Is Writing Grant Proposals the Solution to Your Organization's Problems?

Solutions with Grant Writing


The truth of the matter is that many of us have far more extensive experience in preparing grant proposals than we give ourselves credit for. Have you ever asked anyone for anything in writing, particularly money?

The trick now is to take advantage of any skill you have in asking in writing and harnessing that power for your good and for the good of others. There are not many feelings better than receiving a check in the mail or money online that you have carefully crafted a request for in writing.
You Already Are a Grant Writer

Most of us have petitioned parents for loans and gifts to help us when we were at college or university or just battling to survive away from the nest. Can you recall the first time you requested money in writing? Whether you do or not, that was your first funding scheme writing exercise.

You might hate asking for money, but you can easily acquire the skills to make such requests professionally, just like a fundraiser. You will discover, somewhat to your surprise, that you already have learned the basics by having acquired the skills almost by osmosis earlier in life.

It is not always the young who ask Mom and Dad or a relative for a helping hand. Young or old, after you have asked once, you usually quickly learn the ropes of how to do so successfully: usually you start with how wisely you utilized the last sum of money you were given. Then you most likely go on to update whomever you are writing to about things going on lately in your life before you actually ask for the amount you now have in mind. This is very similar to repeat grant writing.

After a little practice you usually learn to avoid the cardinal error of asking for too much or too little. You develop early on your own personal system of determining the right amount to request for the time, drawing on your recollections of what has been loaned to other family members, the status of the lender's own financial situation, etc.

Of course, you always try to end on a high note, staying upbeat, making that all important psychological connection with the persons in question, that is, parents, grandparents, aunts, etc.

Naturally, there is a big difference between asking for a gift of money from someone you have a relationship with and asking someone who is a stranger. It is so much easier to make a positive connection with someone with whom you have rapport, even if it is only slight.

That is why you will see it said repeatedly that it is absolutely necessary that you build a relationship with a grantor prior to submitting any funding proposal to them. It need not be intense, but it must appear genuine. Why Would You Want One?

What would be a good reason for you to want a grant? Perhaps you have served as a volunteer for charity groups and have been asked to run a raffle or a bake sale, or do some type of push selling.

Your grant writing may start with as simple an issue as your wishing to raise money for a great community cause, something that will take much more than a bake sale or two! It could be a need by your son's baseball team for new uniforms or a desperate need by the local school for some new computer equipment. There are a million and one things that need funding.

You could even be looking to fund your own artistic project. Whatever the reason for your motivation, you will need to produce a truly professional submission that is creative, concise, and withstands any scrutiny from the funding organization. And, most important of all, one that wins funding.

The number of new foundations offering grants increased substantially in and after the 1990s. Yet, naturally enough, there are still far more people looking for funding than there are grant makers. Do not lose heart, however, as there are grant makers of all sizes and types, suitable for every size association or group and every type of cause you may be able to think of. Why Do They Give?

Why do people give money away? Let's use the word "people" here because all organizations and foundations are made up of people, so the rules apply generally.

High among the reasons for people giving money is "pride of association"; they like to be part of something bigger than they are, something seemingly more positive than they are, something widely and proudly acknowledged as doing "good work."

Think about it: Why do people join clubs, such as Rotary, Lions, etc.? These types of clubs and associations are bigger than they are, much better known, and people are proud of the work they do.

Guilt is another big motivator. It motivates people to do things more than any other emotion. People who realize they are better off than others, especially people who are much better off, are more likely to give money to causes.This is one reason why prospective donors are shown things in pictures or words. Remember the old adage: "A picture speaks a thousand words"!

A good grant writer learns when and how to push the right emotional buttons, remembering that their charity or cause really has something to offer the people it is asking for money, apart from tax benefits. We call this appeal the "warm and fuzzies."
The Hallmarks of a Good Proposer
Someone who displays empathy for both the organization desiring the funds and the organization offering the a good proposer. Another trait of a good proposer is the ability to put down a concise story explaining why the funds are needed and how they will be expended. Tailoring your narrative, or story, to the grant maker in question is an important consideration; it personalizes the event somewhat, makes it more appealing to the funding organization, and therefore increases the proposal's chance of success.

Other hallmarks of a great proposer include the ability to build a quick rapport with grant makers, as well as strict adherence to promised deadlines and faultless ability to deliver what and when they say they will.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online How to Write a Grant Proposal course?
A good proposer always will tell his or her tale with passion and verve! Good grant writers remember that their audiences cannot read minds and that the first impression of the organization they are writing for often comes from their writing. So they paint a vivid picture that leads grant makers to take a closer look.
Where Is the Money?


Billions of dollars are donated every year. You, the grant writer, need to know what makes each type of grant maker tick and what each expects from you in return for approving your grant(s).

Do not panic! It is not that hard if you take your time, follow a basic pattern, and use that invaluable commodity: common sense.
Introduction to Foundations: Corporations, Government, and Individuals

Foundations: Believe it or not, foundations have been in existence for about 400 years. At the beginning, not surprisingly, they were associated largely with religious institutions.

When we consider foundations today, the vision that most likely comes to our minds is not of a religious aspect but of the great industrialists of this past century, including people such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller. Much more recently, we have Bill and Melinda Gates.

Foundations range from small in size with assets around the half million-dollar mark to much larger ones, in the $30 billion-plus range; but most fall somewhere in the middle.

The classic foundation you will encounter most often during your work as a grant writer is one that was set up many years previously by a single individual, which legally makes it a private foundation. This type of foundation usually bears the name of that particular individual. A foundation of this type employs anywhere between four and 150 to 200 staff members.

Keep in mind also that the trusts or philanthropy department at a bank or a lawyer's office administers many of the smaller foundations, so naturally the lawyer's or bank's staff also serve on the foundation's staff.

These are the easiest foundations for you to both research and approach.

Then there are family foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest of any kind of foundation in the U.S. These are foundations in which the majority of trustees are related to the foundation's actual founder.

Community foundations collectively bestow grants of around $2 billion each year, obviously making them a source of funds well worth your attention. They are considered public foundations because they solicit support from the general public, in broad contrast to the private foundations that receive support from only one or two individuals.

Operating foundations can be either private or public and usually run either research or service programs, which are the primary reasons for their existence. They do very limited grant making and would not usually be worth a grant writer's time.

There are other types of foundations, including what some refer to loosely as commercial foundations, but there are much more lucrative fields to which to direct your grant writing efforts.

Corporate foundations: Doesn't a corporation operate to make money for its shareholders? So why would it seek to give some of its profits away? A corporation that gives money away can well end up in hot water with its shareholders, so why do it?

There has to be a very good reason for corporate philanthropy: It is all about public relations and marketing the company's image and products.

Some of the reasons corporations give money to charities include:

1. They want to look good in employees' eyes by giving to charities employees care about.

2. They want to enhance their public image, portraying themselves as good corporate citizens.

3. They want to smooth away operational challenges in the communities where they operate by contributing to causes or charities there.

Corporations give funds away via a variety of mechanisms based on how they are structured and what they wish to achieve through their gifting programs. They do not usually have huge endowments and often are supplemented by yearly donations from the parent corporations themselves, enabling them to adjust for the flexibility of giving in lean years as opposed to boom years.

Important Tip: Do not make the mistake of assuming corporate foundations always bestow their grants in areas parallel to their own areas of business. This is not the case.

Government foundations fund grants at the local, state, and federal levels to nonprofit organizations, usually to operate programs believed to benefit the community.

Naturally, they cover areas such as medical research and the arts.

This may sound a little strange to you, but in some ways, obtaining a grant from a government foundation is easier and less time-consuming and stressful than obtaining one from other sources.

Why is that? For the simple reason that applications for government grants always involve filling out forms, which is a whole lot easier for most people than creating a proposal. The application forms severely limit space for the description of the program, which can be frustrating for the creative writer. However, this limitation will stop anyone in your group who, during the review process, keeps adding on and on. You Are Forced to Get to the Point

You may start out hating the fact that often adding words to a government grant proposal requires the deletion of a corresponding number of words from the document. However, you may grow to love that concept, as it develops an extremely creative discipline in all concerned with the projects to be funded.

It is a good idea to jump to the "eligibility requirements" section of government grants because many government grants are made only to other agencies. This will save you a lot of valuable reading and working time.

Individual donors: Grants come from a variety of institutionsBecause, although the money comes from a foundation or organization's bank account, it is an individual person or persons who study and approve your proposal.

So, even if you will devote your efforts to submitting proposals to organizations only, it will be of great benefit to you to understand the motivation behind people giving away their money.

Besides, it would be a major mistake on your part to completely ignore individual grant makers in your funding efforts, as the fact is that individuals make more charitable donations than any other single sector.

A few points to bear in mind when making proposals to individuals: To start with, do not make them as long as those you would submit to foundations or corporations. A letter of a few pages in length would be best, adding attachments if necessary.

In asking individuals for large or major gifts, it would be better to lay out each and every aspect of your project's program, to assist him or her in the decision process.

When you are meeting with a prospective individual donor who could be termed a "big shot," always dress accordingly; that way, he or she will feel more comfortable with you. This may seem to be a petty and unimportant detail to some, but this little point can make all the difference between winning your grant or not. Where They Operate

It is highly unusual for a corporation to confer grants in an area where it does not have a corporate presence. If you stop and think about it, you will realize that doing so would go entirely against the grain of the public relations theory of corporate giving.

It is as simple as looking at either the business pages in the local paper or checking in the appropriate section of the phone book to discover the corporate foundations that operate in the area.

Also, do not bother applying for grants from community foundations that are in different geographic regions from your client, as these organizations are set up to work only within their own communities.