Why are Grant Proposals Important?
Getting your nonprofit organization off the ground depends on adequate funding. Even in the for-profit business world, funding for startups can be hard to come by, and when you take profit out of the equation, new startups can have an even more difficult time. Typically, nonprofits look to sources of grant funding, such as governments or foundations. These potential funding sources look at a nonprofit's grant proposal to decide whether they think the organization is worthy of the resources they seek. Since funding is so crucial to the success of any nonprofit, the grant proposal becomes the most important document you will ever write for your nonprofit.
Writing grant proposals can take some practice, but there are a few tips that will help you craft professional, polished proposals that will be likely to meet with success.
◆ Know Your Mission
The first and most important tip is to know your mission, even before you research potential funding sources. Many new nonprofits mistakenly approach their initial search for funding form the point of view of the funders. They alter the wording, priorities, and even the goals and mission of the nonprofit in order to conform with what they believe a particular funder wants. Although this strategy might work once or twice, it is unlikely to meet with continued success, and you may run into difficulties if you find that your true mission, the one you really believe in, is at odds with the expectations of your funders. The best way to approach grant writing is to have a clear vision from the start, and to look for funders who share that mission.
◆ Know Your Funders
The second most important tip for writing nonprofit grant proposals is to know your funders. Another common mistake first-time proposal writers make is to ask for grants from anyone and everyone under the sun. This strategy is really a waste of energy, because most funders are only interested in a very specific type of nonprofit in the first place, and if your organization doesn't meet their criteria, they won't even read your proposal. Therefore, after you've identified a number of potential grantors, find out all you can do about those grantors and pare your list down to only a few who are really an excellent match for your nonprofit. When you've done that, you can focus on crafting grant proposals specifically for those few prospects. Proposals made specifically for a funder are much more likely to be successful than "one size fits all" documents.
◆ Don't Focus on the Nonprofit
A third tip for grant proposal writing is to focus on the population you serve, not on your organization. Many proposal writers shoot themselves in the foot when they use language like, "This will help us to accomplish x," or "With this funding we will be able to..." Remember, your potential grantors are not really interested in helping your organization. If they grant your request for funding, it will be in order to help the population you serve. Focusing on the nonprofit in the proposal will turn off potential funders. Instead, use language like, "This will help underprivileged children by..." and "This project will result in better conditions for..." These phrases are much better because they emphasize the broader impact that 'grant money' will have.
The Art of Proposal Writing
Writing grant proposals is an art, not a science. There are many, many more important things to remember, and serious proposal writers should do a significant amount of research before they write their first document. By following the three tips listed above, however, you will be on the right path to winning grants for your organization. Above all, always remember why your organization is a nonprofit - because it's not about you! If you always keep your mission in mind during the grant proposal process, it will only be a matter of time before you get the funding you need.