If you have a lot of experience researching and writing grant applications, your nonprofit might turn to you as your team’s grant proposal writing wizard. But surprise—the next grant you’re applying for requires not just an application but a grant proposal presentation! The grant funder would like to speak with you in person to learn about your nonprofit and understand your request for support.
That means it’s time to put your public speaking hat on and prepare an engaging presentation that helps your organization win the grant. In this post, we’ll explain four steps to building an effective grant proposal presentation:
- Get to know your audience.
- Choose your presentation format deliberately.
- Build a streamlined presentation.
- Add engaging design elements.
You might already have some public speaking experience from presenting at nonprofit conferences and other events. Your grant presentation will require the same level of preparation and confidence even though you’ll be speaking to a much smaller audience. Keep this in mind as you move through these steps.
1. Get to know your audience.
One of the most important considerations for any presentation is knowing who your audience is. When you’re clear on whom you’re speaking to and why you can design your presentation to resonate with your target audience.
So, step one of your presentation planning process is to understand the grant funder’s perspective. What are their stated goals? What types of projects have they funded in the past? What aspects of their mission align with your nonprofit’s mission and goals? Consider contacting the funding organization’s program officer to gather this information.
After answering these questions, you can use your research to design your presentation to appeal to the grant funders. In addition to incorporating audience-specific information into your presentation, keep these other tips in mind:
- Make your presentation accessible to your unique audience. Accessibility means that all audience members can hear and understand your presentation. For example, if your audience members speak more than one language, offer your presentation in alternative language formats. If grant committee members have hearing impairments, provide live captions for your speech or recruit a sign language interpreter.
- Use your grant management software to track information about the funder. Grant management software is an online hub that tracks every aspect of the grant application process, from finding new opportunities to managing relationships with prospective funders. You can use this platform to create a workflow that helps your team research funders, coordinate proposal elements, and keep important files on hand. Grant management software can also help you organize and save the information you gather about funders in a central database where you and your colleagues can easily access it for future presentations to these funders or follow-up reports. These activities can help you create a well-researched presentation that speaks directly to your grant funders’ interests and objectives.
If this is your first time thinking about audience research strategically, you don’t have to do it alone. And, you don’t have to wade through heaps of advice articles on the internet, dodging public speaking cliches to find true guidance. According to Be Brilliant Presentation Group, a speaking coach can work with you to develop effective presentation skills and leverage your unique perspective and strengths. They can help streamline the presentation process and act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off.
Working with a public speaking coach can be worthwhile to ensure your presentation is as effective as possible before delivering it to potential grant funders.
2. Choose your presentation format deliberately.
After conducting audience research, you’ll be ready to start structuring your presentation. But don’t log into Google Slides or fire up PowerPoint just yet! Think deliberately about how you want to deliver your grant presentation for maximum impact.
Before choosing your presentation format, answer the following questions:
- Will you be able to use visual aids such as a slideshow, video, or handout? Or will you have to rely on your speech alone to make your case? You’ll have to structure your presentation differently depending on whether you can use visual aids.
- Will the presentation be in person or on a video meeting platform like Zoom? If you are presenting in person, you’ll have to determine whether there will be a screen you can use to display visual aids. If you’re presenting over video chat, you’ll have to practice with the video tools and prepare your background.
- Do you have any time constraints? If your presentation has a time limit, you’ll have to design it to fit within the restrictions. If the limit feels short to you, think strategically about including only the most critical information that will help you get your point across succinctly and effectively.
After answering these questions, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the types of presentation aids and tools you can use during the presentation. Then, you can craft a presentation that smoothly guides audience members from point to point and makes a strong case for why your organization deserves the grant.
3. Build a streamlined presentation.
If you’re required to submit both a grant application and an oral presentation, use your presentation time wisely. Don’t read your grant application word for word—just hit the highlights. Supplement the information in your application with stories, examples, and visual aids to build a well-rounded presentation.
Follow these steps to craft your streamlined grant presentation:
- Provide background information on your nonprofit. Make sure the grant committee understands your organization’s mission and how your nonprofit was started. Explain the day-to-day programs and projects you manage that help work toward your mission.
- Explain your need and how you plan to use the funding. Next, describe why you’re seeking grant funding and how you plan to put the funding to good use. The grant committee will need specifics here, so be very clear about your plans. Describe what the funding will go toward and why the project matters in the grand scheme of your mission. Learn more about Simple Steps to Write an Executive Summary.
- Use data and research to build credibility. Use data from your past projects and general research to make specific projections for what you can achieve with grant funding. For example, let’s say you’re hoping to earn grant funding to expand your community garden. In your presentation, you might reference studies that show how expanding community gardens reduces violent crime. You might also include evidence from your organization’s research and surveys that shows that your community garden increased community wellbeing.
- Wrap up with a compelling final appeal. Finishing with an appeal to emotion can make your presentation memorable and persuasive. For example, you might tell a story at the beginning of your presentation that you wrap up at the end. Or, you might leave the grant committee with one final look at an image of a community member who will be able to access help because of grant funding.
Make sure to follow any specific guidelines required by the grant committee as you build your presentation. Create a checklist based on the tips above and the grant funders’ requirements to ensure your presentation includes the content it needs to be effective and meet all guidelines.
4. Add engaging design elements.
Any visual presentation aids should support your argument, not distract from it. When you choose engaging, informative visuals, you can appeal to the visual learners in the audience and create a more interesting presentation overall.
Keep these tips in mind as you design your presentation:
- Brand the presentation to your organization. According to Getting Attention’s nonprofit branding guide, your brand affects how people view and engage with your organization, “impacting whether or not they’re willing to support your mission in any way.” When you brand your presentation to your organization, you can reinforce brand recognition and enhance the professionalism of your speech. This helps build trust with your audience, showing the grant committee that your nonprofit is well-established and can be relied on to use funding wisely.
- Include compelling images. Choose original images your organization owns (not stock photos) to bring your presentation to life. Include photos of your volunteers, staff, and individuals that your organization helped. Specifically, select visuals that illustrate your nonprofit’s mission in action. For example, if you’re a conservation organization, you might include a before and after picture of the forest that your organization has worked to restore.
- Consider incorporating audience engagement. Including interactive elements within your grant presentation can help it stand out. A few audience engagement ideas include asking for a volunteer to complete a demonstration, handing out a survey for the grant committee to fill out during your presentation, or taking polls throughout with a show of hands.
As you finalize your presentation, ensure your visual elements are uniform and cohesive. For example, double-check that your font sizes are consistent throughout, your logo use is identical across slides, and the colors you use on each slide are visually appealing. Perfecting even the most minor details of your presentation will make a difference by adding credibility to your grant request.
As your grant presentation date approaches, you may start growing anxious. You might think, “I need to deliver a flawless presentation, or we may lose out on important grant funding.” While these thoughts are natural and understandable, step back every so often and take a deep breath throughout your planning process.
Know that when you follow these tips (and work with a presentation coach as necessary), there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to create a compelling presentation that makes a strong case for your organization. You’ll be well prepared with the tools and strategies you need to impress the grant committee and hopefully earn funding for your mission. Good luck!
This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.