Skip to main content

Grant writing isn't a creative writing exercise, but. . .

It's true, grant writing isn’t a creative writing exercise. Grant professionals are writing about the meaningful, real-world work being done in communities throughout the world. Work that helps provide food, shelter, comfort, and opportunity to those in need of support. This isn’t the work of fiction. This is the reality and non-fiction writing that you can argue people’s lives depend on.

This meaningful work is able to be counted. Tracked. Reported on. That data and information are then used in future requests for funding, as it should be, to show past success and give confidence to the potential impact to be created with the requested funding.

But what is the likelihood of a true connection for the reviewer to the numbers? To the output data? To the percentages? Yes, these numbers are a critical part of the story, but they are just that, only a part of the big picture.

To connect the reviewer for the grantmaking organization to the proposed work, it is important that they understand the larger story of the work you are doing.

Vanessa Chase Lockshin of The Storytelling Nonprofit says that “by telling stories, we can connect donors to the emotional experiences associated with the issues our organizations are trying to solve…”

Replace the word donors with the word grantmakers. This statement is exactly the point for why we as grant professionals need to step back from the character counting, word limits, and black and white data we use to think about the emotional connection we are helping our grantmakers make through our proposal.

In some proposals, this is done by sharing a client success story. In other proposals it is done with a generic case study of a likely client. In others still, through the use of carefully thought out tables and charts to make complex data easier for reviewers to understand. Or perhaps it is through a simple, yet detailed budget justification showing how the dollars will be spent across expense categories and the multiple years of a grant award.

The method that is used in each proposal to best convey the full story will look different depending on the grantmaker’s preferences, online forms, and requirements. Our job as grant professionals is to step back and look at each proposal before we click submit or put it in the mail and ask ourselves what story we are telling the grantmaker.

I hope you’ll join me for the upcoming free webinar, Tips for Telling (and Selling!) Your Story in Grant Applications! where I will share tactical tips and examples to help you focus on the story your grantmaker reads in the application. 

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.

About the Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, RST, is a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) and Approved Trainer of the Grant Professionals Association. Diane is also a Registered Scrum Trainer and Scrum Master and is Scrum Product credentialed by the Agile Education Program powered by Scrum Inc. Diane began her career as a program officer for a statewide grantmaking organization. She continues to serve as a reviewer for a variety of grantmaking organizations. Since 2006, when she formed DH Leonard Consulting, Diane and her team have secured more than $92 million in competitive grant awards for their clients. She is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association. When not working with her team on clients’ grant applications, Diane can be found in the 1000 Islands, out for a run, or drinking a strong cup of coffee.

Profile Photo of Diane H Leonard