When writing proposals for a foundation, corporation, or individual prospective donor, three critical elements will make your submission strong and compelling:
1. A well-defined need. Using data and evidence, illustrate the problem and then explain why your nonprofit organization is so well-suited to help solve it. If your goal is to reduce illiteracy in your community, for example, provide demographics and statistics on the seriousness of this issue--and then explain your nonprofit's strengths and experience in alleviating it.
2. A specific request. Make it obvious what you're asking for as early as possible in the proposal. Don't wait until the last paragraph to indicate your request amount and what the money will be used for. In the introduction, clearly state how much you need, over how many years, and briefly explain why. Then later in the proposal, expand upon "the why:" What various activities and projects will the funding enable? Side note: Make sure your ask amount is right-sized to the funder's capacity! Don't ask a $100 donor to give $100K, and vice versa. Do your homework through solid prospect research.
3. A sense of urgency. Why should the donor care today? Is the demand for your nonprofit's services outpacing available resources? Has something in your community shifted that significantly increases the importance of what you do? Are you innovating in your field? Importantly, never cite debt or unstable finances to create urgency. Donors give to healthy, successful organizations--not uncertain ones. Keep it positive and exciting!
What additional components do you utilize to create strong funding proposals? Let us know in the comments!