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The SMART Approach to Writing Your Proposal

Grant writing warrants you to be as specific as possible because there is ultimately a desired outcome: grant funding, building relationships, and grant optimization to name a few. In order to be effective during this process, a strategy has to be in place. This strategy encompasses five different objectives that can be utilized and tracked. We explore these objectives in two parts. The SMART objectives to be discussed include the following:

S – Let’s be as Specific as Possible
M – Provide a Measurable Outcome and Impact
A – Achieving a Goal
R – Relevant to the Involved Parties
T – Timely, efficient, and under deadlines

Specific as Possible

The most effective way to stand out from the competition is to be as specific as possible. Funders want specific details about your project. As clearly and as concisely as you can, tell the funder what you are going to do, the program goal, and/or the specific activities involved. In the simplest terms, funders want to know: what do you do?

Don’t let one thing overwhelm you. Instead, group the similar pieces together and start with one specific piece at a time, building toward the beautiful bigger picture. Start with the specifics: project, people, solutions, and stories, and you’ll have woven a compelling masterpiece in no time!

Measurable Outcome and Impact

You may have a vision and a passion for the work that you are doing in your community, but without measurable outcomes, it’s impossible to assess the effectiveness of your organization. Is your nonprofit organization making a difference? Impact measurement is the only way to know.       

Before funders feel comfortable writing that big check, they want to know that their financial contribution will actually make a positive difference. What is the impact of your work? Is it quantifiable? How many people are being helped? What difference does your organization make? These are critical questions that your proposal must answer to be considered for a grant award.

Impact measurement strategies are integral to the program planning process that every successful organization needs. Having clearly defined goals and objectives that can be measured means an organization must first have a clear vision for their purpose; then, the desired goals are determined by the community needs.

Data for the measurable impact of an organization highlights needs within this community, and demonstrates that the organization is the solution to meeting that need. Measurable impact data helps raise awareness of specific needs, and establishes a possible solution or answer to the needs, creating the opportunity for more ‘helpers’ to get involved with your meaningful work. The more you can raise awareness and show that your work is making a difference, the easier it will be to get support!

Achieving a Goal

Goals are a must in order to start, develop, and complete any type of project. When writing grants, it’s critical to be aware of the ultimate goals:1) meeting the funder requirements, and 2) meeting the needs in the community.  If properly defined, these goals will allow you to focus on what’s important while creating and/or adjusting new behaviors to accomplish these goals.

Think of your goal as a dream with a deadline. Then, ask yourself the following questions: How will I complete this goal? What will it take to meet the deadline? What tasks/steps need to be completed along the way to move forward to the next? What defines the goal as being complete? Once you have these answered, then you can:

1. Make a list
2. Be proactive
3. Confirm you have the tools needed to start working on the goals
4. Research, evaluate, and re-assess
5. Confirm the goal (s) has been completed
6. Celebrate the completion of your goal

Providing specific objectives allows you to stay focused on what the funder is interested in.  In order to be effective and remain competitive, it’s imperative that your organization follow the criteria outlined. While following this criteria, it is also important to make sure your organizations’ needs align with funders to be considered for grant funding. 

These three initial SMART objectives will help you get started. Stay tuned for the second part!

In the meantime, make sure to watch Valerie break down the SMART approach in this video.

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