Preparing your grant proposal: 7 easy tips

A grant proposal can strike fear into nonprofit leaders and major gifts officers alike. The term conjures images of paper reams and instructions that read like a 1990s stereo setup manual.

But you should breathe easy. Many foundations have been streamlining their required grant proposal lengths and attachments. They also usually provide clear, easy-to-follow guidelines. This doesn't mean that every submission can be completed in a snap--but if you can follow directions, you can write a competitive grant submission! 

Here are 7 tips for putting your proposal together.


1. Gather commonly requested attachments well before you are faced with a grant deadline.  File these away together to create your proposal toolkit!

2. Embrace white space in your proposal narrative. Don't use 9-point font and tiny margins to meet the foundation's 5-page limit. Which brings me to tip #3:

3. Keep it clear and concise. Explain your nonprofit and funding need as succinctly as possible. Try to avoid flowery language. How would you explain the project to a friend or relative?

4. Focus on good transitions and flow. How does the proposed work connect back to your institution's mission and overarching goals? Help the reader to understand why this funding would be critical to your nonprofit's core purpose.

5. Constantly refer back to funder’s guidelines. Are you capturing everything they require? Are you following formatting rules and other directions?

6. Paint the picture. Don't simply state why your work is important, illustrate it by incorporating the human element. Support your case with examples of how your nonprofit has helped others. Use quotes, outcomes data, letters of support from constituents (if allowed), and so forth.

7. Avoid typos. Avoid them completely. Although it may seem insignificant for one or two words to be misspelled, such mistakes can be perceived subconsciously as careless or unprofessional. Review your content over and over, and get your coworkers and family members to do the same.

What other tips would you add to the list?

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