Thursday, December 27, 2007

You Only Get One Chance to Make a Great First Impression

The Standard Elements of a Grant Proposal

Usually, this is the most boring part of any workshop on grant-writing - the standard elements of the grant proposal. Given my perspective, however, the "standard" elements take on a whole new importance if you fully appreciate how little time your application will actually get from the funder. The standard elements include:

Cover Letter.
Use the cover letter to quickly identify yourself, your organization, and indicate the reason for the application. You will need to focus on the benefits of your program for the clients - not for you or your agency. I pay a lot of attention to the letterhead itself - I like to use color, I like to show off your affiliations and board members, and I like quality paper. I also pay a lot of attention to the signature. I like to see it done in blue ink (so funders know it is original) and I like to make it look confident and upbeat. The quicker you sign, the better it will look.

Introduction. On the first page of your proposal, the introduction is a key to whether your search for funding will be successful. Briefly provide a short and clear statement of what is to be accomplished by your project, the need for your project and the link between your project and the funder's area of interest. It is smart to make your ask explicit. Nobody likes hunting around for the price tag.

Background. To do a great background section, you will need to conduct a needs assessment. A thorough needs assessment identifies the problem, where it exists, what needs to be done, the services that are currently available to assist the population and who would benefit from your project. There several ways to gather information for needs assessments, including conducting surveys of potential program participants, sponsoring discussion meetings with community service agencies, and researching statistical databases. One secret of success is to never cite sources more than two (2) years old. Funders like to act on the latest scientific research and they depend on you to bring it to their attention.