Because the theme of our Summer issue of Giving Forum is the “Nuts and Bolts of Effective Grantmaking and Grantseeking,” I asked Minnesota grantmaking staff questions that grantseekers really want to know. Their insights follow.
This is part two of a three-part series of insights from program officers. Look for part three tomorrow. Check out part one, “Pet Peeves from Program Officers”.
What makes a grant proposal really stand out?
- Those who convey their message best will win out in a tighter grant reality. Clearly and succinctly state what you want to accomplish, how you will do it, who you’re going to serve when, where and how, and how you’ll know if you’re successful.
- Proposals that stand out: Ones that provide a one-page quick overview of statistics and outcomes, with back up and narrative attached; and ones that have a specific section with highlights/outcomes/impact of the organization from the previous year.
- A proposal is compelling when: it meets a clear need and the strategy is thought through well, explained and based on evidence; it addresses long-term sustainability; and when it demonstrates an understanding of the foundation’s interests. A two-way conversation about potential interest before a proposal is submitted is critical.
- Proposals should contain: good metaphors, examples of work, a strong statement of who you are and how you play in the sandbox with others; good, clear statements of data.
What is the best way for a nonprofit to get “in” with a funder, to open communication and contact, or to build a relationship with a funder or potential funder?
“The first rule of thumb is to know the foundation’s interests. If there isn’t a common interest or goal, then there’s no ‘in.’ It’s foolish to think this is just about ‘ins’ – it’s about mutual interests and respectful communications. Having said this, I realize not all funders are open to this. I’m sorry about that. I know some of us don’t return phone calls, don’t publish guidelines, and some of us don’t treat grantees respectfully. But always taking the high road is wise advice for all of us, and I think most will benefit from this approach.
“I think doing the requisite development is important. That is, over time developing relationships with those who share our interests, showing up at meetings where these mutual interests are discussed, participating with colleagues in community problem-solving (developing networks). Some of the best work I’ve seen is from people who are candid, ask good questions, and engage funders in conversations that are mutually beneficial.” - Family foundation staff member
Thanks to the many grantmakers who responded to my query for pet peeves and tips for grantees.
For more insight, check out the Summer issue of Giving Forum. In addition to “Pet Peeves,” you’ll find tips on how to conduct effective evaluations, what grantmakers look for when reviewing applications, and how an application becomes a grant.
- Chris Murakami Noonan, MCF communications associate