Grantwriting: It’s you they want!

American 18th Century, At the Writing Table, , c. 1790, aqueous medium on canvas, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

FUNDING IS COMPETITIVE.

There are some 1 million registered public charities in the US and that number is growing at nearly 20% per year according to the Urban Institute. It is critical to your funding success that your organization’s grantwriting stands out.

So get loud by wearing your passion on your sleeve and in your writing.

Authentic passion can’t be faked, and when you put it out there it’s a magnet. Learn to communicate your passion directly to funders in your grant applications. Our goal is to help you do this most effectively, with guidance available online whenever you want it and wherever you are.

With over $50 billion in foundation and corporate grants awarded in 2015 grantwriting should be part of your fundraising plans. The Impact Circle exists to help your nonprofit survive and thrive, to walk you through the how-to of grantwriting and other activities to elevate you above the crowd.

Are you hesitant to write your own grants or fundraising requests? We think it’s vitally important, so we asked some activists why. Here are some reasons along with our responses.

1. I’M NOT A WRITER!

We don’t believe you.

Do you write emails everyday? How about strategy documents? Donation requests? Social media posts? Ahem, writing. Agreed, those are not grant applications, but you are already engaged in a practice of writing. Although your writing may not flow easily — yet, it’s a start. Business writing is a practice. It is strengthened with exercise.

We’re here to help you target and improve your grantwriting. We’ll share tips and tools based on our experience and research. And here’s a secret:

You’ll get something even more valuable from regular writing: clarity.

Writing that compels funders to support you requires deep thinking. You’ll grapple with language to express the essence of what your work means, the specifics of the problem you’ll address and how you propose to address it. This is like strength training: it will hone your ability to communicate your mission and passion concisely and precisely. That’s no small added benefit.

2. NUMBERS!

Yes, the most effective grantwriting relies on three types of math: financial information, statistics and measured results. Grant applications are a vetting. Solid and sensible budgets along with accurate and relevant data lend your proposal both credibility and urgency.

  • Financial information must be honest and accurate. If funded you’ll be reconciling to this in detail in your reports. Bringing in your financial ninja is important, but don’t let program budgets be daunting. We can help you to undertake the task of building grant budgets.
  • Statistics in grantwriting establish the need for your program. They should boost your call to action in such a way that funders feel the need intensely. It takes creativity to reframe a bunch of numbers in a relatable way; this helps make your application both memorable and urgent. We’ll help identify appropriate statistics and make them meaningful to your funders.
  • Results and program data are required by funders using such terms as measurable outcomes, objectives and metrics. Funders call for you to define and target such data in your application to prove that your programs, and by extension their investment, actually have the impact you hoped and promised they would. They are looking to partner with you in achieving one of their own “investment” goals. This is actually to your benefit as well. Measurable outcomes are often afterthoughts in grant program development, but we urge you to:

Embrace data as a way to innovate and set your organization apart.

Let us show you how to use data in a continuous improvement process toward sustainability. And we’ll help you incorporate data and results in your grantwriting to further your impact.

3. I HATE WRITING!

Okay, we get it. Writing can be intimidating, grantwriting maybe more so. And it’s often messy. Let’s figure out why you really dislike writing. We suspect there is something else going on.

Have you done enough writing to say without hesitation that you actually hate doing it?

Writing is strengthened with consistent practice.

Do you feel you have the skills and comfort with writing?

Confidence is often gained through competence.

But do I have to? Well we’re guessing that you love your cause. Communicating that passion to the world is your responsibility, one you share with everyone on your team. You do this to bring others into your Impact Circle so together you can make a greater change. People like funders and donors and volunteers all want to connect with a cause. Give them the means to care deeply about yours.

How?

  • Talk about it. Building relationships via your personal message enables others to identify with and adopt your mission, and this creates champions.
  • Write about it. Engage the world in your work. Write grants. We repeat: practice and our tools will increase your grantwriting confidence.

Look, writing is not going away. All genres of book releases, written social media participation, and all sorts of written communications used in daily life are on the rise, even alongside the increasing popularity of video and visual communications. Written language and the ways we use it change and evolve constantly. Writing is perhaps more critical than ever amidst the sea of information. And grantwriting also remains critical, it’s a key way to attract and retain support.

Consider this from the musical Hamilton“Your sentences left me defenseless.”  Surely the goal of every grantwriter.

4. NEW PROGRAMS!

It can be a struggle to continue developing new programs to obtain funding to continue your work, particularly if you are not providing an ongoing repetitive service. This becomes more challenging as many funders are turning to more project based awards with shorter time periods.

Here are a few ways to make this aspect of grantwriting easier. We’ll get more specific in future posts.

  • Look at your results to see when and where further work is needed.
  • Study results to uncover needs you haven’t yet met.
  • Look to the causes of unexpected results to find something new to addresss.
  • Can you respond to a new trend influencing your results?
  • Do your programs have indirect impact somewhere else?
  • Gather experiences of your constituents and use them to drive program design.
  • Study the work of other organizations in your community to find unmet needs.
  • Look for fresh ideas from organizations in your sector outside of your community.
  • Try “design thinking”. Focus on the desired result instead of the problem: what could be? What service do you provide in this vision of the future? Today’s solution might take a different approach than when the problem originated, and looking to the goal first may help you uncover it.
  • Consider ways to join with others working on the same problem.
  • Does a wider mission scope encompass others in the field? Look for areas of skill, knowledge or other overlap for potential partnered grantwriting.

We’ll also investigate capacity-building grants which do not require new program development, but do involve different preparations and goals.

5. TIME!

This one is real, and we hear you. But there are some things to consider. Think about the time you take explaining your ideas to whomever is doing grantwriting for you now. Meetings to present and explain the programs you want to fund, time taken to describe target funders you already know about. And don’t forget the time you spend revising draft after draft that doesn’t quite capture your meaning.

We’ll help achieve more efficient use of your time.

Remember, regular writing builds more speed and ease (not to mention cooking up the secret sauce mentioned above: clarity). Having a framework with which to organize your writing can really move things along too. Our tools – templates, checklists, prompts and cheat sheets – guide you steadily through the process. And once you get started you’ll begin to generate a collection of writing from which to pull.

 

ARE YOU READY TO TRY GRANTWRITING?

We’ll cover these ideas and what you need to do to win as we get into the grant application nitty gritty.

Let’s talk in the comments! Let us know what you think and what we can do for you. Visit us on Facebook, too.

Want more? Sign up for email updates and we’ll send you our Grantseeker’s Ultimate Checklist to help your nonprofit survive and thrive.

(Top image: National Gallery of Art, American At the Writing Table c. 1790)