How to Tell Your Story During the Grant Writing Process

How to Tell Your Story During the Grant Writing Process

Grant writing is the process of writing a proposal to request funds from grantors. Nonprofits submit grant proposals to a government, corporation, or another organization (the grantor) that has announced the availability of money designated for a specific cause.

Your grant proposal is meant to give the grantor a clear picture of your organization’s goals — and the strategy to achieve them. The grant writing process is a mix of art and science. You need to weave enough of your organization’s story and mission with aspects like budgets, program plans, and a clear, tangible objective in order to increase your chances of getting said grant.

Furthermore, when grantors post funding opportunities, they include a list of very specific requirements for applicants. It’s this list that’ll inform your chances of success by helping you determine if your project matches the grant’s purpose, your organization’s cause aligns with the grantor’s objectives, and whether you fit qualifying criteria like your nonprofit’s size, location, and other aspects.

Applying for a Grant: How to Weave Storytelling into Your Grant Proposal

The main goal of nonprofits applying for a grant is to get funded. On the flip side, the main purpose for grantors is to get to know your organization and your cause. This is where storytelling comes in.

Storytelling is the art of bringing your nonprofit’s purpose to life — it’s creating a vivid picture of what you do to evoke certain emotions in your readers.

Storytelling is essential for nonprofits to communicate what they do and what they hope to achieve. It’s a powerful connector between your organization and your audience as it moves people to action. You want to convey the importance of your cause as well as the reason why you’re the best fit to achieve the outcomes you’re proposing. That’s what your grant proposal needs to achieve.

But even before your grant proposal, you get an opportunity to present your case in a concise introduction letter. Let’s look at it:

Your Letter of Inquiry

In many cases, before submitting your grant proposal, you’ll need a letter of inquiry (LOI), which is an introductory letter, usually about one to two pages long. Think of this like a cover letter that introduces your nonprofit to the evaluating committee. If they’re interested in your application, they’ll follow up and invite you to send the actual proposal, which is often seven to 10 pages long.

Your letter of inquiry is a concise document that includes the following points:

  • Introduction. An overview of your organization, how much money you’re requesting, and a brief description of the project. This is your opportunity to explain how your nonprofit fits with the grantor’s funding guidelines and objectives.
  • Organizational description. Here, you want to focus on how your organization can meet the needs you’re describing. This section includes a brief history of your nonprofit and programs. It should tie back to what you want to achieve with the funding you’re requesting.
  • Statement of need. This section explains the needs your organization can meet. It includes the target population and physical location. It’s a good idea to use examples and statistics when available.
  • Methodology. You want to describe the project including program details, names and titles of your staff, and the project’s objectives.
  • Funding sources. Mention other fundraising activities you’re executing as well as any grants you’ve applied for. You also want to explain how you plan to continue to fund the project after the startup phase.

Your LOI is the perfect place to start weaving storytelling into your application. Just like a cover letter, it needs to be personalized and tailored to the organization you’re contacting to increase your chances of success.

Your Grant Proposal

Now it’s time to dive into your grant proposal itself.

Even if you haven’t actively thought about it before, you can pick out the elements of storytelling from any blockbuster movie you’ve watched. And here’s how we can apply them to grant writing.

Your story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s a compelling character, the protagonist, who has a desire or goal — and lives in a context that likely clashes with this desire.

In any good movie, there’s a challenge that stumps the protagonist. This is the Conflict. In your case, the conflict is the problem your nonprofit is addressing. You want to highlight the negative impacts of the problem in your character’s life and how you’re equipped to address them.

Once you’ve identified the conflict, your nonprofit provides a solution. You want to show your audience how you’re addressing the problem and preventing it from returning.

As you move through the arc, your character evolves from their starting point to the sought-after transformation. This transformation is possible because of the work your nonprofit is doing, but you’re not the hero of the story — you’re simply enabling the protagonist.

Once your protagonist has achieved a positive outcome, it’s time to call your audience to action. What do they need to do to support you? Donate, share the cause, raise awareness, or sign up to volunteer are common calls to action for nonprofits.

Final Words: Finding Granting Opportunities

Now that you have a clear picture of why you’d want to apply for a grant and what the process of writing a grant proposal is like, it’s time to find the appropriate grants to apply for.

As we mentioned earlier, grant writing is a complex process. So you want to find a grant you have a great chance of winning and make a stellar proposal.

There are many reputable websites dedicated to posting granting opportunities. For example, on Grants.gov, you can search by location, focus, objectives, diversity, nonprofit size, and other criteria.

However, keep in mind that while grants are an effective funding strategy, getting a grant shouldn’t be all you rely on for your nonprofit’s budget. Instead, applying for grants should serve a specific purpose within your overall funding strategy.

As a general rule of thumb, a grant shouldn’t account for more than 10-20% of your fundraising goals. This way, you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Are you in need of a funding strategy to support your nonprofit’s mission in the long run? Book a consultation now.

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