Writing a grant proposal for the first time, or the zillionth time? Either way, some of this feels brand new.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more organizations than ever are entering the Brave New World of proposal writing. Whether you are writing a COVID-19 emergency grant proposal, reaching out to previous funders to ask for their continuing support, or trying to attract new funders, you likely are stretching some new grant writing muscles. If you’ve been writing grant proposals for years, you might have to shift your thinking a bit. If you are brand new to grant writing, I know this can feel overwhelming! Don’t worry. I’ve got some tips to help you get through this.
Here are My Top Tips for You:
I’ve got an e-book that will make your day! Grant Writing Quick Tips is an overview of the most important things you need to know to write a killer grant proposal that gets results. It includes must-know topics such as:
- How can I make my organization’s grant proposal stand out from the pack?
- What are the most important items that I need to include in a grant proposal?
- Are there rules for putting together a project budget for a grant proposal?
- What should I know about the staff of charitable foundations? Is it OK to
call them before I submit a grant proposal?
- How do I find prospective donors to fund my project?
- What is donor stewardship, and how will it help me to encourage my
current donors to keep giving, and to increase their gifts?
- How do I hire a grant writer? Where can I find a good grant writer, and how
much should I pay them?
You can order here, and you’ll get a link to download the e-book.
Grant Writing Pointers that are Pandemic-Specific:
Here are a few things you can keep in mind when writing grant proposals during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Don’t waste space writing about how this is a crisis. You might be tempted to start your proposal by writing about how this is an “unprecedented time” or we are “in a crisis.” Your potential funders already know that. You can write about things that are specific to the population you are working with (e.g. children on the autism spectrum have additional challenges to overcome when forced to learn in a distance education format…), but you should resist the temptation to waste precious proposal space telling the funder what they already know.
It is OK to request funds even if you are not meeting emergency social service needs. You might think that funders are only supporting meals for people who are food insecure, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, emergency shelter for people experiencing domestic violence, etc. That is not the case. There are millions of donors with millions of different interests. If you work in the arts, the environment, leadership development, or other causes that do not seem immediately pandemic-related… there are funders out there who care about your work (and your workforce) and want to ensure that you can stay afloat until the immediate crisis starts to recede.
Connect with your previous donors, if you have them, and update them on what you are doing to stay afloat and maintain staffing continuity. Seek out potential donors who are giving unrestricted support – funds that you can use in any way you wish, in order to stay solvent (the philanthropy press is telling us that more and more charitable foundations are making such gifts). In short: don’t count yourself out before you even get in the game.
Write about continuity. If maintaining consistent levels of staffing matters for your organization and will save you money in the long run, write about that. If you operate a physical facility, and keeping that facility in good working order even while there are few (if any) people in the building will save you money in the long run, write about that. Position your request as a way to make sure you can “hit the ground running” once pandemic restrictions start to lift.
How are you still of service? Are there things your organization is doing to maintain its operations and serve the community even during this crisis? Are you a museum or arts organization that is offering virtual tours or at-home activities? Are you a social service agency that has shifted to phone or online case management? Are you an environmental organization that is offering online glimpses into beautiful, natural settings? Use your proposal to highlight your agility and commitment to your mission.
Data matters; stories stick. Data matters: include compelling data that is relevant to your community and mission. Stories stick: all of the research in fundraising and behavioral economics tell us that people remember stories, and they donate more when they hear stories about individuals. Stories are “sticky” – they stick in the mind of the reader. If you have stories about individuals or families that have been impacted by your work, it is especially important to include those stories in your grant proposals now, when some funders are overwhelmed by requests. If you don’t have those stories, try to gather them (interviewing stakeholders and gathering stories could be a great task for staff who have a lighter work load right now, or for board members!). Change the names and identifying details, but add in the meaty content and great quotes.
Use this time as an opportunity to connect. Connect with your volunteers. Connect with your board members. Connect with your social media followers and people on your email or mail lists. These are the people who can share your stories with their networks. And that can lead to greater support from unexpected sources.
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