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The Only Grant Proposal Writing
by Pamela Grow
I’ve been where you are right now!
Let me tell you a short story.
When I started out in development, working for a nonprofit organization with an annual operating budget of $3 million, I’d never written a grant proposal in my life.
In fact, I had come from the “other side of the table.”
For six years I had worked in programming and then as communications officer for one of the nation’s largest regional private family foundations.
Over the years I examined every proposal that came in the door. In a matter of time, I could successfully gauge whether a proposal would be funded or not (even proposals which did not fall within the foundation’s guidelines).
I remembered one day when the president of the foundation and I were reviewing a proposal from a large, hugely successful nonprofit organization seeking significant funding. We both agreed that it was, indeed, a worthy proposal. The organization had followed our guidelines to a “T,” the proposal was well organized and written.
Yet the president of the foundation said, with some resignation in her voice, “It’s a fine proposal but it certainly isn’t very compelling, is it?”
Now, facing the task of writing my first proposal, her words stuck in my mind.
What does make a compelling grant proposal?
I began seeking out anything at all that would tell my organization’s story from the perspective of both our donors and the people we served. Would you believe I came up empty-handed?
This was a community service organization that regularly received cards and letters from grateful recipients of our services. Yet, once these notes of appreciation had made the rounds, they were regularly trashed!
Not to be deterred, I plowed through our database and sought out the names of regular individual donors. From my list I randomly pulled out the names of about twenty folks who had given to our annual appeal every year for at least five years – and when I say random, some folks gave $10 every year and some gave $5,000.
I wrote each donor an introductory letter to find out why they had chosen to give to us every year and included a form to fill out and return, as well as a stamped return envelope.
Every single donor responded.
They gave numerous reasons, in writing, as to why they chose to regularly contribute to our organization.
Several sent in substantial checks as well (although I hadn’t asked for a donation!).
The beginnings of my grant “testimonials” file was born.
I learned two valuable lessons that would serve me well in grant proposal writing:
As you read and work through the lessons in Five Days to Foundation Funding and review the accompany manual of sample grant proposals, take notes. What works for one organization might not work for yours. One individual’s writing style is unique and unlike another’s. Before you know it, your own successful style of writing will have evolved.
Now, let’s get started …
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About the Author:
Pamela Grow is a consultant in Pennsylvania where she helps nonprofit organizations achieve success with their grantwriting, communications and individual support.
In her recently launched ebook titled, Five Days to Foundation Funding, Pamela provides a wealth of information on how novice grantwriters can obtain grant funding. To get more information please visit