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Grant Proposal Tips

Over the past five years that I’ve been with the Sonora Area Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to read or review a number of articles and books about the grants field – writing grants, reviewing grants, awarding grants, etc.

One of the better books that I’ve reviewed is The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants by Martin Teitel. A respected foundation CEO for most of his career, Teitel’s book pulls back the curtain a bit on how grant making foundations operate. He provides a number of tips that could make or break your next grant proposal.

The following five tips (in italics) are from Martin Teitel, with my two bits thrown in following each tip:

1. The single most important part of your proposal is your five- or six-sentence summary. The summary is the hook of any grant proposal. It needs to draw the reviewer in so that he or she is saying “Tell me more!”

2. One prime reason that proposals are rejected is because they focus too much on problems, and too little on solutions. I know that you can describe the scope of the problem, and I am interested. But if you spend too much time on the problem and not enough time describing how you are going to spend the grant award to solve the problem, how am I supposed to know how you will get from point A to point B?

3. What distinguishes a great grant writer from a good one isn’t the artistry of the writing, but the ability to communicate passion. Be clear, concise and compelling. Proof that you know your way around a thesaurus is less important than what the problem is and how you will resolve it.

4. It’s often counter-productive to pick up the phone and ask to speak with the foundation’s CEO. As executive director of the Sonora Area Foundation, I value the time spent talking to you about your grant proposal. However, understand that grant making is a collaborative process. Our phone conversation will become part of a much larger discussion with several people who may be involved in the decision making.

5. Posing this simple question, “Are there things I can add to strengthen my proposal?” can sometimes unlock the vault. Is there something that you have not told me – that bit of information that your proposal cannot be without? Take the reviewer’s role and read your proposal one last time for the key information that may have been left out.

If you are working on a grant proposal, whether it’s to a government agency, private foundation or a community foundation like the Sonora Area Foundation, keeping Teitel’s tips in mind just may make the difference. Good luck!

Written by Ed Wyllie