A Grant Proposal Map
If you are new to grant proposal writing, or simply want a refresher course, you would do well to start with two books from Jossey-Bass.
First read Winning Grants, Step by Step, Third Edition, by Mim Carlson and developed by The Alliance for Nonprofit Management. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008, ISBN:0-7879-5876-X, 110 pages, U.S. $29)
Winning Grants, Step by Step is a guide to each section of a proposal. It takes you from development of your idea to putting the final package together. Along the way, it provides an overview of the grantseeking process, and advice on developing and sustaining relationships with funders.
Each chapter tackles the details of preparing each section of the proposal with lots of examples and hints. In addition, there is a special resource section that includes how to evaluate a proposal through a funder's eyes. A CD-ROM provides forms, websites, and a bibliography.
We particularly liked the worksheets provided and the review questions at the end of each chapter. For example, the chapter dealing with budget wraps up with these questions:
- Is the budget consistent with the proposals' program plan (methods)?
- Is there a budget narrative that explains items that may not be immediately clear?
- Does the budget include in-kind revenues and expenses?
- Does the budget address the question of how overhead costs will be recovered?
- Can your organization accomplish the intended objectives with the proposed budget?
- Have you kept your budget worksheet, so you have a record of how you determined costs for your expenses?
We also loved the section on evaluating a proposal through a funder's eyes. You read the criteria of the foundation in question and a sample proposal directed to that foundation. Then you get to evaluate that proposal. It is a very illuminating exercise that can only make your own proposals better.
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After writing a proposal based on the material in Winning Grants, Step by Step, read Grant Proposal Makeover: Transform Your Request from No to Yes, by Cheryl A. Clarke and Susan P. Fox. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007, ISBN:0-7879-8055-2, 214 pages, U.S. $29.95)
The concept of a makeover is a familiar one to anyone who watches home improvement shows, but it is especially brilliant when applied to the grantseeking process.
Since a bad proposal can sour your future relationship with a funder (and their peers at other organizations--yes, they do talk to each other), it is imperative that you analyze your proposal with a discerning eye before you submit it.
And that is exactly what Clarke and Fox help you to do. They take proposals that are badly flawed in some way and then critique and rewrite them.
The chapters, engagingly titled (The Case of the Missing Needs Statement for instance), take you through a number of fatal flaws and then correct them. So, you get an actual proposal and then a corrected one.
But Clarke and Fox don't stop there. They have talked to and surveyed grantmakers to find out their pet peeves. The text is peppered with quotes from real funders and spiced with their hints.
Nine out of ten grant proposals are rejected. Use these two books in tandem and you are likely to vastly improve your chances of being the one that gets funded. Indeed, you may actually become popular with grant givers.