I’m currently on the last part of a Proposal Writing Boot Camp of the Foundation Center, courtesy of the Kota Project.
The main thing I have learned, in the jungle of foundation grant seeking, one needs to be a miracle-maker: A visionary of the field one’s organization works in, an apt copy writer, a strategic planner, a human resources expert, a PR and relationship maven, as well as a financial wizard.
In a perfect world, one’s venture has tens of experts doing this all pro bono. In the real world, start-ups need to educate themselves and get smart fast. The competition is fierce and the funders are merciless in detecting ‘hot air’ in one’s proposal.
Here are some ‘one-liner’ take-aways. They may seem self-evident to you, but were eureka moments for me:
Start as LEAN as possible.
Have a strong STATEMENT of NEED. You must have some facts and figures to back you up. But be specific: Don’t talk about world hunger statistics if you want to start a soup kitchen in your neighborhood.
WHY YOU? What is your track record? Why are you the best to realize this project?
Don’t mix up GOALS (broad), OBJECTIVES (concrete manifestation of the goals), METHODS (tools), and OUTCOMES (concrete, measurable results achieved with those tools).
WHY these METHODS? Why didn’t you choose some other tools?
Funders love collaborations and partners. But partnerships need to be concrete and formalized (MOUs).
Funders LOVE cash. Keep in-kind contributions separate from the budget (e.g. in footnotes), but remember to highlight in-kind factors that support your cause.
YOUR NUMBERS MUST TELL THE NUMERIC STORY OF YOUR NARRATIVE. The two need to match.
Be very careful as to who’s a staff member, who’s a consultant in your organization (tax ramifications).
Don’t staple, bind, or use fancy folders. Always send the proposal with regular mail. = Show the possible funders you don’t have $ to waste. (!!!)
YOUR WEBSITE & SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM are probably the first window for your funders into the kind of work you do. Are they active, rich — are you discussing issues in your field? Are you talking about the specific project you are seeking funds for?
CULTIVATE funder relationships. Call to ask advise before submitting, thank and follow up; if funded, be meticulous with reporting requirements and in communicating if something changes… AND in sharing interesting news — about your project, your field. This is what funders say when they want you to be a PARTNER to them.
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