Monday, August 18, 2008

Grant Proposal Writing - YOUR Best Tips!

Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.

No matter how long you’ve been writing grant proposals, or how successful you’ve been, you can always learn something new. It pays to refresh your thought processes from time to time, either by taking another class in proposal writing (or even a short story writing class) or reading another grant proposal writing book.

Think outside the box to boost your creative thought process. If you’ve never read Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” do. The writing is so succinct, so eloquent – in the words of one reviewer “I haul my copy out every 2-3 years just to remind myself how wonderful the rhythms and nuances of the American language can be at the hands of a master.”

Get yourself outside of your organization to actually meet your constituency. Talk to your board members. Find out why they give of their time and money.

Recently I posed the question “What is your best tip?” to the Grants listserv of CharityChannel. Following are some responses that may help your proposal writing.

I find that an important aspect of grant writing is putting the proposal in the right "voice" for the funder. In general, funders respond well to language that is personal but not overly familiar; for example, using "we" instead of "The X Organization" when referring to yourself. Don't use slang or colloquialisms; define technical or discipline-specific terms a potential funder might not know. Sound enthusiastic about your proposed project but not wildly exuberant.

However, some funders--especially government and academic funders--respond to a more formal voice--"The X Organization" rather than "we." They also generally do want to see technical and discipline-specific terms in the proposal, whose correct usage demonstrates your knowledge of the field.

One way to try to identify the correct voice for a specific funder is to look at their application guidelines, and use the voice they do. If you can get copies of proposals they've funded, that may give an even more specific view of what they'll respond well to.
Another idea is to avoid writing in BIG BLOCK paragraphs. Break such
paragraphs into bite-size pieces. Readers don't like having to wade through
huge blocks of print.

throw out the jargon and mean-nothing phrases. If you are having a hard time explaining the project, its outcomes or the need for it in a straight forward manner,
it appears that you don't really know the answers or are hiding behind
convoluted language.

1 comment:

Jake Seliger said...

I'm not sure I have a best tip save Henry James' comment, "There is only one recipe – to care a great deal for the cookery." We've tried to express that ethos through posts on how to present proposals (e.g. What Does a Grant Proposal Look Like Exactly? 13 Easy Steps to Formatting a Winning Proposal and in the content (e.g. Writing Needs Assessments: How to Make It Seem Like the End of the World).