How To Use Positive Language To Influence Funders

“It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.” As someone who speaks with my entire body, I’ve probably been told that line a thousand times. Positive words can come out of my mouth, but my tone and body language give me away every time.

As you write grant proposals, your intention is to write positively about your organization and the solutions of your program, and yet there can end up being a tone, a negative vibe or attitude that creeps into the text, and it hangs like a pessimistic and gloomy cloud over the reviewer.

I want funders to say “yes” to you, and having a positive tone in your writing can be a powerful tool to persuading and influencing their decision.

People Are Drawn To Positivity

There’s something incredibly energizing about rubbing shoulders with positive people. They make you feel better about life. They seek joy, are thankful, and help you see life through a different lens.

The way we write can have a similar impact. When we write in a positive way with an affirmative tone, people have an easier time getting excited and feeling good about what they’ve read. Write in a negative way, and it can obscure or overshadow the main point of what is being communicated.

Look at these simple examples:

Positive: Partly sunny
Negative: Partly cloudy

Positive: We value our employees.
Negative: We don’t ignore our employees.

I’m not sure anyone intentionally plans to communicate in a negative tone, but for some, it’s a default setting, and one that can impact the success of your grant proposals.

Positive And Negative Words

By including certain words and abandoning others in your grant writing, you can strengthen your proposals and significantly alter the way your message comes across to the reader.

Negative Words To Avoid:

  • Can’t
  • Damage
  • Don’t
  • Error
  • Fail
  • Impossible
  • Little value
  • Loss
  • Mistake
  • Problem
  • Refuse

Positive Words To Include:

  • Accept
  • Benefit
  • Best
  • Celebrate
  • Inspire
  • Progress
  • Renew
  • Success
  • Support
  • Thankful
  • Valuable

Three Ways To Make Your Proposals More Positive

There are some very specific things you can do to write grant proposals in a more positive way. Here are three tips to strengthen your proposals and demonstrate a positive tone.

#1 – It’s All About “Can”

Although funders may want to understand some of the challenges or hurdles your organization may face to bring about the solutions you propose in your application, the focus should not be about what your organization can’t do. Don’t take time to highlight limitations or restrictions, as the negativity can sway a decision maker in the wrong direction.

Instead, the focus of an excellent proposal needs to be centred on what your organization can and will accomplish. Write about the impact you will have, the possibilities and opportunities you will explore and implement, and the constructive way you will overcome impediments and barriers.

#2 – “Will” You Or “Would” You

It’s amazing what changing one word can do to shift the reader’s perspective. The difference between using the word “will” and the word “would” in a grant application is the difference between a reviewer believing you have the confidence to implement the program and them thinking you are tentative and limited in your approach and capacity.

Look at the difference between these two statements:

WOULD: The Vancouver Skill Centre would provide construction training to 40 youth in our community with funding from your organization.

WILL: The Vancouver Skill Centre will provide construction training to 40 youth in our community with funding from your organization.

The difference is one word, but that one word establishes the impression that the Vancouver Skill Centre is ready to do the job. Using “will” throughout the proposal influences the reviewer to feel and believe the organization is competent, confident, and fearless. It lends credibility to your proposal.

The “would” statement leaves a feeling of doubt and uncertainty… two qualities you don’t want your reviewer to equate with your organization or your proposal.

#3 – Have Another Look

The review and revision process is an extremely important one in the full development of successful grant proposals. Included in the review process should be an intentional inspection for words and phrases that reflect more negatively in the application. Read each section and look for examples of negativity and plan to re-word, re-write, and re-frame them to paint a different picture.

Look at the examples here for inspiration for how you might approach the revision process.

Example #1
Negative: The loss of leadership has made it impossible to move the program forward, but funding would allow us to deal with the problem.

Positive: Funding will benefit the program and bring value through the establishment of new leadership.

Example #2
Negative: The damage has been done and we can’t continue to ignore the mistakes that have been made.

Positive: We have learned from previous work, and progress and success will be by-products of the investment that will be made into the community.

If negative phrases, like the ones written in the examples above, accumulate throughout a proposal, it can leave a reviewer feeling less than excited about your proposal. A thorough review process is an important step to take to help strengthen your applications and move them from gloomy to refreshing and exciting.

In our blog post, “5 Grant Writing Tips To Make A Funder Giggle… In A Good Way,” we provided five tangible steps you could put into action to alter the fate of your proposal. Read it here.

Letters Of Support – Done Right

Letters of support can seem like an “add-on” and you may even wonder if they really make a difference. We’re here to say they do.

Quality letters of support can help you get a “yes” verdict on your grant application. Keep reading to find out what makes a letter of support really stand out.

What Is A Letter Of Support?

A letter of support from a partner or supportive organization is their assertion that your organization should be funded. In writing the letter, they’re saying, “If we were the funder, we’d definitely give this organization the money… and here are a few reasons why.”

So, how does a letter of support help?

#1 – It Establishes A Level Of Credibility

Having a strong letter of support from other organizations can build credibility. If others believe this program or project is a good idea, it may just have some merit. Letters of support let a funder know that others recognize the problem you have identified and they agree with the solutions you propose.

A letter of support may also highlight for a funder the role that another organization is going to play within the project. If the partner organization is bringing a new skill set, resource, or specific expertise that your organization does not have, these additional credentials can enhance the overall strength of the application.

In the end, the letter of support can build trust with a funder and make them feel comfortable with their investment.

#2 – It Shows A Community Commitment To The Program

If a number of members of a community are committed to a project, a funder may be more likely to want to invest. In some instances a “lone wolf” organization may hold less appeal.

An organization choosing to work in isolation doesn’t necessarily preclude that organization from getting funding, but letters from other community leaders that speak specifically to their support for a program can certainly solidify the need, importance, and overall worth of the proposed solution.

#3 – It Demonstrates Genuine Collaboration

Beyond a community commitment, a letter of support can show that genuine collaboration exists. In a letter of support, an organization can highlight their specific involvement and show exactly how they plan to be involved in the program.

Giving money to the project, in-kind gifts, steering committee leadership, building space, or administrative support are examples of ways an organization might be willing to collaborate or partner. Making it abundantly clear inside a letter of support what the partnership will look like can help a funder fully understand how multiple organizations will work together to impact their community.

The Key Elements Of A Beneficial Letter Of Support

Not all letters of support are created equal. Here are a few key thoughts to consider when writing or asking someone to write a letter of support.

The Letter Should Be Unique

Templates are a popular approach when it comes to producing letters of support. In many cases, to ensure you get your letter completed in time for the submission of your proposal, and to make life as easy as possible for the writer, organizations will put together a template in advance and ask the partner organization to fill in the blanks. It’s a great way to ensure efficiency, but can detract from the overall effectiveness of the letter of support.

In cases where you may only be looking to receive one letter of support, a template may be a helpful way to go, but if you’re asking for multiple letters, you will want to make sure a funder doesn’t receive five letters that all sound eerily similar.

If you do want to go the way of providing templates, it may mean you have to develop a number of different ones, or it may be that you simply ask the organizations to write their own. Plan to talk to them on the phone or in person and give them some ideas for what they might include and what might be most helpful.

However you decide to handle the process, be sure each of your letters of support have some substance and a one-of-a-kind feel to them. Don’t just pump them out with an assembly line type approach – funders will recognize this and it won’t be helpful.

The Letter Should Relate To The Activities In The Proposal

A letter of support needs to be relevant. If a letter is too vague, a funder may feel like the writer of the letter doesn’t know enough about the program to write with specificity. Make sure your partners understand the program and have some insight on the solution and how it will be carried out.

Provide your partner with a copy of your needs statement and take a few moments to walk through some of the activities. Make some specific decisions about how they will be involved so they can refer to those activities in a definitive way.

The more information your partners have, the easier it will be for them to write helpful letters.

The Letter Should Be From Partners First And Foremost

The best letters of support you will get are from the organizations that are planning to partner with you in very specific ways. Some organizations get letters of support from agencies that think the program is a good idea, but have no intention of collaborating in any tangible way. Those letters are nowhere near as helpful. A funder may wonder, “If this idea is so good, why aren’t you getting involved?”

If you don’t have any partners specifically involved in the program with you, getting support from agencies in the community can be helpful.

The Letter Should Be Clear and Concise

A letter of support should be no more than a page long. A letter of support is not a place to provide more research or to try and make additional points about the virtues of the program. It’s meant to let the funder know why and how a partner will be getting involved.

Want More Information About How To Craft A Letter Of Support? Access Your FREE Template

Letters of support can be a helpful and valuable component to any grant application. To help you write and receive the best letters of support, we’ve put together an outline that provides some insight into what to include.

To gain access to the “Letter of Support Outline Template,” download the document here by providing us with your name and email address. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it to anyone).

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How To Build A Massive Grants Database In Just Five Minutes A Day

Do you think finding the perfect grant opportunity is like finding a needle in an excessively large and messy haystack? As you’ve scoured the Internet, you may have seen a few potential options, but felt like none of them were a good fit.

So what do you do? You get frustrated, tell yourself there’s nothing out there, and chase the same four or five grants hoping the funders say “yes” this year. The whole thing can be really stressful.

What if you could have access to hundreds of potential grants that are the perfect fit for your program, for free? You can, and it’s not that hard. All you need is consistency, commitment, and five minutes a day.

There Are A Ton Of Funding Opportunities Out There

We’ve told you this before, but it’s so important we want to tell you again.

In our blog post, “One Easy Step To Finding New Funding Opportunities,” we showed you how you can use your everyday schedule to uncover potential funding opportunities. If you haven’t read it, go read it now. It will give you some great ideas to help you build your new database. But remember to come back here when you’re done!

In the blog post, we highlighted the fact that there are thousands of funding opportunities available across the country and new ones being developed all the time. Yet, many grant writers only know about five to ten of those funders… and thousands go unnoticed.

3 Ways To Gather Information About Potential Grants

Building your massive grants database is going to happen one opportunity at a time. Here are three easy ways you can begin to identify new funding opportunities to add to your database.

#1: Use Free Online Resources

If you follow us on Facebook (@GrantsEdge) and Twitter (@GrantsEdge), you’ll learn about new funding opportunities each week. We also include funding opportunities in our weekly email to our GrantsEdge Insider subscribers. If you go back through our social media posts or emails, you’ll easily learn about 60+ new funding opportunities without breaking a sweat!

Federal, provincial, and municipal governments and corporations also list the funding programs they have available on their websites. You can also sign up for newsletters through these sites, which let you know when funding opportunities become available.

If you commit to looking at one corporation’s website a day, or one government ministry website, you’ll start to access the hundreds of opportunities that exist and you’ll build yourself one massive database that’ll cost you nothing. As a bonus, you can access your database whenever you need it. Make sure you record opportunities that might not be relevant now, because they may be relevant to you in the future.

#2: Use Your Network

Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and you can get tons of helpful information by simply connecting with the people you know. Be intentional about staying in touch with other grant writers.

Don’t be shy about asking others to point you in the direction of a new grant opportunity. You’ll be amazed at how willing others are to share what they know. Through all of your interactions, be ready to share your ideas with others as well. Put a plan in place, and begin to pick up the phone, send a few emails, and set up some coffee dates, and you will start to see your database grow.

Remember, when you’re building your database, you don’t need to be selective about opportunities. If the funding opportunity could be a fit at some point down the road, for you or someone else, include it in your database. You may not always write grants for the same organization, so having a wide variety of opportunities is never a bad way to go.

#3: Access Indirect Sources Of Grants

You may have heard of “The Hidden Job Market.” It refers to available jobs that never get posted, and they actually make up about 80% of all job openings. Doesn’t it seem odd that 80 available jobs out of 100 never get posted anywhere? But it’s true!

Finding grant opportunities is exactly the same. There are thousands of funders who don’t necessarily market their funding programs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. As you flip through magazines (Canada Business, MacLean’s Magazine, etc. ) or read your local newspapers, you’re often staring at potential funding opportunities. Most of the companies you read about or drive by day after day have funding programs and sponsorship opportunities of some kind. Again, it may take some work, but if you buy a new cell phone at Best Buy, you may be staring right at a potential funder.

As you watch commercials (for those who don’t fast forward through them) or access business directories, know that they are filled with sources of grant funding. It will only take a few minutes to gather the information to put into your database. The result: you’ll begin to grow a database you can go back to again and again.

Make Building Your Database Part Of Your Daily Routine

The secret to building your database in just five minutes a day is recognizing opportunities and consistently putting them into your database. One day, a friend might pass along an opportunity while you enjoy lunch together. The next day, you might get an email from a local organization with a funding opportunity highlighted in their newsletter, and a few days later, you might notice an opportunity on Facebook you hadn’t heard of before. A week later, you might do a quick online search after filling up for gas at Petro-Canada and seeing something about their work in the community.

And so you build your database… one opportunity at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time. At first, you’ll have one grant, then ten, then 50, and then 100. Before you know it, you’ll have a massive database of opportunities and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. The time will pass anyway, so you might as well build your database.

Find Out More About Building Your Database

If you’re ready to build your own grants database, we’ve got more information for you. We’ve prepared a list of questions you should be thinking about as you research your prospects and a template that shows you exactly how to put your database together.

To gain access to the “Grants Database Template,” download the document here by providing us with your name and email address. It’s FREE and your email address is safe with us (we won’t be giving it away to anyone).

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The 3 Greatest Fears Of Grant Writers

Fear may be too strong a word to use, but every grant writer has a level of angst, concern, or doubt when it comes to grant writing… even if it’s buried deep down in their sub-conscious. It’s not fun to feel afraid.

In life, we deal with fears all the time. It may be snakes, heights, speaking in front of crowds, dying, or your spouse’s driving (so I’ve heard from a friend). Some of our fears may be somewhat irrational and we have no idea how to explain them. Other fears can be very healthy. According to a blog post by Refuge Recovery, “whereas healthy fear is temporary and situational, unhealthy fear is enduring beyond its necessity.”

I’ll let you decide whether you think your grant writing fear is healthy or unhealthy, but the reality is, many grant writers have expressed to us feelings of concern, worry, and sometimes panic when thinking about the process of preparing and submitting an application to funders.

What’s Your Grant Writing Fear?

What’s your fear when it comes to grant writing? By admitting that some fear exists for grant writers, our hope is that you will understand how normal it is, while also realizing you are not alone in having some anxiety around the whole grant writing process.

So let’s see if we can’t get some of this out in the open and find a few ways to get past our grant writing fears.

The 3 Greatest Fears Of Grant Writers

We’ve interacted with many grant writers over the years, and they have been very open about their struggles with grant writing. In, “Confessions of Embarrassed Grant Writers,” we heard from grant writers who shared some of their secret shames.

Many of these same grant writers also talked to us about their fears.

Grant Writing Fear #1 – I’m Afraid I Won’t Get The Funding

The fear of not getting the funding is probably the fear that haunts grant writers the most. Even experienced and regularly successful grant writers worry they won’t get funded. There are so many important organizational aspirations tied up in funding, it makes it difficult when you begin to think about the fall-out and trouble that might come if a rejection letter is all you get for your proposal. One grant proposal could be so interconnected to the success of your organization that a “no” to your funding request could mean program closures, staff lay-offs, or a significantly depleted operational budget. None of those options are good.

So How Do You Manage This Fear?

Have A Plan B – Probably the best way to manage the stress behind a potential “no” from funders is to have an alternate plan in place should your proposal not be successful. Researching other funding opportunities and attempting to diversify funding streams can be the most effective way to not have one funding failure completely de-rail your organizational plans.

Know That Rejection Is Inevitable – It sounds pretty pessimistic, but it’s the reality of the grant writing world. Almost every grant writer will hear “no” from funders along the journey. Don’t let it stop you from getting back on the keyboard and working just as hard the next time. As the famous Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Take a shot… and keep shooting. Write your proposal… and keep writing. You might not score (i.e. be successful) every time, but you have a much greater chance of scoring and winning if you keep shooting. Don’t let a few misses stop you from writing. Get some feedback, learn from mistakes, talk to the funders and do everything you can to become a stronger grant writer.

Grant Writing Fear #2 – I’m Afraid Of Doing Something Wrong

Inexperienced grant writers are likely to have fear around making mistakes in their proposal writing. In talking to grant writers, many expressed the idea that they were afraid they might do something incorrectly in completing the application that would disqualify them or completely miss something on the application altogether. Boiled down, it was a fear of lacking the attention to detail that might be needed to successfully move through the grant writing process.

Grant writers also expressed fear over doing something wrong in the physical submission of the proposal. One grant writer expressed that he always seemed to have difficulty with the technology related to attaching documents and complained about having an issue every time he gets ready to hit them submit button.

So How Do You Manage This Fear?

Give Yourself More Time – If you are like many grant writers, at some point along the way, you have found yourself scrambling at the last minute as you feverishly put all the final pieces together to submit your proposal. Of course, that’s always when something fails with the technology. Funders have actually told us their systems can get overloaded in the final hour leading up to the deadline because so many proposals are being submitted simultaneously. Don’t do that to yourself!

Imagine the freedom and lack of stress you could experience if you submitted the application a day or two in advance of the final deadline. If you did happen to experience technical difficulty, it would be no problem. When you build your work plan, provide yourself with the time and room you might need to fix anything that could go wrong.

Read The Guidelines More Than Once – If missing something within the application is a fear for you, print a hard copy of the proposal guidelines before you even start writing. With a highlighter in hand, read through it a few times. Circle, underline, and note any deadlines, attachments, or important pieces of information the funder asks for in the application. Know their guidelines and procedures inside and out. It will bring you confidence and relieve any fear you may have about missing something important.

Don’t Try To Do Everything Yourself – Having someone else to support the application process will provide the checks and balances you may need to ensure you don’t miss anything. Another person and perspective may also help you troubleshoot those technology issues. Bring someone along for the journey so, together, you can tackle the hard stuff that can come with completing a grant proposal.

Grant Writing Fear #3 – I’m Afraid I Won’t Meet The Funder’s Expectations

The fear that a grant writer won’t meet the funder’s expectations is an interesting one and one we hear often from grant writers. There seems to be a feeling within the grant writing community that funders keep their priorities somewhat disguised or that they don’t provide the full story behind what they need or want from grant writers.

Grant writers have also explained that they continue to observe a shift in funder priorities. From one year to the next, a funder may make some adjustments to their mandate and change the funding criteria. This can cause grant writers to feel confused, frustrated, and even afraid that they don’t know what to do to ensure a successful proposal.

In speaking to funders, the majority are quick to say they work hard to make sure their objectives are clear and transparent, but the reality is, they may make some changes and strategize new objectives. The purpose is not to confuse you, but to create greater impact.

So How Do You Manage This Fear?

Connect With The Funder – If you are afraid you might not meet the funder’s needs, or that your application may not fit their expectations, connect with the funder immediately. Before you even begin writing, you should be looking for and developing opportunities to hear from the funder directly. By asking the right questions, a funder will very quickly be able to tell you if your idea is on the right track.

Find Out What They Funded Before – Many funders provide information about programs they’ve funded in previous years. Reading this should provide you with insight into what is important to the funder. You may also wish to reach out to a few funding recipients to ask them questions about what they may have done to get a “yes” from the funder.

Unless a funder has changed their priorities dramatically and are looking to fund new kinds of programs, reading through what they have funded before can give you helpful insight for what you might need to do with your program to catch their attention.

Get Some Advice – One of the ways GrantsEdge can support you in your grant writing is to provide you with coaching. Through GrantsEdge Coaching, we can read through a funder’s guidelines and review your proposal to see if there seems to be a fit. Book an appointment with us and we’ll provide feedback and ask questions to help bring you greater confidence that your proposal has what it takes to get funded.

Thanks For Sharing

We want to say thank you to the many grant writers we’ve talked to who were kind enough to be vulnerable with us. It’s helpful to talk about our fears and helpful for other grant writers to feel like they are not alone in facing the challenges of grant writing.

Through it all, we don’t want your fears to keep you from writing great proposals that get funded. Don’t let being afraid slow you down from the great work you are looking to accomplish.

Reach out to us, connect with funders, talk to other grant writers, and find some helpful and tangible ways to overcome your fears.

Together, grant writers and funders are doing incredible work to impact and change communities throughout Canada, and we are excited about seeing more and more grant writers have the confidence needed to really make a difference.

Hot Tips From Savvy Grant Writers

I love getting my hands on grants written by other grant writers. It’s a fascinating way to learn new tips, tricks, and different ways of approaching grant application questions. I’m also fortunate that, through my work at GrantsEdge, I get to hear about how hundreds of other grant writers approach grant writing.

Today, I’m sharing with you some of the hot tips I’ve received from grant writers. Keep reading to find out what they are.

Here’s What Grant Writers Have To Say About How They Write Grants

1. The Preparation Stage

Preparing to write a grant is as important as actually writing the grant. You can learn a lot in the preparation stage to help you successfully develop your proposal, including laying a solid foundation for writing and establishing an undeniable fit with the funder’s objectives.

Here’s what some grant writers have told me about how they prepare to write a grant:

  • “We start with a thorough review of what the funder has provided as far as guidelines and purpose. We try to understand what they are looking for before we ever write our first word.”
  • “We read through the information the funder has provided and ask a few important questions. Does our request meet their criteria? What’s the timeline and can we meet it? Will this be a major effort for us to write and how much time will it really take? Who on our team needs to be involved? After answering those questions, we put together a work plan and begin to connect with the appropriate people.”
  •  “We plan to have a meeting with the funder to ask questions and identify any issues.”
  • “We do a lot of work up front to decide if it’s worthwhile even writing the proposal. We don’t want to waste our time… or the funder’s.”
  • “I like to connect with like-minded organizations in our community to find out if they have plans to submit a proposal. If we can do something bigger and better together, I like to explore those collaboration opportunities before we get too far into the process.”

2. The Writing Stage

For some grant writers, the writing stage is fun and exciting. For others, it’s challenging, time-consuming, frustrating, and just plain hard.

Here’s what some grant writers said they do during the writing process:

  • “I start writing at the top and work my way through, question by question, starting with bullet points initially. I’ll move past some questions if I feel stumped at all. I’ll come back to those questions later, but will have had more time to prepare my thoughts about how to answer.”
  • “I will write a first draft in a Word document. I also go back to previous proposals to look for helpful information and ideas I can use in the new proposal. As I write, I am very focused on making sure the proposal resonates with the funder’s language and priorities.”
  • “I try to set aside uninterrupted time to write, but that can be incredibly difficult. With some of the bigger grants, I plan to work from home during portions of the week as I have fewer distractions there.”
  • “Our organization often has as many as three people writing within the same grant. We plan to collaborate often during the writing process so we ensure some consistency in our messaging, style, and tone.”
  • “If time allows – and I work really hard to ensure I have the time – I will write one section of the proposal at a time. I find I’m much fresher that way and don’t feel overwhelmed if I write smaller sections over the course of a number of days. Trying to write everything all at once, for me, is a recipe for disaster. If I want a funder to get my best work, I need time to sit with it.”

3. The Review Stage

Funders tell us all the time that it seems, based on the hundreds of proposals they have reviewed, that many grant writers don’t take the time to review their proposals before hitting the submit button. A thorough review process gives grant writers the chance to correct spelling and grammar mistakes, revise content, and make sure the proposal generally makes sense.

Here’s what some grant writers had to say about their review process:

  • “I include my wife in the review process. If she’s confused by what we are trying to say and do in the proposal, there’s a good chance a review panel may have the same issues.”
  • “We like to use the “Track Changes” tool in Word to provide feedback as it’s easy to read and an easy way to accept changes and revisions directly in the proposal.”
  • “We have a specific person in our office who is brilliant with reviewing and editing spelling, grammar, and general consistency in the writing, and we have her do a review of every proposal before it leaves our office. We make sure to build her review time into the work plan so she isn’t always having to do it in the late stages of the process.”
  • “Our leadership team is always involved in the review process to ensure the proposal is highlighting the program in the most effective ways.”
  • “We use our regular bi-weekly managers’ meetings to check in often throughout the process. We would rather review on an ongoing basis compared to taking only one look at it.”

Some Bonus Input From Grant Writers

What was the most helpful piece of advice you read? What can you implement into your grant writing to ensure you produce the best proposals?

The preparation, writing, and review stages are important parts of the overall process and the areas where grant writers have given us the most feedback. Occasionally, we get ideas and feedback from grant writers that don’t always fit neatly into one of those three stages of the process.

Here are a few additional pieces of feedback you might find helpful.

About Budgets:

  • “We involve our finance manager in the grant writing process from the very beginning. It’s so helpful, especially when looking at the budget.”
  • “I like to start with the budget to help me see what’s possible. From there, we can narrow it down to the key goals.”

After Submitting The Grant:

  • “We always follow up with the funder to make sure they have received the grant.“
  • “I set up a tracking system when we are granted funds in order to follow it through to completion. This definitely helps us make sure we complete all the final reports.”

Relationships With Funders:

  • “I didn’t understand how important it was in the first year to get on the phone with funders.”

If you like reading about what other grant writers have to say, we encourage you to have a look at “Confessions of Embarrassed Grant Writers.” Discover some of the things grant writers are embarrassed to admit. You’ll likely feel better about your own situation.

We’d Love To Hear From You

We’re always interested to know what you have to say about grant writing. Do you have some insight or a few ideas you think other grant writers might find helpful?

  • How do you prepare for writing grant proposals?
  • What process do you use for writing?
  • What does your review process look like?

Connect with us on Facebook (@GrantsEdge), on Twitter (@GrantsEdge), or through email to share your thoughts, frustrations, brilliant ideas, or questions. We look forward to connecting with you!

To The Top Of The Pile: Making Your Grant Stand Out From The Competition

Everybody is looking for a silver bullet for success, and grant writers are no different. If only there was an effortless solution, or one easy trick to getting your grant proposals to the top of the funder pile every time you submit an application. It’s actually the question we get from grant writers more than any other: “How do I ensure funders say ‘yes’ to my proposal?” As we facilitate training workshops, it is almost a guarantee that, at some point in our session, the conversation will turn to wanting to know how to get a grant proposal to stand out from the competition.

It’s a great question and one every grant writer should consider.

What Will Make My Grant Stand Out?

There are many parts to putting together successful proposals. We’ve already written a few blog posts that highlight some key elements to getting funders to notice your proposals.

In our April 28, 2017 blog post, “5 Grant Writing Tips To Make A Funder Giggle… In A Good Way,” we provided five tangible steps you could put into action to alter the fate of your proposal.

In another blog post, from April 13, 2017, we shared some important thoughts we heard from funders during a recent conversation. During our talk, they shared some of their frustrations about grant writers and the application process in general, but more importantly, they gave us some insight into what they felt grant writers needed to do to develop the best proposals. Read “Get In On The Secret: What Funders Want Grant Writers To Know.” 

Those two previous blog posts highlight some helpful observations and wisdom from funders on the things that make grant proposals really good… or not. Have a read and reflect on what new ideas you can implement to make your proposals better.

The Top 3 Ways To WOW A Funder

So what’s the secret? What can a grant writer do to make sure their proposal gets noticed and gets moved to the top of the pile? What are the must-haves, the elements funders just can’t do without? If all the success factors were boiled down into the top three ways to get your proposal to stand out, what would they be?

Making Your Grant Stand Out – Success Factor #1: Care About The Funder

Do you like gifts? Most people do. The best gifts, the ones that are most special, are the ones given with you in mind. A gift card to the mall, while a nice gesture, just isn’t the same as tickets to see your favourite local band, that no one else has heard of, play an intimate venue on a Friday night. One gift can be given to anyone, while the other is just for you.

It feels good to know that someone really listens and truly cares about you and what you care about.

Funders are no different. They want gifts (i.e. grant proposals) that scream, “we care about you,” “we know who you are,” and “we know what is important to you.”

The first question you ask, and the question that drives the initial stages of your grant application research, should be, “What does the funder want?”

In grant writing, it’s vital to know what the funder cares about, their purpose, mission, and objectives. Without a full and profound understanding for why they exist and how they want to invest their money, your proposal is likely to miss the target.

Funders cite a lack of “fit” all the time as one of the biggest reasons for proposals to be rejected. It should be your starting place to know what is special to the funder and what will have them excited to write a cheque to your organization.

Here are a few questions you might ask as you seek to understand what a funder wants.

  • What are their values, and do we align with them?
  • Do the funder’s priorities and fields of interest match with our purpose and activities?
  • What have they funded previously?
  • What can we do to make their process easier?

Care about your funder and know what they care about. Once you have worked through this idea, you will understand how much easier it is to write your proposal and compose it in such a way that a funder can’t help but move it to the top of the pile.

Making Your Grant Stand Out – Success Factor #2: Make The Funder Care

It’s easy to be passionate about your own ideas, programs, and projects, but are you able to lead others to understand the importance and urgency for what you are trying to accomplish?

The best way to make a funder care about what you are doing is to clearly demonstrate to them that without your program, your community suffers. You need to show them the gaps, the issues, and the problems in your community and help them understand how your solution is one that will make a difference in solving the problem.

This all happens within the “Needs Statement” part of your proposal.

Earlier this year, we wrote a blog post called, “The 4 Fundamental Features Of A Strong Needs Statement.” In it, we highlighted how vital your needs statement is to the rest of your proposal, how it is the engine that drives your application, and outlined four keys to bringing increased levels of success to your proposals through the effectiveness of a strong needs statement.

Here are a few of the questions you can answer for a funder with a strong statement of need:

  • So what?
  • Why should we care?
  • What is the crux of the problem?
  • Does the organization have a viable solution?
  • What happens if we don’t fund this opportunity now?
  • Are the facts compelling?
  • Have they already begun to make a difference in the lives of their participants?

If you can make a funder care about the problem, the solution, and the ultimate transformation your program will bring, your proposal will rocket to the top of the pile.

Making Your Grant Stand Out – Success Factor #3: Dare To Be Different

It doesn’t take long to get lulled into a sense of complacency, a place where we are satisfied with the status quo and are content to do things the way we’ve always done them. And yet, the times we are often most excited and aware are those times when we see something we’ve never seen before.

Funders manage hundreds of proposals. They read about hundreds of programs related to eradicating poverty, increasing child literacy rates, or saving the environment. After a while, the programs begin to look and feel the same. It becomes challenging to get excited about investing in programs or projects that look exactly like the ones they funded the year before and the year before that.

So, what’s different about your program? What do you need to highlight in your proposal to show a funder that your solution is distinct, that it’s unlike anything they have seen before.

Now, this is not about being different just for the sake of being different. It’s is about finding innovative and creative ways to bring solutions to difficult problems. It’s about collaborating with organizations that are unexpected, yet brilliant. It’s about reaching out to target groups that others may not have thought about.

It’s time to embrace the qualities about your organization that make you unconventional and highlight the experience and expertise of your staff.

As you begin to write your proposal, keeping within the format provided by the funder, look for ways to be different in the way you communicate your story and compelling in the way you unpack the problems you are looking to overcome.

When preparing to write your next proposal, ask yourself these questions:

  • What makes us quirky, yet effective?
  • What solutions do we offer that address gaps in the sector?
  • What partnership can we develop that might make this an even stronger proposal?
  • What expertise do we have that may not be duplicated anywhere else?

Make Your Next Proposal Stand Out

The next time you’re talking to another grant writer and they start to talk about wishing they knew how to get their proposals to the top of the funder’s “yes” pile, share these three tips with them:

  1. Care About The Funder
  2. Make The Funder Care
  3. Dare To Be Different

If you can do these three things, your proposals will be well on their way to being better than most and more likely to intrigue and impress a funder.

The Inside Scoop From A Successful Grant Writer

Type into Google anything related to “learning from successful people,” and you’ll be overwhelmed with options… about 45,000,000 pages to be exact. There is no doubt that many of us have an appetite for knowing what successful people do to achieve their success. If we can avoid a few rough patches and speed up our road to success by learning from the trail someone else has blazed, we should totally do it.

We’ve had opportunities to interact with many grant writers. It’s always interesting to sit down and ask questions about their experiences. There’s one grant writer we know who has had an incredible amount of success. She shared three of her most important grant writing secrets with us, and now we’re going to share them with you!

3 Secrets To Successful Grant Writing

Secret To Success #1 – Have A Strong Process In Place

The first secret to success is about having a plan. Having a meaningful plan allows everyone to stay focused and keeps the process on track. You can’t fly by the seat of your pants and be successful in the long-term.

Do you have a plan when you write grants?

We’ve written a few blog posts about planning. Here’s one that explores the idea of developing a grant calendar: “How To Finally Bring Order To Your Grant Writing Chaos.”

If a successful grant writer encourages you to plan, you might really want to consider planning!

Secret To Success #2 – Don’t Write In Isolation

Not all grant writers are in organizations large enough to have dedicated grant writers on staff. In smaller non-profits, many Executive Directors end up shouldering the load of securing funding for the organization, which means being an event organizer and a grant writer.

But even in situations where staff may be few, it’s important to gain different points of view and to include others in the process of developing a grant application.

Don’t try to do it all by yourself. Leverage the strengths and skills of your Board or your volunteers. Use others in the research, writing, and editing processes of your proposal development. Having more insight from trusted sources can increase your proposal success rate significantly.

Find a way to build your grant writing team to include others in the overall process.

Secret To Success #3 – Think About The Future

Grant writing can often feel as though it’s in an urgent stage all the time. The deadlines seem to come fast and furious and at times in the life of the organization that are inconvenient and filled with other priorities. The reality is everyone is busy. When we do get a breather from the grant writing chaos, the last thing we often want to do is continue to think about on grant writing.

But, it’s vital for an organization to look ahead to its future and the grant writing that may need to happen in the next six months to two years. What happens if your only grant writer leaves? What vital information about the organization would they take with them that would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace?

Future planning could drastically impact the success of the organization and its ability to secure funding in both the short- and long-term.

How Do You Measure Success?

When working with grant writers, we often have to remind them that hearing “no” and experiencing some level of failure is absolutely normal. You just can’t expect to get funded every time; as it’s just not a reasonable measuring stick for any grant writer.

When referring to “successful” grant writers in any of our blog posts, please understand these are not individuals with a 100% grant success rate.

It’s more about long-term success, how much revenue the grant writers have realized over the years, and the impact they have been able to experience in their organization because of those grants.

Be the best grant writer you can possibly be. Learn from other successful grant writers and understand their secrets. Along the way, be sure to reach out to us and let us in on your secrets so we can pass them along to others.

There Are Many Successful Grant Writers Willing To Help

Do you know any experienced and successful grant writers in your community? If you haven’t taken the time to seek out relationships with other grant writers, We encourage you to be intentional about including that in your grant writing job description. Get out there. Meet some other individuals who are writing grants for their organizations, and pick their brains. Learn from them, and take everything you can to become a better and more successful grant writer. People like to help. People like to share their expertise with others, and grant writers are no different. It might just make you a better grant writer.

10 Easy Ways To Make Time Your Friend – Part 2

Did you run out of time this week? Did you have enough time to accomplish everything you wanted to achieve? Did you implement any of the first five tips we outlined in Part 1 of this blog post?

In the previous blog post, we highlighted five tips you can put into action to slow down the clock and help you expand the time you have available for grant writing or other important work.

The first five tips were:

  1. Don’t Procrastinate
  2. Figure Out Your Time Wasters
  3. Turn Off Your Notifications
  4. Work In Segments
  5. Make Use Of “Dead” Time

If you haven’t read Part 1 of “10 Easy Ways To Make Time Your Friend,” we encourage you to check that out first, and come back when you’re done.

More Strategies To Slow Down The Clock

Now that you have completed reading Part 1, here are the next five strategies to help you maximize your time.

Time Tip #6 – Say “No” More Often

Saying “no” to important and interesting opportunities can be incredibly difficult for just about anyone. In your quest to help as many people as possible or generate more revenue through additional work or project opportunities, it is often easy to say “yes” to everything that is put in front of you.

For some, it may even be an issue of just feeling guilty about saying “no,” no matter what the ask may be. Saying “yes” to everything that comes your way will quickly put you in a position of feeling overwhelmed and likely leave you feeling pulled in a million directions, unable to give anything your absolute best.

This particular time tip is not about learning to be mean-spirited with people, but about being intentional regarding your priorities and how you need to best spend your time. It can be difficult, but people will respect and understand an intentional and thoughtful “no.”

Is there anyone or anything you can say “no” to this week?

Time Tip #7 – Give Yourself A Break

Kit Kat has made millions of dollars reminding us to “have a break.” The break we are talking about is less about chocolate bars, and more about encouraging you to find time throughout each day to recharge and refuel.

Our brains are like the muscles in our bodies – as they are used, they get tired. Finding time to break for lunch, walk around the block for 15 minutes in the afternoon, or take a short coffee break in the morning allows time for our brains to rest and prepare to be used at a higher capacity as the day progresses. Ultimately, with a break, we get more done, and the quality of the work remains high.

A quote from a Harvard Business Review article says, “Create a workplace that truly values a balanced relationship between intense work and real renewal, and you’ll not only get greater productivity from employees, but also higher engagement and job satisfaction. There’s plenty of evidence that increased rest and renewal serve performance.”

Time Tip #8 – Work With Two Screens

If you have never worked with multiple monitors before, you are about to have your mind blown and your life changed… and you’ll even be able to save a bunch of time. It would be interesting to know how much time can be wasted going back and forth between documents on one screen… but that would be a bit of a waste of time to find out. Just know that by establishing a multiple monitor system, you can simplify your life and speed up a number of grant writing elements.

For example, if you are in the middle of completing a section of a grant proposal that is about your organization, it’s history, mission, and current programs, being able to have your grant proposal on one screen and your website and other relevant documents available on the other will save time as you drop in information and begin to complete your response to the question.

If you don’t have a second screen, try to get one, and begin using it immediately. You’ll save time in both your grant writing and the other daily tasks you have in front of you.

Time Tip # 9 – Leave Empty Space In Your Calendar

Many of us are guilty of planning every second of our day. Leaving some space in our calendar (I know, easier said than done) allows us to create some margin to deal with emergencies and unexpected moments, while still completing the work we had on our to-do list for the day.

As part of leaving some empty space in your calendar, take some time in advance to plan your calendar and set out specific time limits for the work you are doing. It can be difficult to estimate the time it will take for projects you’ve never done before, but as you gain experience, you will get a better sense for what is involved.

By scheduling your calendar of tasks one or two weeks in advance, and including some empty space as part of that process, the goal is to be able to accomplish everything that needs to get done within a manageable timeframe.

Time Tip #10 – Set Daily Goals

While planning your calendar days and weeks in advance can be extremely helpful to keep you on track and focused on a specific plan, taking a few minutes each day before you start your work to set daily goals can also benefit your use of time.

Using your calendar (which has already been mapped out in advance) as your frame of reference, make a list of the tasks that are scheduled to be completed that day. Add anything on the list that has arisen as a priority and make sure your plan for the day is one you can implement. Your daily planning may even force you to change and update some tasks or projects in your calendar for the rest of the week.

As the day progresses, keep your to-do list close by and be encouraged and excited every time you are able to strike something off the list. It is the setting of daily goals, while keeping a clear focus on what needs to get done, that will help you fully maximize your time.

These Tips Work Better Together

We hear you, grant writers. We know time is a foe that too often gets the better of you. We understand that grant deadlines come quickly and many other responsibilities can take priority. Use these tips. Implement them, test them out, and determine which ones work best for you and your situation.

While each one of these ten tips has the ability to support you in slowing down the clock, they ultimately work best when implemented in harmony with one another. It is the impact of many smaller steps that can create significant progress.

It’s time to be honest with yourself and evaluate how effective you are in the way you use your time. You likely have many priorities to juggle and a full schedule in front of you, but finding ways to slow down the clock will help you accomplish the important tasks in the most effective ways.

Don’t let time, or the lack of it, be the deciding factor for whether you choose to write a grant, and don’t let time be the determinant of whether you have submitted your best possible proposal.

10 Easy Ways To Make Time Your Friend – Part 1

Time often feels like the enemy. There just never seems to be enough time in a day (or week), and proposals often take much longer to develop and complete than we think they will. With grant writers often telling us that time is the largest hurdle for them to overcome, we thought it was important to explore some tangible ways to slow down the clock.

So, what can you do to ensure time doesn’t become the enemy in your grant writing?

Below are the first five of ten tips to help you slow down the clock, maximize your time, and make sure you have the space you need to write great proposals. If you need more time for grant writing, or for any other project you may be working on, these ideas are for you. Carry out these ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to having the extra time you need.

Time Tip #1 – Don’t Procrastinate

Procrastinators… you know who you are. If you’re being honest, you probably even put off taking the time to read this blog. Although we may laugh about our stalling tactics with friends and loved ones, procrastination can be a real time waster.

For some, it’s a habit that has been formed over many years. You may simply see it as a part of your “make-up.” But don’t settle. If you know you put things off and wait too long to get things done, then you need a plan. The first part of the plan might just be admitting you’re a procrastinator.

For many, procrastination happens when we have a task waiting for us that we don’t want to do. We might also procrastinate because we don’t excel in a certain area, and we hope someone else jumps in and completes the task for us.  At times, we delay because the task awaiting us is boring or has potentially difficult or challenging circumstances to overcome.

Whatever your reason, procrastination is not a quality trait, so you need to plan to be proactive. When you know a certain task will trigger procrastination, get it on the top of your list and get it done first. Everything else will seem easy and will begin to fall into place.

Time Tip #2 – Figure Out Your Time Wasters

What distracts you? What happens over the course of a day that causes you to lose focus on the task at hand? Your time wasters could be any number of things, so it is important to identify what they are so you can implement a plan to overcome them.

For example, a grant writer might come back to their office after lunch with great intentions of pumping out the answer to the “sustainability question” in their proposal. They only have an hour before their next meeting, and they’ve blocked the time in their calendar to make sure they get the work done.

But something happens between sitting down at the desk to craft a beautiful answer and leaving for the next item on the to-do list. Instead of immediately digging into developing an answer to one of the questions on the application, they open Facebook and spend 22 minutes watching super fun videos of people falling down or cats scaring themselves in mirrors.

It’s so easy to get sucked in and so easy to end up wasting precious time. Everyone deserves to watch a good cat video now and then, but not at the expense of writing an important proposal. Before you know it, 22 minutes has passed and not a word is on the paper. This part of the grant proposal doesn’t get done, and it piles up for another day.

This may be an extreme example, because we know no one would ever go on Facebook while at work, but hopefully it demonstrates the problem. Know your time wasters and make sure you know how to avoid falling into the trap they set for you.

Time Tip #3 – Turn Off Your Notifications

Technology can make life easy and bring us instant access to information from all over the world. For the most part, it is an amazing and helpful tool none of us could imagine living without. But, for people struggling with time, instant and constant access is not always conducive to focusing on getting your work done. Continuous notifications can distract and take you off task quicker than just about anything.

It could be the “ding” from your inbox, a text from a friend, a new Facebook post, the score to a game, a tweet from the President, or an updated weather advisory… they all have the potential to pull you away.

When you need to focus, turn off your notifications, close your email, and put your phone in a drawer. You will find that more time is available for you to accomplish your tasks.

Time Tip # 4 – Work In Segments

There are times when large undertakings can seem incredibly overwhelming. When looking at a grant application, you might just see pages and pages of questions that need to be answered and wonder how it will ever get done. That’s understandable. But, by breaking down the work into smaller pieces, looking at specific sections, and setting aside smaller amounts of time over a longer period, your perspective may change.

Don’t try to tackle everything at once, especially if you don’t have to. Working in segments will likely make you more productive and allow you to accomplish more compared to pulling an all-nighter to finish your work. If you want to do your best work, and be more effective with your time, find a way to portion it out and complete it piece by piece.

Time Tip #5 – Make Use Of “Dead” Time

Depending on the job you have or the pace of the life you lead, you may have moments throughout your day that seem wasted, but could be redeemed for something more productive. If you have to drive throughout the day for your job, or if you have a commute to and from work, using your time in the car may be one of the ways to gain a few extra minutes accomplishing tasks related to your grant proposal. Take advantage of the “dead” time to make a call to a potential partner to share your vision for the project, or have a conversation with one of your colleagues to brainstorm potential answers to one of the application questions.

If you exercise, that time might be spent conducting some research as you listen to a pertinent podcast while doing your squats or running on the treadmill.

Every person and situation will be different, but look for openings in your day you may not have considered, and be intentional about plugging something into that time to benefit your overall production.

Try A Few Tips This Week

It’s time to take action. Identify at least one of these five tips and look for easy ways to adjust your life to give them a try.

Let us know how it goes on Twitter (@GrantsEdge) or Facebook (@GrantsEdge) and tell us something specific you’ve learned and implemented.

Next Friday’s blog post will bring another five tips. Just a sneak peak… one of the tips involves potentially letting some people down.

While you wait for next Friday’s blog post, take a look at some more time saving advice in our “Effortless Ways To Save Time In The Grant Writing Process” blog post. Read this to get some relevant tips while gaining FREE access to a “Common Documents Checklist” that will encourage you to prepare some of the frequently used materials that most grant applications require.

The Routines Every Grant Writer Should Have

I like routine. I like having a plan and knowing what I need to do now and what’s coming next. I don’t love surprises. I know not everyone feels the same way. There are many people who live life “flying by the seat of their pants,” but I’m not one of them.

I do get the appeal of making choices and completing tasks on a whim, but I think having a routine has a lot of benefits and can make work easier in a lot of ways. For example, I believe building good routines can help ensure you’re making a conscious effort to take steps toward achieve your goals.

4 Grant Writing Routines To Start Now

Whether or not you’re a routine-lover like me, if you haven’t already, consider adding these four routines into your grant writing work.

#1 Regularly Look For Funding Opportunities

I know, you’re probably thinking, “Of course I do this! It is literally my job to look for funding opportunities!” What I’m talking about here is looking for funding opportunities outside of your regular work hours. I mean going about your daily life with a different lens. I mean every time you get groceries, buy new clothes, or go to the bank, thinking to yourself, hmm, I wonder if they have a grants program here. What you’ll find is that many companies do have their own corporate foundations and these can be great sources of funding.

As you go about your daily life, make note of the various companies you would like to explore further. Then, when you get back to the office, go to the company’s website to see if they do have a grants program and get more information about if you’re a good fit and how to apply.

You may do this already and, if so, that’s great! If not, give it a try and keep track of the new opportunities you find.

#2 Plan Out Your Next Steps

Once you have some ideas about where to look for funding opportunities, develop a plan for how you will move forward. This includes adding the opportunity to your grant calendar and putting together a work plan for writing the application.

Having this planning piece built into your grant writing routine will help you keep track of a number of things, including how much time you have before you need to submit the application and what steps need to be completed before you are able to do so.

#3 Read Successful Proposals

Another great practice to build into your grant writing routine is to read successful proposals from other grant writers. Doing this before you begin to write can help you get a sense for what to write, how to write it, and what certain funders expect to see in your application.

For example, I know of a grant writer who needed to write a grant for a new program. Through some networking, he found out about a similar program that was funded by the funder to which he was thinking of applying. He reached out to the organization and asked for a copy of their proposal, which they shared with him. Then he read through that proposal to help set the expectation for what he needed to write in his application. In the end, his program received the funding for which they applied.

You can find sample proposals online, but if you have other grant writers in your network, connect with them to see if you can get copies of their successful proposals. Remember to offer to share your successful proposals too, if they are interested in swapping. This also helps with relationship building!

#4 Get Regular Feedback

Finally, getting regular feedback on your writing is another smart routine to implement. For those of you who are new to grant writing, getting feedback can be incredibly valuable in helping you learn more about grant writing and how to improve. For those of you who are experienced grant writers, getting feedback can be useful in helping to identify some potentially negative habits you may have developed over the years and gaining some fresh perspective to be able to develop better habits.

At GrantsEdge, we can help you by providing you with feedback on your grant applications before you submit them to funders. Through one-on-one support, we can review your application and help you work through any questions you may have, so you can submit your applications with complete confidence. Visit our Grant Coaching page to learn more about how a GrantsEdge Coach can help you and to hire a GrantsEdge Coach.

Start Practicing These Routines Today

What other routines do you have in your grant writing work? Take a few moments to think about the other routines you may already have, whether your current routines are working for you, and consider adding these four routines into your current work.