Picture this: You’re meeting with a potential donor (It could be an individual donor, or it could be a foundation representative.). The meeting is going GREAT. You understand each other. Your organization’s work is in alignment with the potential donor’s interests. You’ve both nodded a lot. You’ve shared stories. You’ve brainstormed ideas. It’s looking like this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Then the potential donor says: “This all sounds great! Can you send me a grant proposal?”

You freeze for a moment, and then you stammer and say: “Sure. We can get that to you in four weeks.”

I wouldn’t categorize this as a “nightmare scenario,” but it definitely ain’t good. Your organization should avoid this by always having a stock proposal at the ready.

What’s a stock grant proposal?

A stock proposal is a 5-7 page proposal that describes what your organization does, what need it is addressing (backed up by reliable data sources whenever possible), why it matters, who you are serving, how much money it takes to do what you do, how you will know when you’ve gotten the job done (metrics of success) and other key elements of a general overview. Its purpose is to help your organization secure general operating support. If there is room within those 5-7 pages, I like to add a some testimonial quotes, a few sentences about the organization’s leadership (not full bios), and maybe a line or two about the organization’s history or founding story, if that matters. Basically, the stock proposal is an overview that includes compelling quotes, statistics, or other items that make it memorable. It is written in a clear manner with lots of sections (set off by underlines, bold type, and bullets, to make it easy on the eyes) and as little “fluff” as possible, while still using compelling language. If your organization runs a series of programs or initiatives, you can have a stock proposal that describes each initiative.

Why you need a stock grant proposal?

If a donor says they are interested in your work, you want to be able to get back to them right away with a compelling proposal. If you have a stock proposal at-the-ready, it should only require some minor (and not time-consuming) modifications to get the stock proposal ready to go.

No, SERIOUSLY. You need this.

If you think that creating a stock proposal is an unnecessary effort, think again:

  • Even if you have to leave a meeting with a potential donor and immediately start preparing a new grant proposal for them, it’s probably going to take you longer than you think it will to get the grant proposal done and out the door. It’s not like the world is going to stop and you’ll have NOTHING else on your plate after that donor meeting. You’ve got other stuff to do. Drafting the proposal will take time. Editing it will take time. And getting whatever approvals or input you might need from colleagues will DEFINITELY take time, because those colleagues have other things going on, too.
  • It will take you some time to write the stock proposal, but it will save you TONS of time later, because you will reuse this grant proposal over and over again. Not only will you send it to other donors, you’ll cut and paste pieces of the content into online applications, you’ll use snippets of it in donor letters and emails; you’ll recycle content for blog posts and other online communications… It may even help you refresh the talking points that the staff and board use to describe the organization.
  • This document also will become useful as you orient new staff and board members to your organization and its work.
  • Creating the stock proposal forces you (and your colleagues) to get clear on the most important things to communicate about your mission and work. It reminds you to talk about the need and the people or places you are helping MORE than you talk about what the organization needs.

A stock proposal is a resource that every organization should have in its back pocket. It should be ready to go when you need it. If you wait to write it in those pockets of time in between major meetings, events, and other organizational milestones, it’s probably not going to get done. Put it on the calendar, just like any other task.. I promise that if you dedicate the time to getting this done now, you will be glad you did it, and you will find more uses for the stock proposal than you could have imagined.

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