when we discussed this quandary,
“Give me the facts. Get to the point. I have to read hundreds of grant proposals. If I cannot understand what you need and why, and fairly quickly, I will turn my attention to the next proposal.”
One of the earliest articles on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, “Grant Writing: A Reality Check,” is also one of my most read. And while I heartily endorse securing formal grant writing training (as I have done), my mantra in the article is that one must follow instructions, but at the same time, be flexible.
This is not the case with government grant writing, of course, but it certainly is when it comes to writing grants for private sector funders. The latter can throw you a “curve ball,” as they say. Listen and respond as requested, rather than simply following the preset format you learned during a grant writing seminar. After all, you are approaching a unique individual, family, foundation or corporation for funding. You must respect their inquiries and the way in which they prefer to receive information.
I wanted to share a few links I recently discovered that might be of help to grant writers reading this post. There is excellent advice to be found therein.
- Sukey Blanc of the American Association of University Women, “How to Write Grant Proposals: 8 Tips from an Expert” (September, 2014).
- Kathryn Pauley of Nonprofit Hub, “Finding Your Perfect Love: Grant Writing Tips for Nonprofits” (n.d.).
- Jake Seliger of Seliger + Associates, “Never Think Outside the Box: Grant Writing is About Following the Recipe, Not Creativity” (January, 2010).
- University of Wisconsin at Madison Libraries, Research Guides: Grant Proposal Writing (a wonderful collection of resources!).
And then I enjoyed a somewhat unusual resource, an article by Catherine Clifford for Entrepreneur, “8 Writing Strategies for People Who Say They Can’t Write” (April, 2014).
“When you sit down to write a business pitch, a grant proposal or a speech, be sure that you have done your research and know precisely what you mean to communicate. If you’re struggling to write, it may be a sign that you are confused about what you want to say. Condense the main nugget of what you are trying to say into just a short phrase or sentence and you’ll have a better shot at composing a tight, organized piece.”
Last but not least, I first began Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, a number of email inquiries I received concerned how to clear one’s mind in preparation for writing, how to focus and the like. If you are concerned about that, follow this link to, “Dealing With Stress.” Sometimes the proper mental framework can make a world of difference.
If you have more questions about grant writing, use the secure contact form on this blog to reach me.