Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Does your grant proposal have a bad "I"?

When you are presenting your charity to a prospective supporter, particularly if that first contact is an online application, establishing the credibility and effectiveness of the organization is vital.

When reviewing grant proposals for clients, many of them are written in the first person. "I started XYZ Charities"  "I contacted so-and-so", I did this  and I did that. Almost as bad is a constant string of third-person references to the founder.

There is always one person behind the formation of a charity.  Someone has to get the ball rolling, and that founder is very important.  If the charity achieves longevity, it will always be tied to its founder.  The Red Cross will always owe its existence to Clara Barton as the founder.  Any history of a charity will include a nod to its founder, but there does come a time when that same founder has to be part of a team.

Grantors are interested in supporting an organization because it effectively advances its mission, and that requires the efforts of more than one person.

If your grant application reads more like a political campaign speech than a mission narrative, it might give grantors the idea that the charity can't survive without you, or worse, that there are no other active team members.

When the grant asks for a history of your organization, it's fine to say it was founded by so-and-so, and if that person is still active, a brief biographical sketch of that persons contributions and qualifications. The transition to a team philosophy should be introduced as soon as possible after that initial introduction.
Try something like this.  XYZ Charities was founded in 2005 by Mary Doe, and now operates with a team that includes Joe Doe, Nancy Roe and Frank Moe, adding the titles and qualifications after each name. That tells grantors immediately that you are no longer a one-man show.  If you should get hit by a bus, the charity can continue to function, and the money the grantor is investing will not be lost or wasted.

The old cliché "You only get one chance to make a first impression" applies in spades here.  Be sure that impression is about your organization, and not just you.  

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