Seven Tips to Improve Grant Proposals
There are a lot of misconceptions among nonprofit organizations regarding the grant funding process.
In the book “Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal,” Martin Teitel, executive director of the Cedar Tree Foundation in Boston, seeks to remedy that, revealing the inner workings of foundations, taking readers through the funding process, and sharing tips and tricks to help nonprofits navigate grant seeking.
At the back of the book is a section referred to as The Grantseeker’s Reality Check -- 10 clusters of common questions Teitel says come up for a lot of nonprofits in the process of applying to foundations for grants, along with his advice for how best to handle each issue.
One question looks at what organizations can do to improve a proposal, and Teitel shares the following advice:
1. Go on a cliche and gobbledygook hunt. Stay away from using jargon and opt instead for clear, easy-to-understand language.
2. Use short sentences, active voice and a lot of white space. A combination of words that creates an image in readers’ minds and stirs their emotions in favor of awarding your organization the grant works best.
3. Paint word pictures. Don’t lecture readers in your proposal or delve into the technical intricacies of your field. Pay as much attention to the narrative of the proposal as a short-story writer would.
4. Write in equal parts from your heart and your head. As Teitel writes, “A proposal writer should be close enough to the work and the people who do it to infect the reader with the enthusiasm and dedication of those front-line people. Analysis without feeling just isn’t moving.”
5. Get edited. “The harder you work on your proposal,” Teitel writes, “the more difficult it may be to see the gaps in logic, redundancies and failures to be clear.” Fixing this requires two things: a good editor and a willingness to be critiqued.
6. Talk with successful grantees of that foundation. Ask colleagues who have received grants from a foundation in the past to tell you about their experience. This has the twofold effect of helping you understand the nuances of a particular foundation, and building an alliance and network with other organizations.
7. Don’t add unnecessary information to a proposal. Organizations often stuff information into a proposal with the thought that bulk will impress funders.
“The end result of these poor editing choices is a mammoth and dense proposal that works against the goal of creating enthusiasm for the work,” Teitel concludes.
“Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal,” by Martin Teitel, Emerson & Church Publishers, 2006, is available for $24.95 via www.emersonandchurch.com/books/thankyou.html