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Always follow the funder’s directions!

Posted on July 9th, 2018 under Grant Writing Tips.

It’s SO important to put yourself in the funder’s place. If it were your money, what information would you want to receive to convince you to give it to a specific group? Give funders a story they can care about so they want to fund you. Follow their directions to the letter and be specific, not vague. Give them tangible information on HOW MUCH service their money will provide and HOW MANY people it will help. Help them visualize it!

The grant writing process is still very much ‘academic’ in nature. In other words, funders still want a good argument for why you should be funded, that’s written in good English and that reads more like a college paper than a text message or tweet!

Don’t forget that grammar is still important. Even with the smaller and smaller “boxes” that funders are giving us for narrative in their online applications, they do NOT want to see spelling errors, misplaced apostrophes, and other grammar errors! Have someone who’s good at proofing review every piece of your application before you submit, to avoid common errors.

Funders are demanding more and more accountability and credible evaluation of the way in which you’ve spent their money, asking for your outcomes and how you’ve changed people’s lives. If you don’t have much experience in this area, or need to enhance what you’re already doing, it’s well worth hiring an Independent Professional Evaluator to help you.

This is one of my favorites … The Five Ps of successful project completion … PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE. And then another 5 Ps below …

Advancing Philanthropy, the monthly publication of the Association of Fundraising Professionals details The Five Ps of Marketing the Smaller Nonprofit. They are: 1) PASSION; 2) PLANNING; 3) PEOPLE; 4) PROPULSION; and 5) PERSEVERANCE. These are good for all types of project, including preparing proposals. In my workshops, I regularly quote another list of 5 Ps: PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE. These are both good guides as you begin working on boilerplate and proposals.

The biggest complaint from funders continues to be that applicants aren’t doing enough research on WHAT they want to fund and they also aren’t following submission instructions. I believe they give you a gift when they provide detailed instructions for what you should submit … just follow those directions and provide everything they ask for, in the order they want to see it.

Funders still complain that applicants aren’t doing their homework to make sure requests match published guidelines. Thorough research can be 50% of success, so be sure your program matches exactly with what funders want to pay for. Funders report receiving two or three times as many requests as they had in previous years, so it’s even more critical to be sure they want to fund your programs. Stay competitive!

Remember that the most common reason for rejection or non-funding is “FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!” Why go to all that trouble and not submit your proposal EXACTLY as the funder requires? After all, it’s their money and they can ask for information any way they want. Make yourself focus on THEIR questions and answer them directly and concisely, and present those answers exactly as directed. It will make funders happy.

Always be specific when talking about the number of people you help now and have helped in the past. When you’re describing the number of people you’ve helped with current and past services, always be specific. Give numbers of those you’ve served and, where possible, show how many visits and/or hours of service each one received. Also state whether these are “duplicated” numbers of people (that you’ve counted more than once because they received services on more than one occasion), or “unduplicated” numbers of people (only counted once).

For example, “Each year, XXXXX Agency has provides counseling services for 250 unduplicated adults and 40 children. Each participant receives between 10 and 15 hours of counseling services. This is 15% more than in the past year.”

What I see most often is something vague, such as: “We served 15% more people this year than last.” This doesn’t tell a potential funder HOW many more people this is or how many hours of service they received.


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