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A grant proposal should be customized to the specifications of the potential funder. All 80 grant writing experts surveyed recently agree that to be successful, proposals must meet the funders’ expectations and requirements. In other words, funded proposals are customized, or tailored, to the specifications of the funder.
This means that no matter what approach you use, you’ll need to find out what guidelines and forms the prospective funders require. Then follow their guidelines to a “t” and simply give them the information they want in the format they request.
Failure to follow a funder’s requirements very likely results in your proposal not being approved, perhaps not even reviewed in the first place.
Proposal customization is like customizing your resume. Imagine you’re interested in getting a high-skilled job with a made-up employer called Made Up Employer (MUE). You could send MUE a resume that includes everything you’ve ever done – all of your education and experiences, skills and abilities, everything plus the kitchen sink — in a 50-page, three pound tribute to your life.
Would MUE be interested in you? Perhaps “yes” because of the sheer volume of your work. But most likely MUE’s staff won’t want to take the time to read your opus. In fact, they allow, on the average, less than five minutes to review each resume. Plus, they’re interested in clear, concise writing, not a novelist.
MUE’s staff is interested in finding the best person for the job who meets the minimum qualifications, but they don’t have lots of time to spend on the selection process. They would need to hire a detective to investigate your 50-page manuscript to see if you indeed meet the qualifications of the job. And since the job itself requires brevity — ouch!
Imagine that, instead, you decide to send a generic 1-to-2-page resume to MUE, one that you are also sending to 30 other companies this week. You start your cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir.” You’re in the right page-number range, but “shot-gunning,” as it’s commonly called, doesn’t get you any closer to the job at MUE. It often leaves a bad taste in the reviewer’s mouth, for it appears that you’re not interested enough in the company to even find out the name of the person to send your resume to.
Now, rather than sending in either your complete biographical manuscript or a generic two-pager, you research MUE and find out that they are looking for a certain type of person for this position — one who’s concise, brief, to the point, and organized, let’s say. You begin to get a feel for MUE and start to see if it is a company you would like to work for, or not. You know that you’ve got a lot to contribute to any job, so you want to be selective.
Supposing that you like the potential fit with MUE. You then take some time to tailor the description of your education and work experiences so that they relate to MUE’s specifications. This you write up in 1-2 pages. The chance of getting an interview has increased significantly, as has the likelihood of you getting the job.
Like resumes customized to a potential employer specifications, grant proposals should likewise be tailored to a potential funder’s specifications.
“Where do you find funder guidelines and what they’re looking for in a proposal?” you may ask.
In the same place you might find employer specifications? Usually they’re available publicly somewhere in print, perhaps even on a website.
Once in a while you have to call and ask for them. Occasionally they don’t exist at all.
It’s the same with funders. Learn shortcuts to get specific information that will help you find out where funders make their specifications public, how to best analyze the funders’ guidelines and forms, and how to determine what the funders are looking for in a good proposal, even if what they want is not printed.
And now I would like to invite you to claim your free subscription to the Grant Writing Newsletter when you visit http://GrantWritingNewsletter.com.
From Phil Johncock – The Grant Writing Professor