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How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal

If you're working in the non-profit sector, you know how important grant proposals are. When all or most of your revenue is coming from voluntary donations, you need to secure all the gifts you can. And securing a sizable grant can be like a gift from the heavens. Not only does it come from a single donor--meaning fewer people for you to track down for thank you's and future gift solicitations--but many times, it's also large enough to bankroll a substantial chunk of your budget.

For many non-profits, grants are an indispensable source of income. But they don't just fall from the sky, hand delivered by the grant gods. Nope--on the contrary, securing a grant can be almost as much work as implementing the programs that money would pay for.

So what to do? Here are a few suggestions for locking down some much deserved grant money for your organization.

1) Designate a specific person or team to handle the task of proposal writing.

Have a fabulous writer on staff? Great. Ask her if she'd be willing to put her skills to good use and churn out a killer proposal. When you give a large task like this to one person, it tends to get done faster and better. The pressure of completing such an important project will light a fire under her, so to speak, and motivate her to get to work.

Plus, working independently or with a small team will give her the space to focus and make sure that the proposal with her name on it is top-notch.

2) Not so lucky to have a talented writer on staff? Hire a freelancer. Professional grant writers know what big donors want to hear, and they'll create a proposal for you that will be very likely to get accepted. Not to mention, outsourcing a huge project like proposal writing frees up your staff to focus on their jobs, whether that involves donor relations or program implementation.

3) Think you don't have the budget for a freelancer? Think again. Outsourcing proposal writing increases in-house productivity--since your staff won't be caught up in an extra, time consuming task--and that saves you money. Not to mention, if a professional writer will produce a higher quality proposal for you, why wouldn't you hire her? Turning in a sub-par proposal that was written in-house is more likely to get rejected than a beautifully crafted, outsourced proposal. And you want that proposal to get accepted, don't you?

4) No matter who writes your proposal, make sure that your organization has clearly hammered out the nuts and bolts of the project you're proposing to fund with that grant money. How is it different from the programs you already have? How will it benefit your constituents? Will it be measurably profitable in the long run, and if so, how? Donors want to feel like they're making a smart investment by granting your funds, and ill-conceived, unorganized program plans don't inspire confidence. Be crystal clear about what you're doing and why.

5) Don't gloss over the budget details. How much money will you need for each piece of the program? What expenses are involved? How much overhead will be incurred? More importantly, how much of that budget will be covered by the grant itself? Will any of it be funded by moneys your organization already has? Be as clear and specific as possible. Leave no stone unturned. You're asking someone else for money, after all. They need to judge whether you'll be using it wisely.

6) Use your proposal to tell a story. Do you know how many of these come in every application cycle? A lot. You need your proposal to stand out, and the best way to do that is to make it interesting. Lots of grant proposals are dry as dust--boring, forgettable, and uninspiring. Who wants to fund a program that's putting them to sleep? Find the emotional pull of your program, build a narrative, and draw your reader in. Get your donor emotionally invested in your cause. If you can do that, it'll be hard for her to turn you down.

Still confused about how to make your grant proposal sparkle? Sign up for my monthly newsletter to get tips and hints about proposal writing and much more. Or, leave a comment below! Either way, there's no better way to learn more about writing than joining an online writer's community. Keep this conversation going!