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The Crux of a Compelling Grant Proposal

Grant writing is about meeting community needs. As I explain in my book, Confessions of a Successful Grants Writer, once you have established the need and your method of meeting it, grant writing is about being the best conduit of funds among a variety of choices. It’s about making the perfect match and establishing a productive relationship with a funder.

Notice that first and foremost, it is about community needs. The crux of a good proposal is it needs statement. Although this might not be the order of final presentation, in writing a proposal, it is only after you have established the community need and your agency’s ability to meet it, that you should turn your attention to describing how you think your organization will be successful in meeting the need you described in the way that you described it. In other words, when writing (as opposed to the final presentation) a proposal, establishing your agency’s credibility is one of the last things you do.

Most grant writers have no problem talking about how great their agency is. But in a good proposal, describing the wonderful things about your agency should relate to meeting the community need you describe, not just anything or everything your organization might be. For example, any awards that your agency has received or certifications it might have should only be brought up if they relate to how well you will meet the need you described. For example, you wouldn’t put an excellence in housing award in a proposal about parent education. Or you wouldn’t talk about your staff’s certification in reaching adolescents if you are writing a proposal about elder care.

But make sure to make note of any awards or certifications that relate to the topic at hand, especially anything that distinguishes your organization form the rest of the pack. Your goal here is to communicate what makes you unique. Funders receive thousands of proposals. You want to stand out from the crowd. You want your proposal reviewers to see you as the best choice among the many proposals they read. You do that by pointing out what you have that others might not. For example, a long history of meeting a need that no one else is, your record of growth, a prestigious board or staff member, being first at something, or the number or prestige of your community partners, to name a few. The list can go on and on.

But be cautious that your organization is not the main focus of your proposal. The main focus of a good proposal is squarely on meeting community need. Your organization should not be at the front and center of your grant writing efforts. Your organization’s achievements are only relevant as they pertain to the need you meet. With this focus in mind, you should always describe why you are the best choice among many. Stand out from the crowd and establish your uniqueness.

Joanne Oppelt

About the Contributor: Joanne Oppelt

In resource development since 1993, I am currently Executive Director at CONTACT We Care in NJ. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the agency, strategic planning, budget management, marketing and community relations, and revenue expansion. I am also an adjunct professor at Kean University where I teach courses in nonprofit management and fund development.
I have written four books:
Moving Up to Executive Director: Lessons Learned from My First 365 Days helps the reader:

Understand the complex nature of nonprofit executive leadership
Identify the skills and characteristics of successful executive directors
Gain insight into the unique obligations nonprofit executive directors face
Manage multiple priorities
Prepare for the transition to your role as executive leader
Anticipate challenges inherent in your first year as executive director

Power Your Organization’s Fundraising: How the Partnership Paradigm Will Change Everything helps the reader find new donors, improve donor loyalty, influence funders, and build enduring funding partnerships. I introduce a new paradigm for finding sustainable funding that will empower:

Fundraising Professionals
Development Directors
Grant Professionals
Executive Directors

In Succeed in Your Nonprofit Funding Partnerships: Analyzing Their Costs and Benefits, I tell you how to think clearly about your organization’s finances. I show you:

How to create budgets that keep you in the black
How to know if a program is carrying its weight
What kind of fundraising activities to focus on, getting the most bang for your buck
How to make sure you can pay your bills from month to month

Confessions of a Successful Grants Writer: A Complete Guide to Discovering and Obtaining Funding is a down-to-earth guide to understanding funders and submitting successful proposals. It will help you:

Better position your proposals among the many that funders receive
Find out where to find what they tell you they want to know and then what they don’t tell you about what you should know
Understand the concept of organizational branding and its importance in getting your proposal funded.
Learn the questions they ask, the answers they’re looking for and how to speak language they’ll understand
Develop success, both at the organizational and interpersonal levels

I hold a bachelors degree in education and a masters degree in health administration. I am a Certified Grants Professional, a member of the Grant Professionals Association and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
I love writing, listening to music, and quiet dinners with friends. I live in New Jersey, USA with my husband Rick.

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