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The process of developing a proposal is essentially the same regardless of who the funder is and who the grantee is. The more systematically a grantee approaches the process, the easier it is to write successful proposals. One thing should be noted. Most of the time spent on developing a proposal takes place before the actual writing. This may surprise you. It may also be the reason why your organization has not been successful in proposal writing lately. A good rule of thumb is that 80% of the work of writing a grant proposal is NOT writing, but research, planning, and involving appropriate audiences!

Perhaps the most important tip anyone can give you is to know your audience. This means DO NOT assume what the readers already know. In order to do this, you must answer the following questions:
• At what level do they want you to make your case?
• Do all the readers understand the field, or are some members of the general public?
• What other factors may affect how your audience will interpret what you say?

Also, when thinking of your audience, remember that the grant administrators and readers are dealing with hundreds and sometimes thousands of proposals. They are extremely grateful for well-organized neat and easy -to-read documents with lots of subheadings which are keyed to their guidelines.
Remember, the funder’s guidelines rule! This means that you must organize the proposal the way the guidelines specify and call the headings and subheadings the same as they appear in the guidelines.

If you do not consider yourself a good writer, keep things simple. Write in a conversational tone. Keep sentences short. Ask someone who is a good proof-reader and who has not been working on the grant to edit and proof read your proposal.

Your goal is to submit a proposal that is neat, professional looking, and most of all clear, logical, memorable and persuasive.

To make your writing more memorable, compelling and convincing, spice it up with D.I.C.E.

D -etails or description
I -ncidents (time, place, illustration)
C -omparison (exaggerate, contrast, literal or figurative, metaphor or simile)
E -xamples and explanations

Be appropriately specific for your audience and their guidelines. In a government grant you need lots of examples and explanations to justify why you have selected the approach and activities you have. For short proposals, however, much of the detail is omitted. In this case, you must have a good idea of the detail and include just enough to make it compelling and memorable. This is where personal stories become important. And remember, most newspapers are written at the 5th and 6th grade reading levels. Simple and clear are easier for proposal readers…who are, after all, your primary audience!

Lynn Shelby Kickingbird, in Grant Writing for Results, by Lynn Shelby Kickingbird,
©Kickingbird Associates, 1998

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