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VOL. 127 | NO. 210 | Friday, October 26, 2012

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Success Found in Details

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Part two of a three-part series on proposal writing Need money? Write a grant proposal. If only life in the nonprofit sector were so simple. Writing a proposal to a foundation is about much more than writing. Our conversation with professional proposal writer Marlene Lynn points out the important subtleties involved in securing foundation grant funds. For example, a well-written proposal is not necessarily a funded proposal. We asked Lynn about the difference between the two.

“A funded proposal sticks out from the crowd. It provides a track record of success in addressing problems that the funder has identified as a priority. It highlights what is unique about your organization. It is easy to read with information that flows from the opening statement to the closing remarks. It has heart and data references to back up the work. The proposal does not create barriers for the reader. For example, information is presented in the order it is requested, so if readers are using an evaluation checklist, they don’t have to search through your proposal for the information. The reader can see that you have done your homework, and that your work and their priorities are a strong match.”

To learn more about creating a funded proposal, we asked Lynn what role can board members play in creating a climate where a foundation requests (or wants to receive) a proposal.

“Sometimes a board member is acquainted with someone at a foundation or corporation. The board member can have a conversation – in person if possible – with their contact to tell them about the great work of the organization. The board member plans the key points of the conversation in advance with a development staff member, so the board member understands the foundation’s funding priorities and can tailor the conversation to fit this context. The board member can then report back on the level of interest the foundation has in a proposal, and instructions on when to submit a proposal or Letter of Interest (LOI), how much to ask, who to send it to, and other related questions.

“An LOI will begin with a sentence summarizing the request – how much is requested and for what. Other elements include a paragraph describing the organization – the year and reason the organization was founded, who founded it, its mission, and programs or services provided; description of the need the services address; how your organization addresses this need and why your organization is successful; key accomplishments/outcomes your organization has achieved in addressing the need; and a closing statement that includes the name, phone number and email of who may be contacted for more information. Always thank them for considering your request.”

Next week we will cover foundation research, trying to make your nonprofit “fit” a funder’s guidelines, and how and when to follow up.

Visit Lynn at https://sites.google.com/site/mlynnbaptista

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They provide fundraising counsel locally and nationwide. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

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