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How to Present Your Organization's Capabilities in a Grant Application

4 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Constructing Your Grant Application

When writing the organizational capability section of your application, you need to tell the grant reader, clearly and concisely, just enough information about your organization’s experience and accomplishments to pique her interest and keep her reading word for word. Remember that you’re just introducing yourself, and it’s not polite to start jabbering about the money you need or the problems you have.

In the first few sentences, the grant reader wants to see

  • The full legal name of your organization

  • The year the organization was founded, by whom, and for what purpose

    If you don’t know the appropriate answers, ask a veteran employee or a long-time board member. Sometimes, the history of an organization is written up in its annual report or in an anniversary issue of its newsletter. Keep researching and asking others until you strike gold.

  • The location of the organization’s headquarters and any other operating sites (name, city, county, and state)

  • The mission statement (Use an abbreviated version.)

  • The organization’s most important achievements that are related to the activities covered in the grant application

    If you’re seeking, for example, grant funds for a new after-school program, don’t mention unrelated accomplishments, such as the school football team’s winning record or the cabinet full of medals from the school’s swim team. Taking the grant reader down a dead-end road with unrelated information is a fatal flaw, and it can result in your application not being read or funded.

Complete the organizational capability section by writing about important milestones in the organization’s history. Even though your organization may have dozens of milestones, use bulleted, abbreviated statements to share only the top three to five milestones. And use a casual voice to make the list more inviting.

When writing the organizational capabilities section, consider using customized bullets to draw attention to the grant applicant’s attributes. For example, you could use paw prints to highlight an animal rescue organization's strengths.

Strong, emotional writing works best with foundation and corporate grant applications, but you need to adopt a different writing style for government applications. When you describe your organization’s history in a government grant application, follow these tips to rack up the review points:

  • Use a cut-and-dried writing style — only write what’s asked for, no more, no less.

  • Stick with the cold, hard facts.

  • Don’t write the history and accomplishments section in first person (using such pronouns as I, our, and my). Instead, use the third-person writing approach. When you write in third person, you’re writing as if you’re on the outside of the grant applicant organization and looking back in with a third-party perspective.

  • Sterilize the writing content by avoiding emotional terms. Don’t talk about anyone’s feelings!

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