Like many other methods of fundraising, successful grantwriting is built upon the strength of your organization’s relationship with prospective donors. To further your potential for success, your grant solicitation should clearly articulate the need for support, the impact that their donation will have, and the particular strengths of the project being proposed. It must also provide donors the opportunity to support a mission or project that aligns closely with their own philanthropic goals.
There are some common myths about the grantwriting process that are simply untrue, so to help you achieve maximum success in your fundraising efforts, we’ve decided to debunk two of the largest myths about grantwriting and provide you with the facts instead.
MYTH: Grantwriting is a mysterious practice that should be undertaken only by professional writers with deep experience in grantwriting.
FACT: While grants are considered as a possible revenue stream in every nonprofit’s world, there seems to be a great deal of apprehension around the process itself. While they do involve a tremendous amount of preparation and planning, the grantmaking process is basically rational giving, with guidelines based on the funder’s identified priorities.
While proficiency with the written word is a useful asset for successful grantwriting, it is not the most critical element of your proposal. Granting bodies do not award grants for verbal wordplay or virtuosity. Successful grantwriting begins with access to detailed organizational planning materials and providing the fundraiser with the organizational “raw data” required to complete the application.
When preparing and submitting your grant application, ensure it adheres to the following best practices:
- Ensure that the initiative for which you’re requesting funding meets a philanthropic need that is currently unmet.
- Make sure you’ve developed a clear strategy for the execution and evaluation of your initiative before drafting a single word of the proposal – and then communicate this strategic plan clearly in the proposal.
- Conduct research to ensure the initiative will achieve the funder’s personal philanthropic objectives – in addition to your organization’s own.
- Try to build a relationship with the funder prior to submitting your grant application – this can provide valuable insight into the evaluation process and any areas of strength/weakness in your proposal.
MYTH: Longer proposals are often more successful than short proposals.
FACT: Many people think that "longer-is-better" because it can contain more detailed information on the project and therefore have a greater opportunity to demonstrate alignment with the funder’s objectives. In reality, this is a dangerous assumption to make. The proposal’s format will vary depending on the funder, but invariably, grants contain similar components, with a sound plan to meet an important need and impact. The length of the proposal itself is not important if it succeeds in meeting the application criteria. In fact, getting straight to the point in your proposal without adding all of the unnecessary “fluff” is typically appreciated by funder as they often have many grant applications to evaluate.
Generally speaking, there are three grant formats that are the most common. In some cases, the prospective funder will indicate what proposal style is preferred, or provide a standardized application form for your nonprofit to complete. If no direction is given, the grantwriter may choose to proceed with one of the following formats:
- Letter of Intent: This format is generally two pages long and provides a very brief description of the project. It also asks the prospective funder whether a longer, more detailed proposal would be considered, subject to criteria eligibility.
- Letter of Proposal: This is arguably the most popular format and is often three to five pages in length, with a specified funding request. This format is often more of an introduction of the proposed idea and is used to determine potential funding interest.
- Full Proposal: This format includes a covering letter with a summary, often anywhere from 5-25 pages, plus attachments. Most importantly, all proposals should contain a detailed budget outlining the proposed allocation of funds.
Success in grantwriting is both challenging and rewarding, and the decision to undertake grantwriting as part of your fundraising portfolio is not to be made lightly. Yet, for any organization willing to seriously commit to the practice, grantwriting offers new and untapped revenue streams and opportunities for meaningful partnerships over the short- and long-term. If your organization has previously been wary about the process of grantwriting, we hope that by debunking some of the common myths you’ll be more confident in your abilities to become powerhouse grantwriters in the future!