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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 grant application, you need to clearly and concisely give the grant reader just enough information about your organization’s experience and accomplishments to pique his interest and keep him reading word for word. Remember that you’re just introducing yourself — jabbering about the money you need or the problems you have isn’t polite.

Although you’re shooting for clarity and conciseness, in order to get your grant application funded, you must be able to make the mundane interesting to the grant reader. Your story must be magnetizing to all who read it, from your community partners to potential funders.

Begin with basic facts

The grant reader wants to see the following in the first few sentences:

  • 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 longtime board member. Sometimes, you can also find the history of an organization 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, state).

  • The mission statement.

In the example that follows, you can see how the text is inviting by putting a face on the organization’s history.

  • The Grant Writing Training Foundation was founded in 2007 by Dr. Beverly A. Browning in Buckeye ( Maricopa County), Arizona. Dr. Browning’s vision for this 501(c)(3) foundation emerged when she was managing a for-profit consulting business that wanted to offer more affordable training for nonprofits and units of government.

  • Her vision unfolded in the mission statement of the Foundation: Provide affordable and relevant training in grant seeking and proposal writing. Dr. Browning has 40 years of experience in grant writing and creating training curriculum across industry topics. The most important achievements for the Grant Writing Training Foundation include the following:

    • Donated 10% or more of annual proceeds to training-site hosts.

    • Provided new computers at each venue to at least one of the attendees in the first three years of operation.

    • Facilitated low-cost training to over 100 nonprofit site hosts.

Move on to milestones

Complete the organizational capability section by writing about important milestones in the organization’s history that relate to the activities covered in the grant application. Write a brief introductory paragraph before you begin listing the milestones.

Even though your organization may have dozens of milestones, don’t include every last miscellaneous award and achievement. If you’re seeking grant funds for a new after-school program, for example, don’t mention unrelated accomplishments, such as the school football team’s winning record or the cabinet full of medals from the swim team. Taking the grant reader down a dead-end road with unrelated information is a fatal flaw.

Use bulleted, abbreviated statements to share the top milestones. And use a casual voice to make the list more inviting. Your organization’s milestones narrative may look something like this:

  • The Grant Writing Training Foundation currently offers a full menu of grant-related and small business training programs to nonprofits throughout the United States including foundations, community service organizations, colleges and universities, and government agencies. Current training programs include but are not limited to:

    • Grant Writing Boot Camp

    • Grant Writing Boot Camp Express

    • Nonprofit Board of Directors Boot Camp

    • Small Biz Boot Camp

When writing the organizational capabilities section, customized bullets can draw attention to the grant applicant’s attributes. For example, you can use a dollar sign or a red heart to point to the Grant Writing Training Foundation’s accomplishments.

If your organization is new (just starting up), list the background of the founders and your governing board members along with the planned milestones from your strategic plan.

Change your approach for government grants

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 compelling writing style; remember to 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 the first person. 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, looking in with a third-party perspective. Your reference to your organization must be from a formal and straightforward approach. Here are two examples that allow you to compare first- and third-person writing styles:

    • First person: Our organization was founded in 1990 and is located in Flint (Genesee County), Michigan. Last year, we provided more than 5,000 water bottles, blankets, and T-shirts to homeless individuals.

    • Third person: Mary’s Home was founded in 1990 and is located in Flint (Genesee County), Michigan. Last year, its staff provided over 5,000 water bottles, blankets, and T-shirts to homeless individuals.

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