Have you ever felt intimidated to connect with funders? At GrantsEdge, we’ve heard from grant writers who have admitted funders do scare them a little bit, so you’re not alone if you answered “yes”.
Fear is often a result of not having enough information. If you really understood how funders feel and what they think, I am sure you would realize very quickly that funders just want to find great places to invest their money. Yes, they have expectations, and yes, as organizations you need to deliver results. But funders ultimately want to realize amazing impact in communities.
A Funder’s Perspective
To help break down any walls that might exist between grant writers and funders, GrantsEdge wants to continue to find ways to bridge the gap and ensure grant writers and funders understand each other. To do that, we’ll regularly bring you thoughts, insights, and ideas from funders’ perspectives. The more information you have as a grant writer about how funders think and what makes them frustrated or gives them a smile, the less intimidating they may seem and the more success you can have in your grant writing.
So, what is the most important piece of information a funder could give to you? What thoughts do they have about grant proposals that would be helpful for you as a grant writer to know? Do they have any big secrets they can share? If funders had one main piece of information to share that would help you approach grant writing with even greater confidence, what do you think they would have to say?
It Boils Down To One Thing
After studying funders, talking to funders, and listening to what funders have to say, there is one very important piece of advice they desperately want you to have so you can write great grants that get funded.
Are you ready for it? You should probably lean in and read carefully, because this is gold.
Every funder wishes grant writers knew one main secret, and it can be summed up in one word. Any guesses?
The word is “different.” Many funders have been in “the game” for a long time and they understand the subtle nuances and tricks of the trade in grant writing. They have seen hundreds of programs, hundreds of projects, and read thousands of grant proposals. If you can’t bring something different to the table, you may be limiting your opportunities.
Let’s Break It Down
The idea that you need to be different, can be highlighted in three separate ways, by asking three different questions:
- How is your work different?
- How will you be making a difference?
- How is your grant proposal different?
1. How Is Your Work Different?
There are an estimated 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations in Canada, with 85,000 of them being registered charities recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency. That’s a lot of organizations doing great work! Within that 170,000, there may be a few organizations that are doing similar work (there really needs to be a font for sarcasm… go back and read that last sentence with sarcasm). With that many organizations out there, it only stands to reason that funders get proposals all the time that look eerily similar. Not because people have copied someone else or plagiarized a proposal, but because different organizations have a lot in common. A growing trend within the last few years has seen funders encouraging organizations to pursue collaborations and partnerships because too many groups overlap in the work they do, and funders have to work hard not to duplicate the areas of their funding.
Within the grant proposal process, and as you interact with funders along the way, it is extremely important to find ways to demonstrate that the work your organization does is unique to the work of others. What sets your program apart? What makes you stand out among the crowd? How are your outcomes different or better from others? If your organization closed, what gap would it leave in the sector?
If your grant proposal can begin to identify the exclusiveness within which you serve your stakeholders, funders will take notice. Study your “competitors.” Do some research and look to create newness within your organization. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.
Make sure potential funders see how the work you do is different.
2. How Will You Be Making A Difference?
Impact, influence, results, and transformation are important concepts. Funders need to be able to quickly identify through your grant proposals that the programs and services you offer will make tangible differences in the community and for the groups you serve. You need to demonstrate results. You need to clearly establish that your goals and outcomes are reachable and realistic. A funder wants to know their investment has a solid return.
Evaluation has also become a key component for funders. Most funders want to know that you have already evaluated your work and are driving toward success, or they want to understand how you will evaluate your program to carefully measure success.
If you can’t show a funder the difference you are making, why would they give you any money? Do your research to make sure your facts are correct and your methodologies effective. Measure everything and analyze your data to look for weaknesses, strengths, trends, and areas for improvement. And share your stories! One of the most effective ways to engage a funder is with stories of transformation.
3. How Is Your Grant Proposal Different?
Everyone talks about the power of a first impression. Think of a networking situation or a blind date (no thank you) scenario, and how quick we are to begin to form judgments about people based on the first few seconds or minutes. We do it all the time. We gain an impression of someone based on very little information.
The 12 x 12 x 12 Rule
I’ve heard a rule that’s supposed to help one manage the perception others gained of a person. The 12 x 12 x 12 rule was this:
- How do you look from 12 feet away?
- How do you look from 12 inches away?
- What are the first 12 words out of your mouth?
That’s a lot of pressure on a person. I look terrible from 12 inches away!
But this rule can be applied to the grant writer, grant proposal, and funder relationship. Let’s just change it slightly.
Imagine it’s midnight (12 am). The funder has been working for 12 hours straight. Yours is the 12th proposal they have pulled off the pile. How do you get their attention? What makes you different from the other 12 proposals they have just read? What impression will you leave with them? What is their perception of your organization and your program based on what they have just read?
Does that change your perspective at all as you think about writing your next grant proposal? It’s not easy being a funder. There are often many more asks than dollars available. They have hard decisions to make, and some organization is likely getting a “no”… don’t let it be yours!
How Do You Plan To Be Different?
So, what are you going to do the next time you sit down to write a grant proposal? Take a personal inventory and ask the three questions in this blog to make sure you are setting yourself up for success. How is my work different? How will our organization make a difference? How will my proposal be different from many other proposals? Don’t be average. Don’t be the same as everybody else.