In 2015, there were 86,203 grant-making foundations that granted $62,793,608,844 in funding (The Foundation Center, 2014). Yes, the number of digits and commas is correct. Sixty-two trillion dollars given away for the common good.
If the theme of today’s article is the power of the written word, then why am I beginning with numbers? Because grant writing is a major driver of nonprofit philanthropy.
I am currently attending the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) annual conference in Chicago and am reminded of how important it is to clearly articulate a case for support, document a statement of need, and align the impact the organization seeks to make with the values and pillars of a foundation. All while meeting the foundation’s requirements for brevity.
If you only have 250 characters to make your case, how do you stand out amongst the dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of other applicants? You know your audience and you focus on meaning.
Writing about why the project matters first, rather than a litany of facts and activities, is a simple way to start with what’s meaningful.
For example: “Our project opens doors of possibilities for children who often feel forgotten. The ABC organization creates the space needed for learning and self-discovery, which utilizes our expert staff, but more importantly, empowers the youth to teach each other through peer mentoring and modeling new behaviors.”
Instead of: “The ABC organization’s mission is to teach at-risk and under-served children within a specific geographic area. Each week, we serve 100 youth in an after-school program located in our facility’s learning lab. Our teaching staff uses evidence-based practices for maximum educational outcome attainment.”
Both are accurate and have nearly the same number of characters, but which is more compelling?
The first example is about the “why” while the second is about the “what.” If the funder values technical writing then the second example may be more appropriate, but in our experience foundation program officers are people, not robots. They want to connect with the work and understand the impact, both intellectually and emotionally.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO