Back a winner


If I had one piece of advice to give about grant writing and proposals, it is this: Don’t make “the cause” your first priority. Write so your prospective funder knows they’d be backing a winner if they funded you – you are the one to get the job done. Why is your horse the best at the starting gate? What training does it have? What’s its history and track record? Who is behind it? In other words, why will it (you) almost certainly be the one to WIN?

This is my guiding principal in non-profit grant writing. Ask yourself: Why is our organization the best possible choice to get the job done, to start the proposed project, to meet the need? Or if writing for corporate social responsibility: Why is this project and solution REALLY going to meet our CSR goals? Why is it the winning choice?

Many writers start with the need (or cause), or focus on it solely. Say they’re writing for a non-profit that offers shelter services for people who are homeless or marginally housed, and they spend most of a proposal speaking about homelessness and why it needs to be addressed. It’s not that “the need” isn’t important – of course it is; no one would debate that. It should be made clear in your proposals. But every organization can write about the need. Only you can write about why YOUR organization is the best opportunity a funder has to address it. As an outsider with fresh eyes, I’m often uniquely positioned to see what it is about an organization that makes it the odds-on favourite, a real leader among its peers.

Make your prospective funder feel as if they’re backing a winner, THE winner (because they are, right?), and … you’ve already won.

Feedback is a gift

Feedback is a gift. I’m not the one who said it – Seth Godin did – but it’s something I firmly believe. Feedback = gift, always.

When people take time and put themselves out there to share their thoughts on something, they are giving something very valuable – a new perspective.

After all, they don’t have to do it. What if you, the creator of that thing, don’t recognize the gift that it is? It’s so much easier for a reviewer to say, “It’s good,” rather than “It’s good, but I would have hoped for Y as well.”

Does this mean that I think that all feedback is right and should be immediately incorporated? Of course not. Reviewers can “get it wrong” sometimes, most certainly, just as content creators can. They may have overlooked something. Or they may have identified a problem, but they may not have the right solution.

The key is to open up a dialogue. And when that happens, when smart, passionate, outcome-focused people begin to listen to each other and hash ideas through, the final result can only get better.

Slowly, something that’s not working will start to coalesce. Or something that is working will become that much more nuanced, stronger, exhilarating, or whatever.

And that’s a gift indeed.