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Two Ways to Immediately Improve Your Nonprofits' Grant Writing

Updated: Apr 15

Think and Ink Grants Team Working

Operating as both an art and a science, it takes several years to master the art of grantwriting effectively. As grant professionals, we have dedicated our careers to mastering how to write grants and completing competitive proposals.

Nonprofit leaders and Boards of Directors often have limited time and many tasks to complete. They may find it overwhelming to learn and use the same grant writing approach as professional grant writers. Experienced grant writers and grant writing consultants are important. Learning how to find a grant writer or grant consultant may initially be difficult.

In the meantime, here are two ways to improve your nonprofit's grant writing right away:

1. Infuse compelling language throughout your grant proposal

Many undergraduate and graduate programs sometimes offer law courses as electives. The biggest benefit of completing a law course is learning how to structure an argument and make a case. Well, when you are composing a proposal, you are making the case of why a funder should fund your cause.

You are explaining why your project or program is a worthy cause to support. You are communicating why your organization is unique and has the skills and expertise to lead the work. You are demonstrating your track record by communicating past successes and how you intend to measure future successes.

You need to persuade the reviewer to choose your application for funding, among many other worthy applications, with compelling language. Most people need to hear a concept three times for it to make sense when they are listening or reading. To align with this approach, you will need to use compelling language throughout your proposal in at least three places. The position of compelling language matters, but it's even more crucial to have them in at least three points of your narrative.

When writing a grant proposal, grant writers usually begin by telling a story and end with three strong and compelling reasons. Others may start with three compelling points and then explain why after. I prefer a mix of both with strategic placement throughout the narrative.

Infusing compelling language throughout your proposal in at least three places helps ensure that the grant reviewer(s) or persons reading the proposal walk away with clarity of why your organization should be funded. If this is accomplished, congratulations. You have made a strong case for a funder to consider.

2. Communicate urgency strategically

Marketing experts always recommend including a call to action when interacting with potential customers. Why? Because time is money, and the time to act is now.

It is important to explain a project's significance and why it should be done now when talking to funders. Painting a picture of what the world would be like without this project is one approach. Another approach involves communicating how funding this project will change the lives of beneficiaries. Many grant writing experts frequently use both approaches, with the latter approach being more common.

Creating and communicating that time is limited helps create urgency. Some issues have natural time limits that organically create urgency. One example is global warming. The urgency is that we must save the planet before it's too late. Other issues may have to create time limits to create urgency, like food insecurity. We must not allow a child to go hungry.

The importance of communicating urgency in creating strategic places cannot be underestimated. If overused, it may create a bad impression on the reviewer. If used correctly, it may be the difference between funding a project now, or not at all.



About Shavonn Richardson, MBA, GPC

Shavonn is the Founder and CEO of Think and Ink Grant Consulting. As a former nonprofit leader and grantmaker, Shavonn has over 20 years of experience delivering practical, real-world advice to nonprofit leaders across the country.  Shavonn also serves as President of the Grant Professionals Association and is a Sustainer member of the Junior League of Atlanta.

Shavonn earned the GPC (Grant Professional Certified) credential from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute in 2020 and is a Grant Professionals Association Approved Trainer. Shavonn earned a BBA from Howard University in Washington, DC, and an MBA from Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

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