The People Pages: Proposal Writing Tips

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Before starting your proposal…

  1. Develop a relationship with the funder.  Call the foundation and pitch your idea before preparing a proposal.  You may get important feedback about their priorities and clarify any misunderstandings.
  2. Read the guidelines very carefully.  Follow the format they request.  If they have an application form, get a copy well ahead of time.  Make sure you have time to prepare and deliver your proposal before the deadline.
  3. Make sure your project fits in with the grantmaker’s goals.  Research grants that have been distributed in the past and compare those projects to yours.
  4. Determine the proper amount to ask for.  Match grant funds with other sources of income and make sure your asking amount is within the foundation’s normal range.
  5. Make sure you are not ‘reinventing the wheel’.  Investigate other programs in your community and be prepared to differentiate your program’s methodology, geographical area served, and/or population served.
  6. Demonstrate collaboration and/or efficiency.  Be prepared to discuss ways that your organization has partnered with other community organizations through joint efforts or by sharing information/replicating programs.  Show that your organization has taken steps to reduce costs and streamline activities.
  7. Have a backup plan if the grant money is not received.  This is one reason why it’s important to diversify your income.  Don’t depend on one grant to support a program.  Figure out alternative ways to implement the program with limited funds and/or identify and pursue additional sources of revenue.

After completing your grant proposal, make sure…

  1. The spelling and grammar are correct.  Have a second person proofread the proposal. 
  2. The envelope and cover letter are addressed to a particular person.
  3. The proposal is interesting to read and full of information, yet concise. Use simple language to tell a compelling story about your organization and programs.
  4. All attachments are included and in order.  Refer to the foundation’s guidelines for a list of required attachments.  Don’t send extra materials that aren’t specifically requested.
  5. The appropriate number of copies are enclosed.

After getting funded….

  1. Thank the grantor.  Immediately send an acknowledgement in writing.
  2. Spend funds according to your agreement.  You are ethically obligated to do what you spelled out in your grant proposal.  If something major changes, call the foundation and discuss the situation.
  3. Report the actual outcomes of the grant.  This helps foundations learn more about the needs of nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve.

Headbanger’s Rule #9: Adapt and Thrive

In 1984, Def Leppard Drummer Rick Allen was in a terrible car accident in which he lost is left arm. While his arm was fundamentally critical to his profession, he remained in the band – and one of the best drummers in the Heavy Metal universe – by using a customized drum set built to accommodate his new physical limitation. When we lose something that is so much a part of who we are, even when we are dependent upon it for our survival, we can adapt and thrive by creatively responding to the new circumstances of our lives.

My Week: Litter

Yesterday morning, I cleaned out the back of my car only to find that someone left a half full soda bottle on the floor. I often come home to find that someone has left their garbage at my curb, in my yard, or even in my recycling bin. At my workplace, cleaning up the garbage the blows by or is casually dropped in front or in back of the building is a continuous chore.

Like the trash that surrounds me, my mind is similarly cluttered with litter. Unhappy memories, insincere intentions, guilt, shame, and worry take up what would otherwise be pristine space in my precious mind.

Our inner and outer words are mutually reflective. It may be no surprise, then, that my home and my office are full of unnecessary things to which I am attached for both sentimental and practical reasons. Stuff, both real and imagined, surrounds me and saturates my emotional-cognitive processes.

There is a lot of litter that I would be quite happy to remove from my view. All of the dirty and now useless trash that I encounter throughout the day can gladly go away. The litter in my mind, however, is a bit more difficult to purge. While I feel ready to let it all go to create more space and freedom, it seems to keep coming back. It is like the wine glass in The Bishop’s Wife that magically refills whenever it is emptied; however, this glass is full of poison.

Perhaps the process of creating space consists of two steps – not just letting go, but also holding that space open. We can resist the inclination to put something in that space, whether we judge it to be good or bad, and just allow it to be free and breezy. By creating and maintaining open space, our minds will become less cluttered and more clear.