Like other methods of fundraising, grantwriting success is built on the foundation of direct and indirect relationships with prospective donors. As with major gifts or direct marketing appeals, the successful grant solicitation must clearly articulate the need for support, the impact of donor investment, and the particular strengths of the project being proposed. It must also provide donors the opportunity to support a mission or project that aligns with their own philanthropic goals. Don't let some common myths surrounding grantwriting stunt your potential for success!
MYTH: Grantwriting is a mysterious practice that should be undertaken only by professional writers with deep experience in grantwriting.
FACT: While grants should be considered as a possible revenue stream in every charity’s world, there seems to be a degree of mystery and trepidation around the process itself. Grants are not free money; they involve a tremendous amount of preparation and planning to enhance the capability and capacity of a charity to make a difference. The grantmaking process is basically rational giving, with guidelines based on the funder’s identified priorities.
While proficiency with the written word is a useful asset for successful grantwriting, it is not the most critical element of your proposal. Granting bodies do not award grants for verbal wordplay or virtuosity. Successful grantwriting begins with access to detailed organizational planning materials, providing the fundraiser with the organizational “raw data” required to complete the application. The application itself is then prepared and submitted adhering to the following basic principles:
MYTH: Longer proposals are often more successful than short proposals.
FACT: Many people think that "longer-is-better" because it can contain more detailed information on the project and therefore have a greater opportunity to demonstrate alignment with the funder’s objectives. In reality, this is a dangerous assumption to make. The proposal’s format will vary depending on the funder, but invariably, grants contain similar components, with a sound plan to meet an important need and impact. The length of the proposal itself is not important if it succeeds in meeting the application criteria.
Generally speaking, there are three grant formats that are the most common. In some cases, the prospective funder will indicate what proposal style is preferred, or provide a standardized application form for the charity to complete. If no direction is given, the grantwriter may choose one of the following:
MYTH: Grants are traditionally best suited for organizations seeking funds for capital support or special project funding.
FACT: Given the range of organizations that exist with varying needs, Canadian granting bodies may make investments in a number of areas:
Some funders will entertain proposals seeking investment for any of the above purposes. In most cases, however, funders will clearly outline their investment interests.
Success in grantwriting is both challenging and rewarding. The decision to undertake grantwriting as part of your fundraising portfolio is not to be made lightly – it is a decision requiring a great deal of effort. Yet for any organization willing to seriously commit to the practice, grantwriting offers new and untapped revenue streams and opportunities for meaningful partnerships over the short- and long-term.Rob Peacock, CFRE has over 28 years of fundraising experience from various philanthropic sectors — including health care, education, arts and social services. Rob holds a Masters degree in Philanthropy and Development and was a faculty member of Humber College’s Fundraising and Volunteer Management Program.