Show, Don’t Tell: Tips to Make Your Grant Proposals Stand Out

By Stephanie  |  May 25, 2018  |  Campaigns,Nonprofit Communications,Nonprofit Development,Stories

Read this blog on Foundation Center’s Grantspace Blog as well and sign up for our upcoming webinar with Foundation Center: Creating Visually Exciting Grant Proposals on June 14th. Early bird discounts (at 35%) available until June 7th.

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First things first: ask yourself, when you’re reading online, are you actually reading? Or are you skimming? No judgement, we all do it! Because we’re all pressed for time. Readers of your grant applications are no exception. We live and work in an age when our attention span is… well, blink and it’s gone.

less is more sign

How then can you make your grant proposal stand out, when your proposal is one among hundreds? How can you master the skill of saying more with less — i.e., with fewer words?

We have answers, but successful grant-writing doesn’t happen overnight. Just as you wouldn’t expect to successfully hula-hoop with one session, give yourself time to practice the art of grant writing. Be patient, and arm yourself with what you need to know about the task at hand.

Every grant needs to do two things:

  • Build a case: You need to present a clear, concise case for support. And with online portals becoming the preferred grant submission system for institutional funders, you often get a measly 1,000 words to convince your reader to give your organization thousands of dollars. This is no small task. Every word matters! There’s no room for verbosity, flowery language, or jargon. As a rule of thumb, every sentence should say something new and relate to your overall case for support.

grant meme

  • Make a sales pitch: You need to show why and how your organization is the one to solve the problem. Are your programs effective? Do you have the impact you intend to? Do you have clients who can testify to that fact? Do you have success examples and stories? You are making a sales pitch for your organization and approach. And you want to be sure to include answers to these questions in your submission.

If you really want to make your grant proposal stand out, though, you need a bit of flash: you need to utilize some marketing prowess.

You can build a case and make a sales pitch just with words and numbers. But, in our increasingly visual world, donors want to see the people, animals, or environment you impact. They want to connect with you and who you serve. You might be able to do it with words, but you have a much better shot with visuals.

Whenever possible, show grant readers, who are humans after all, who you are and who you serve. Invest in good, evocative pictures of your organization’s place, people, and impact in this world. Help potential funders imagine themselves with you, supporting your mission, helping you make your impact.

lady in sunhat looking at camera

Grant writing can feel like one of the more monotonous fundraising tasks. But it is one of the most important. So, take time with it: prepare your case carefully, position your organization as a winning solution, and make it visual. Even if you don’t make it pretty, make your reader feel something.

We’ve got much more to say - and show! - on this topic. We’ll be talking about – and showing – just how you can create Visually Exciting Grant Proposals on a webinar with the Foundation Center on June 14, 2018 at 2 PM ET. Join us!

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