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Sell Your Story: The Art and Science of Writing Grants

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

It’s probably the busiest time of the year for non-profit executive directors and their management teams as they focus on budget reviews, gathering data, writing reports, and assessing what’s been working and what hasn’t.

It’s about compiling this data into grants that convincing funders that:

  • your program / service is a good investment of their money; and

  • your organization has a proven track record of achieving the desired outcomes, connecting with and helping those who most need it, and being financially responsible.

In my experience grant writing is part art, part science (okay maybe more statistics).

The statistics part (outputs) is about being able to showcase the number of clients who have participated in programs, the number of touch points, and other measures you have been asked for. The statistics are quantitative: easy to measure and report.

The art part of grant writing is about sharing stories of your clients (qualitative outcomes). This is a little harder. We all know that our programs and services impact the clients with whom we work. We see the changes in their confidence, in the way that they connect with each other or their children, and the way they think through their decisions more carefully and make better choices.

Communicating that isn’t as easy as reporting on statistics, though.

Good grant writers (as you all know), hone-in on these stories and weave them into their reports and grants. This makes the appeal emotional and practical. It shifts the perspective of the reader to one in which they make an emotional connection (as well as statistical case) with the work that you are doing.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the most important outcome of the work that you do, that needs to be communicated?

  • Whose story shows the greatest diversity of impact or the greatest behavioural change?

  • How can we best communicate our results in such a way that the story will engage the emotions of the reader?

Finding the answers to these questions often requires us to shift perspectives and look at the grant through a funder’s eye. It’s about using the 200 words (sometimes more) you are allotted to succinctly make the case for why funding your organization is the best choice.

As you delve into your grant writing this year, I challenge you to think about your stories in such a way that you can easily showcase the outcome (stories) in 200 words or less while still communicating the required outputs (statistics). It’s going to take some work, revisions, wordsmithing, and possibly more than one set of eyes. I know you and your team can do it.

Happy editing!

We’d love to hear the stories of how your work is impacting your clients and the community so that we can celebrate alongside you. Share your stories in the comments below – and, if you’d like, we can help you wordsmith your story.

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