Success vs. Rejection - tips on getting your proposal funded

  1. Carefully choose where you want to apply for funding.  Be positive that your project fits well with their funding goals, priorities, and values.  Call them with your project idea and ask them if it is a good fit before you write anything. Use their words to describe your project and activities.  For example if their priority is "to fund collaborative community efforts", then describe your project as "a collaborative community effort".
  2. Involve your clients, community, officials, and partners in developing ideas for the project.  Doing things "to" people and "for" people does not lead to effective change.  Instead you want to do things "with" people, to empower and involve them in making things better.
  3. Personalize your project.  Write from the point of view of the community. Tell your story in a positive, dynamic manner.  Avoid jargon or initials.
  4. Grantors don't fund problems, they fund SOLUTIONS.  Identify the issues, but don't make them the focal point of your proposal.  Discuss "challenges" rather than "barriers" or "problems".  Focus on what you propose to do to overcome  these challenges.
  5. Assume that the reviewers do not have a clue as to where you are, or  what you are doing.  Explain it to them in clear, succinct language.  Help them interpret statistics, describe circumstances for them, put in maps, diagrams, and pictures.  Have someone read it who is NOT familiar with your program and ask if it is clearly explained.
  6. Writing by committee can result in a disjointed application.  Someone has to take responsibility for giving form and coherence to the final product, checking spelling and grammar, etc.  Establish reasonable timelines for gathering all of the pieces and check to make sure people are getting their part done on time.
  7. Only submit applications for projects that you are going to do anyway, no matter  what.  Linkages, partnerships, collaborations, and leveraging are extremely important to funders.  Funders want to see that you are cooperating and collaborating with other groups.  They also want to see that they are not the only ones funding you.  Show them how many volunteers you have and how many hours they work.  Explain what kinds and how much community support you have.
  8. Even if a particular application does not get funded, don't get discouraged.  Learn from the process and use these ideas to move forward.  Always request reviewer comments.   It often takes 5 or 6 applications to get your first funding.  With every successful grant, your chances of getting another increase, and you have to spend less time writing them because you already have all the pieces in place.  For every grant, tailor it to the funder by using their words and values.  Don't just keep sending out a generic grant.
  9. Write a ½-1 page COVER LETTER to go with each application.  (See template).  In this, you thank them for the opportunity to apply and for the great work they do in the community.  In one paragraph, identify how much you are asking for, summarize your program and explain why it so important in your community.
  10. Finally, do not miss the deadline.  Be sure to find out if the deadline is a postmark deadline or a receipt in the office deadline.  Find out the delivery options: mail, email, via a web site, fax, or hand delivery.  Some delivery options do not offer next-day service in rural areas.  Know the difference between the mailing address and the delivery address.  If the deadline is 5:00 p.m. and the application arrives at 5:01 p.m., it will not be accepted!  If submitting through an online system, do a trial run long before the deadline.  Do NOT wait until the last minute to press the submit button as it may not go through and the application will not be accepted.  Allow time for problems and glitches.  For example, some on-line submissions require a "word count" or a "character count" either "with spaces" or "without spaces".  Use the word count tool on Microsoft Word to count these before you try to submit it.
  11. One last suggestion – save your work on your computer often and back up everything!  Make hard copies of everything.  Keep a complete copy of the original application and the date you submitted it.  The person who puts together the application may not be the one to implement the project or to reapply the next year.