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7 Tips for successful grant writing

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1. Don’t start from the point of view ‘We need money.’ That may be true but it’s not what will be important to the grantmaker. Instead, start from the proposition, “We need to do this work which will provide immense benefit to the community, and we need money to do that.” It is the community benefit that will be of the most interest to the grantmaker.

2. Don’t try to tug at the heartstrings. That technique is better suited for fundraising from the public than for writing grant applications. You do need to be responding to a genuine need, but you don’t need to emphasise either the need or your organisation’s struggles in dealing with it too much; grantmakers are much more interested in your solution to the problem and how you will achieve it. Only include images if they provide some evidence or tell a story which you can’t get across any other way. There’s no point in peppering your submission with photographs from stock image libraries just for effect.

3. Follow the guidelines and align your project to what the funder is looking for. Think of this as an application for a job. If the employer advertises for an office manager to fulfill their mission, you wouldn’t write offering your services as an engineer. The same applies to a funder looking for a project; they want a project that fits smoothly into the foundation’s activities and helps it fulfill its mission.

4. Don’t look for the silver bullet. There is no one thing that you can do or write which will be a sure-fire way of attracting grants. There are too many variables in the funding world, and too much volatility in community needs, to ever be certain that a particular project will attract a particular funder.

5. Don’t waste your time! If your organisation doesn’t have the right legal status, or your project doesn’t fit the guidelines, don’t bother sending it in ‘just in case’. Most foundations are unable to consider applications that are outside guidelines and you will be wasting your time as well as theirs.

6. Keep it short. The person or people reading your submission may be reading dozens or even hundreds of them and if yours is informative and concise it will stand out and be appreciated.

7. If in doubt, ask first. If you’re not sure whether your project fits in with the foundation’s aims, give them a call or drop them an email to ask – better that, than spend a lot of time on an application which has little chance of being funded.

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