How to Tell Your Tale: Writing your Story for a Grant Proposal

Before You Start

In order to capture the attention of grant makers you need to tell a story that tugs at their emotional side. There are three tips to tell a successful story: 1) tell a story within a story, 2) every story needs a protagonist, 3) show you audience what the future could look like.

Your Story Template

A quick and easy tip to make sure you haven’t left out any important part is to follow this template: Tell how you connect personally with the cause (your story)-> tell about the current conditions of the issue your trying to get funding for->tell what has to happen to fix the current conditions->state how you can fix the problem->end with telling people how they can help… “the ask.” Now, I’ll show you how to use this in a real example. Say you are asking for funding to get after-school programs in your area for troubled youth. Here’s how to fit that in the template above: Tell how you personally connect with this issue->tell about the problems children are going through->state what kinds of things help people in this situation->explain the solution of after-school programs->tell your audience that funding is needed in order to help children lead safer, fuller, happier lives.

What is and What Could be

It is necessary that while writing your grant proposal story you create an outline of “what is” and “what could be.” This helps your audience realize what the status quo is, and why it needs to change. It evokes an emotional response, which is what you want because response means action.

How to do it

Take the example from above; a grant proposal to get funding for after-school programs for troubled youth. Here’s how you could outline your ideas with the ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’ theory: What is…Children with behavioral problems inside and outside of school, such as; poor schoolwork, school absences, irritability, and aggressiveness. What could be…Emotionally supportive environment for these children to help lessen these problems. What is…families that do not know how to deal with the child and their behavioral issues. What could be…Meetings at the end of every month with the parents to educate them on what they could do at home for their child’s emotional needs when not at the program. The blissful ending…Give children fuller, happier lives. These are only a few of the examples of ‘what is’ and what could be.’ You can make your list longer and then incorporate them into your story.

The Protagonist vs. Antagonist   

Any good story has a good guy and a bad guy. People crave to see good overcome evil, because the antagonist gives the audience one shared goal to work to overcome together. So, let’s take the example above and find the protagonist and the antagonist to incorporate into the story. The protagonist, or good, is the after-school program and happy children from it. The antagonist, or bad, is the issues these children are facing. So, by showing this the audience can decide to take action against the bad in the story.

The Ask

Be straightforward with your audience. You need to give them concrete numbers for how much money you are looking for and what it will break down to cover. Do not go around the issue if you feel uncomfortable asking for money. By putting a dollar amount to ask it allows your audience and grant makers to outline what it will be used for and is evidence for how you will address the issue at hand. Here’s an example for the ask for a grant maker:

“I estimate my need to get this project up and running for one year to be about 51,000 dollars. This would cover the cost of four one-hour after school programs at two elementary schools and two middle schools. Included in this is the cost to provide one mental health counselor at each program. Also, included in this is one-week’s worth of summer training for the other volunteers of this program. Additionally, it would cover books, crafts, toys, and snacks for each program. Lastly, it would provide one start of the year education program for teachers, staff, and faculty to get acquainted with the new program and know how to manage these children in their own classrooms. It is my hope to raise 20,000 dollars through other funders, so I am asking you to consider covering the remaining 31,000 dollars. I greatly look forward to hearing from you and in the meantime would love if you could send application guidelines or any other information that could be of use.”

After the Story

If you feel comfortable enough you can take your story and turn it into a video to use on other funding websites. You can take all of this information and pair it with visuals and statistics so that you are able to target both an audience’s emotional appeal and logical appeal. Since a video can be easily shared among social networking sites, although it may not reach the right audience first, it can make it to them at some point.

Where To Start With a Grant Proposal

Grant writing can seem like a daunting process at first, especially if you are working on your first project. All foundations and funders will have different processes for processing grant requests, but there are a few basic things that you can do to get started that will help put you ahead of the rest.

Find Foundations Whose Mission Matches Yours
A lot of funders are passionate about specific areas such as education or the environment. No matter what your proposal is, try to find a funder who will be interested and passionate about your cause. You will be able to elaborate on this connection in your grant proposal, which will make it more personal. For example, if you hope to start a community garden, searching the internet for “environmental grants” or “community grants” will show you foundations with an interest in projects like yours. You can also try search engines specifically for grants, such as Grant Watch.

Explore 990 Forms
Each year, nonprofits must file documents with the IRS outlining their financial information. This form, called a 990, is highly detailed and will give you some insight as to what a foundation has funded in the past. Guide Star is a great resource for finding nonprofit documents. Once you find a foundation that seems compatible with your project, seeing the average amount of grants that they award, how many projects they fund, and the exact nature of these projects will give you valuable insight.

Identify a Contact Person
Each foundation will have different steps for processing grant requests. Sometimes a project will be assigned one staff person as a point of contact, while other times you won’t ever see one person’s name on any correspondence. Before you even submit your request, try to identify someone within the foundation to form a relationship. If a website does not list a point of contact for grant proposals, give the foundation a call, describe your project, and see if there is someone available to be assigned to your case. Having a connection with someone will help to streamline correspondence.

Map Out a Story
Every project has a story. Listing facts tells what an organization does. Sharing someone’s experience shows what an organization does. By bringing a more human element into your proposal, you will make it much more memorable than a dry proposal that is driven only by data. Prior to writing the proposal, think about interesting angles you can take. Maybe there is an inspiring story from someone who benefitted from your service. Maybe someone on your staff has a personal connection to your chosen issue and can offer a unique take on it. Having a story in mind before writing your proposal will help to guide you in a more creative way as you put it all together.

By investing some time in some of these pre writing practices, you will be in a position to make the most out of your grant proposal. Making a connection with the mission of a foundation, their staff, and your own project will greatly benefit your chances of receiving funding.

Building Community to Build Money: How to Crowdfund Effectively

What is Crowdfunding?

Simply put, crowdfunding is raising small amounts of money by a large amount of  people for a project, and it is all done online.  This may be a simple concept, but doing this successfully is not so simple. I want to provide you with the necessary steps for a crowdfunding campaign and provide effective examples so you can reach your crowdfunding goals.

“Crowdfunding isn’t about collecting money. It’s about making something happen with a crowd of people who believe in something. Normal people, not rich people with a lot of power, just people like you and me.” -Jozefien Daelemans (Editor-in-Chief, Charlie Magazine)

Crowdfunding is all about your ability to create a community of peers that believe in your idea. It is about putting yourself out there and believing in your own ability and getting others to believe in it as well. Confidence is key.

You Need to Crowdfund, Now What?

Choose a Platform

There are many different crowdfunding platforms. Do research and choose the site that best fits within your project’s category. Different platforms will fit better with different types of projects.

Some Common Platforms

GoFundMe: Personal or professional projects

Kickstarter: Creative projects

Indiegogo: For artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians

CircleUp: Companies looking for backers

YouCaring: Personal expenses

CrowdRise: Emphasis on global citizenship and the influence of social media

Use Multiple Channels 

Once you’ve chosen a platform you will need to market yourself. Utilize social media and connect your campaign to different social networking sites. Encourage friends and family to share your campaign.

Set a Realistic Goal

Just remember S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-frame) when coming up with your goals and objectives. Your project should have specific objectives that relate back to a broader goal in mind. You should relay this information to your audience.

For example: A goal could be to provide after-school reading programs in elementary schools. To obtain that goal one objective would be to improve the reading level of 100% of the children in the program which will be judged on a weekly basis. The goal is very broad, while the objective provides a narrow framework of what this goal will achieve.

Money Explanation

Your audience will need to know what there money will be used for. It is a good idea to break down the project for them with different costs for each part. Let them know the ‘what’, the ‘how much’, and the ‘why.’

For example…

What: After-school reading program

How much?: $5,000

Why: One-hour of free after-school programs provided each day of the 180-day calendar year

Put Together a Video

This should be the more emotional aspect to your campaign. It should have a visual aspect and can include music as well. You should mix emotion with facts. The video should end with your pitch to the audience. Tell them what your project is and ask for their financial help. To be able to crowdfund it is imperative that you feel comfortable asking people for money, sometimes that is easier said than done. Tell your audience how their donation will help you reach your goal. A video can be easily made for free by using apps on your phone or laptop!

Make it Personal

Usually when taking on a project there is a personal reason that pushes you to do so. Be real with your funders. Tell them about yourself, by doing so you give your campaign a voice and add a human element. By telling about your dream, other people might have a connection with you or share the same dream or passion, this will help you get their support.

Provide Perks

You might hope that your funders will just give from the heart, but they may be expecting something in return from you. Give them a small gift or promise them something if your project happens.

For example….Small donations will receive a T-shirt and large donations will receive a tote filled with small gifts. Or promise large donors that their name will be put on a bench as a sign of acknowledgement once the project is fulfilled. Be creative, and provide follow up thank you letters once your project is able to get started.

Don’t Forget About the Ask

I mentioned this above if you decide to make a video, but you cannot forget to provide a written ask to your audience as well. Remind them you need their financial help.

For example…’With one donation you are allowing us to move one step forward to provide children the help they need to improve their reading skills and have better confidence in the classroom. Our goal is set at $20,000 to cover program cost, volunteers, and resources. Every little bit helps!’

Remember…Raising Money is Just the Beginning

A crowdfunding campaign is like a part-time job. You need to be in constant communication with your publics, even if you have raised enough money for your project. The individuals that helped to fund it will want to know how it’s going and what is happening along the way. Don’t forget who got you to where you are. A successful first project can lead you to further success in your endeavors.