You can think of a grant application like a cover letter and resume. It’s your opportunity to introduce your organization to the funder, prove your qualifications and show you’re worthy of being trusted with grant money to support a social cause.
After all, the grantmaker doesn’t know your organization. You’re essentially strangers. The pages of the grant proposal are your chance to get acquainted and prove your worthiness.
Your organization is an investment
Funders don’t give money to nonprofits out of pure altruism. Grants an investment. Grantmakers want their money to do the most social good, so they seek out highly qualified nonprofits.
When reviewing grant applications, both federal and private funders attempt to determine where the money will make the biggest impact. They look for organizations capable of eliciting change and managing their money appropriately. They want assurance that a meaningful difference will have occurred by the conclusion of the project.
That’s why you must prove your nonprofit is equipped to do what it promises.
Proving your nonprofit’s credibility
How does your nonprofit prove its credibility in a grant proposal? You can wax poetic with jargony, industry-specific words and phrases, but experienced funders will quickly see through the rhetoric.
You’ve got to go further than simply saying you’ll use the money to make a difference. You’ve got to outline what you plan to do and prove you’re capable of doing it.
And most importantly, your qualifications should set you apart from others in the applicant pool.
Spell out your qualifications
Your organizational qualifications should align with your needs statement. This is where you outline the problem and discuss how you’ll address it.
If your needs statement says you will enroll 50 at-risk third graders in an after-school tutoring program, you must prove your organization is capable of serving these children. Some things you might point out include:
- Number of staff members and their qualifications. Do they have training or experience working with trauma-exposed youth?
- Transportation to and from your program. Do you have buses, or have you partnered with the school district to bring students to the location?
- Results and outcomes. How will you measure your impact and prove your program is making a difference in these kids’ lives?
Often, by outlining the parameters of your program, you’re alluding to your organization’s qualifications. But there are other, more direct ways to outline your credibility to a grantmaker.
- List your organization’s awards, milestones, recognitions
- Highlight individual stories or case studies about your organization’s work
- Include your experience with other grant programs
- Point out your staff’s skills and experience
- Identify past success in meeting program goals and objectives
- Show you’re financially stable and have regular audits
How to handle space limitations
When discussing your qualifications, include as many details as you can to show the funder your organization will manage the grant funds appropriately. Chances are good there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other applications. You want your organization to stand out as experienced, credible and capable of moving the needle.
However, there’s a practical consideration. Some applications limit the number of words or pages. That makes it difficult to include tons of supporting information.
In these cases, our advice is to include the most impactful information that’s germane to the grant program. Make every word count. This may take some creativity and a red-pen wielding editor to slash and burn through your proposal.
Yes, it would be nice to include a 200-word bio of each of your program managers, but if space doesn’t allow, include a name, educational attainment and any specialized training. If you don’t have room to include a full-fledged case study, pare it down to the bare bones. You don’t have to include a list of board members, their titles and employers (unless the application specifically requests the information).
Remember: a little is better than a lot.
More grant writing training
Establishing your organization’s credibility in a grant application takes practice and often a creative approach. In our online course, we go into much more detail about ways to set your organization apart from other applicants. Use promo code FLASH350 for a really deep discount on our popular on-demand grant-writing course.