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How to Write an Application That Wins Grants

6 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Finding and Applying for a Grant

The opening section of your application for funding is a key ingredient of your winning grant, cooperative agreement, or contract bid recipe. When you write your application, focus on the problem you want to solve, where you're located, what you've done as an organization, and what you're doing now.

Using groups of three in your grant app

Research shows that groups of three are effective in getting your audience to remember an important point. The words that stick in our minds forever usually come in groups of three: blood, sweat, and tears; reading, writing, and arithmetic; and red, white, and blue. Here's an example of this tactic applied to grant writing terms:

The American Association of the Benefit Examiners (AABE) works with third-party insurance providers to determine the average expenditure per patient. The ultimate selling tools to insurance providers are cost-saving, cost-effective, and cost-wise advice and expertise from the AABE.

Demonstrating soft cash assets

Phrase your request to suggest that the organization isn’t begging for grant, cooperative agreement, or contract monies with both hands out, but rather it has some resources or strengths already in place to build upon. The review team is more likely to bestow review points on an organization that already has some assets — not just cobwebs — in its corner.

Making a point with emotion

When you write about your need or the need of your target population, you must stick to the facts. However, write with the understanding that you increase your chances of winning grant awards, cooperative agreements, and RFPs by touching the hearts of the individuals making the funding decisions. Remember, don’t go overboard, but do make an impression by using emotion-filled phrases.

The italicized text in the following example highlights powerful phrases that you can use in your grant or cooperative agreement applications and RFPs to describe any isolated class of people:

The proposed project will address the community problems of chronic underemployment and unemployment by helping clients create and implement employability plans. Jobs at prevailing livable wages are beyond the reach of many who grew up in poor and struggling families and who truly believe and accept that as their fate. Sadly, cultural ignorance on the part of local and regional units of government has caused the target population to be overlooked and become transparent!

Keeping the grant app reader on track

When you get the attention of the person making the funding decision, you don’t want to lose it. Here are some general writing rules for keeping your reader on track, with eyes glued to your writing:

  • Use a lot of headings.

  • Use numbered and bulleted lists.

  • Keep paragraphs short, incorporating no more than five to seven sentences in each paragraph.

  • Use a 12-point Times New Roman font (preferred by 80 percent of grantmaking agencies).

  • Stick with one font to avoid a jumbled appearance.

  • Avoid using all capital letters.

  • Underline sparingly.

  • Use boldface or italics to emphasize key words and phrases.

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