Six Guidelines

These guidelines will increase your success in securing funding:

Be sure your project is aligned with the vision and priority of your potential funding source. Successful grantwriters do not waste time submitting futile proposals.  They will be futile if you have not done your research (see Importance of Researching Funders) and your objectives and your funder’s are not the same. We reiterate the quote we included in the article about researching funders, from Ilene Mack of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation:  “. . . the very first step and one that is most important prior to writing anything is doing research on the foundation you wish to approach. The buzzword is homework. Do it well and thoroughly. It is more efficient and in the end more beneficial to send appropriate requests to fewer organizations than to send a shower of appeals in the hopes that one may land in the right place.”

Follow application guidelines to the letter.  If you have done the right research you should be aware of important deadlines, the priorities of the funder, what information is required, what attachments are necessary, and details about page length requirements of the grantmaker. It is not important whether you think the requirements make sense or are worthwhile — it only matters that you obey them absolutely. Not doing so is likely to knock your proposal out of the running without further investigation.

Customize your proposal for each funder.  Though it may appear efficient, it will not behoove you to create a template or generic proposal can be cut and pasted to be used in any case. If you send that to every foundation in the relevant area it will very likely be ignored and your work will have been wasted. Each proposal must be unique just as grant guidelines and requirements are unique. If they do not match, the foundation will disqualify you without further ado.

Condense condense condense. But include rich detail. Challenging as it is, you must provide all relevant detail and communicate your passion in a continually tightened set of words. Each sentence should be necessary and specific.

Respect the expertise of the foundation. The program officers to whom you are addressing yourself are not novices. Quite the opposite: they typically have long histories in their areas of funding specializations and they are the experts. They probably know it inside out whether you are talking legislative issues, politics, other similar programs, national trends, threats and opportunities, and so forth. They will know whether your approach is innovative or not so don’t say it is unless you can clearly demonstrate it. Respect this expertise and let it make you totally realistic about your objectives and your funding request.

Recycle proposal text.  You must make each proposal uniquely matched to an application but that doesn’t make past proposals obsolete. Pieces and paragraphs from them can be useful in future proposals. You might try creating different versions of standard components like your mission, the background and history of the organization, the description of your service and the bio’s you provide of key staff. Try expressing them in a brief one or two sentences, a single paragraph or a full page. Such preparation will come in handy for future submissions because you don’t have rework basic portions.

Full Proposals