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“R” Is For Relevant: The SMART Approach to Writing Your Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can be a daunting task, especially when as a leader of a nonprofit organization, when you are already wearing too many hats as it is, working more than you sleep, giving more than you have. And now you have to be a writer too?! Not to mention a mind-reader… What will the funder want to know? Which specific details of your endless work will they care about? How do you take all the work you are doing, with its many nuanced facets, and boil it all down into a short, compelling message that convinces funders that your work is relevant?

What Is An “Elevator Pitch?”

Imagine you are on your way to a meeting and find yourself on an elevator with the CEO of a major organization who could fund your entire project for the next five years. What a dream! But it’s a short ride to the top floor and you have exactly 20 seconds to convince this CEO that they should give you a ton of money. How you use these 20 seconds is your “elevator pitch.”

5 Elements Of A Great “Elevator Pitch”

So what do you say? How can you make the most of your 20 seconds?

Know the funder

The more you know about this funder ahead of time, the better. If you are serious about your work, (as most nonprofit leaders are), then chances are you have done your homework and already know how and why a partnership with this particular organization would make a dream team. Show the funder you know and care about who they are by clearly and briefly stating their top priorities/values. 

Know the need

Show the funder how your objectives align by telling them about the unique needs of the population you serve and how your program is relevant to their preferred funding area. Be clear and brief. Can you say it in one or two sentences?

Know the data

Back up this need with clear data. This is where your impact measurement strategies really pay off! The benefits of all the time and energy you have put into collecting these numbers is two-fold: 

  • It proves to this potential funder that this need is very real, (and not just perceived)
  • It demonstrates your experience, expertise and authority in your project area, helping this funder take you seriously and assuring them that you are a wise investment

Know the solution

Tell the funder how your goals will help the community. As clearly and concisely as you can, tell the funder how your project solves this problem. Be as specific as possible. In the simplest terms, funders want to know: “what do you do?” If you need funding for a new project, tell the funder what you will do.

Know the outcomes 

Here again, the results of your impact measurement data can save the day. Stating clear, measurable evidence of how your organization has helped, (or clearly stated, achievable goals for how your organization will help), solidifies your value and gets the funder excited about partnering with you! 

More articles in The SMART Approach series:

“S” Is For Specific

“M” Is For Measurable

“A” Is For: Achievable

“R” Is For: Relevant

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