Monday, July 21, 2014

The creative side of grant writing

In business writing, there is a category that deals with sales copy. It used to be called copywriting, but the new terminology is "creative content".

To put it succinctly, the people that call themselves "creative content providers", including me, craft words  and sometimes images into what amounts to a sales pitch. They can be both long and short form, but they are all designed to do one thing, and that's to make you want to spend money on something. And let's face it, a grant proposal is asking someone to spend money on your mission. 

Most grant applications are heavy on facts and statistics by necessity, but there is one place where you can get creative, and that's in the statement of need. This is the one place where you can kind of let the creative juices flow.
That's not to say that you should make up stuff, or wax so poetic (or just plain sappy) that the reader feels like s/he is drowning in syrup. Creative writing doesn't work with every grantor, or for every program. Some foundations and programs are strictly "just the facts" oriented, and it's up to you (or your grant writer) to determine which approach works.

Still, you do need to create some sort of connection with the grantor.  Admittedly, that's harder than it used to be, given that many foundations are using space-limited online applications, but it isn't impossible.

Here's an example of two ways to pitch your "winter coats for kids" program to a grantor.

Example 1 

There are 6,000 children living below the poverty line in Anyplace County. Most of these children do not have a warm winter coat.  Our program provided 1500 winter coats to children last year, and we could add 1000 more with your support.

Example 2

Anna is seven, and she's waiting for the bus. The thermometer on the bank shows a temperature of 22 degrees and it's windy. Anna huddles behind the bus stop bench wearing just a thin sweater, because she doesn't have a coat to shield her from the cold. There are 6000 Anna's in Anyplace County living below the poverty line.  Any money her family gets goes for food and rent.  Our "buy excess inventory " program provided 1500 coats for some of these children last year, and we can add another 1000 to that number with your help.

Of course you will have to go on and explain the program more fully, provide a budget for it, submit financial statements and all of the other business-type things that grantors need to see, but Example 2 will very likely entice someone to read through your proposal, while example 1 might just get tossed to the side.

By the way…Example 2 netted $10,000 from the grantor, and Anna got her coat.

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