With growing fundraising needs across society, the need to approach trusts and foundations for support is increasing. Grants fundraising takes persistence, determination, imagination and creativity! Here are my top five tips to writing successful grant proposals:
1. Do your homework
These days most Grants research is conducted online and you can’t always be sure that the information is correct. Check several sources for the most up to date contact information. There are a number of online databases available e.g. Guidestar.org, where you match your criteria against a list of funders. Whilst these databases don’t hold information for every trust or foundation, they offer a great place to start. The databases are usually paid subscription services and the costs are not always appropriate for smaller charities with limited funds. If this is the case, contact your local Community Foundation who will be happy to run a search for you.
All too often charities miss out on funds because the grant writer failed to read the funder guidelines carefully – so make sure you read and re-read guidelines to ascertain eligibility.
2. Pick up the phone
Take the plunge and pick up the phone! A huge part of grants fundraising is about nurturing relationships with your funders and this begins with making contact. A friendly conversation to establish whether or not your project is of interest begins the relationship and starts the application process off on the right foot. And, if you find out you’re not eligible then the phone call has saved you time! Be wary because some funders do not welcome phone calls and may prefer correspondence by post instead.
3. It’s all in the cover letter!
The cover letter is probably the most important part of the proposal as it’s the first bit of paper the funder will glance at when they open your envelope. The letter should introduce your charity, summarize your background, the project, how much funding you are requesting and provide compelling reasons for support. No more than one page.
4. Word crafting
Grants proposal documents come in all shapes and sizes, but following the ‘less is more’ principle means that you shouldn’t use more than 3 to 4 pages of printed text. Add a cover sheet which includes the project title and perhaps a photo or two illustrating your work. Make it look thoroughly professional!
The document should reiterate the charity background, beneficiaries of your work, monitoring and evaluation tools, research, details about how your charity is funded, specific project details (including a budget) and show your contingency plans. Use sub-headings and format the page appropriately. Include feedback quotes from recent projects as these will add credibility to your proposal.
Craft your words carefully. Much of your ability as a grants writer is about word crafting – painting a picture without waffle!
Above all, keep your proposal SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
5. Check, check, and check again
Once you’ve finished writing, print the document and read it through several times checking grammar, spelling and content. It’s always helpful to ask another person to review the document as a fresh pair of eyes will often spot gremlins!
Whilst these tips are by no means exhaustive, they will help start you on the road to grants fundraising success. Happy writing!