It’s a crowded marketplace for grant proposals. Many foundation program officers have dozens (if not more) proposals to consider, and they have to make tough choices about which ones to pass along to their trustees. How can you make your grant proposal “stick”? How can you make it more memorable, so that it will stand out from the pack?

Based on my more than two decades experience working in philanthropy, I firmly believe that part of the answer is in an unexpected source: CREATIVITY. Telling stories, using unexpected language, and crafting a fresh approach engages the reader (a foundation officer or trustee) and can help your proposal float to the top of the pile.
I also know, from years of experience, that my own writing can sometimes get stale. I may find myself writing the same sentences, using the same phrases, and constructing proposals in the same ways, over and over. Even I can get bored with my own writing! That’s when I turn to creative writing prompts to shake things up. Here are a few prompts – focused on nonprofits and grant writing – that will enliven your writing and your creative spirit.

Grant writing creative prompts:

  1. What if the need for your program didn’t exist?
  2. Set a timer for 60 seconds. Write as many words as you can think of that describe your organization. No phrases, just words.
  3. What would one of your organization’s clients write in this proposal?
  4. Someone says “I didn’t know your organization did that!” Why did they say it?
  5. Write a testimonial quote from a disgruntled client or supporter.
  6. Your organization is releasing an album. What’s the album title, and what are the titles of five of the songs on the album?
  7. Five words that best describe how your organization’s beneficiaries feel.
  8. Start/Stop list: Five things your organization should start doing, and five things it should stop doing.
  9. Tweet your proposal: sell the idea in 140 characters.
  10. Find a magazine. Open it to a random page, which has a photo or other image. How does that image relate to your cause or organization?
  11. Write five one-syllable words that describe the cause/need your organization addresses.
  12. What’s the first thing your organization should spend $100 on?
  13. What does your organization have in common with winter? With summer?
  14. Write an online dating profile for your organization.
  15. Write an obituary for your organization.
  16. Fast 15: Five sounds, tastes, and smells that describe what your organization does.
  17. What should be the last sentence of this proposal?
  18. Finish this sentence from a donor/supporter: I support this organization because…
  19. Nonprofit haiku: Write a 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable poem that describes your organization or cause.
  20. Talk to me like I’m 5: Explain your organization’s work to a five year old child.

These prompts can help anyone in your organization (marketing team, Executive Director, board members, and more) think creatively about how they describe your organization and its work. Take a few of them for a spin, and see if they set off some creative sparks!