Every once in a while I get the opportunity to coach someone in their writing of a grant proposal. And I’ve even written a few proposals myself since leaving the Murdock Trust. Not long ago I reviewed a proposal that had the numbers, the facts, and the data. But it had no warmth, no heart, and no charm. It was all steak and no sizzle. It was all science and no art. I’ve also read a few proposals that were full of heart and passion, but were otherwise lacking in content.

You have to have both the art and the science. One day I was representing the Murdock Trust on a panel at a grant maker roundtable in Astoria, Oregon. It was time for Q & A, and someone from a small organization asked the representative of a large Oregon-based foundation if they should hire a professional grant writer. She replied that it would be a good exercise for the organization leaders to write the grant themselves rather than hire it out. She thought doing it themselves would show off a lot more heart, the art that goes into telling the story, and in the end, that appeals for funding.

The science gives the facts, programs, the information, the inputs, resulting outcomes, etc. The science above all, includes a carefully crafted project budget that tells the true story and has no fluff. Grant makers have good eyes for fluff. Once you have all the necessary factual content, move on to the art. The art paints a picture, tells a story, appeals to the heart, and gives the grant maker a more compelling reason to make a grant.

Chances are you are either more of an art person or more of a science person. You either tell the story with warmth, or offer a proposal with strong analysis and argument. It takes both to make a case, so find someone who can assist you in getting both the art and science right. Generally speaking good grant writing is a team sport. It takes multiple people offering input. And then someone brings it home, with their fellow workers cheering along the process.

Next time you write a proposal, look for both the art and the science.

If you would like to get a better handle on governance, I simply offer a shameless plug for my book, Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Board Governance. A friend who chairs both a corporate and a nonprofit board suggests it as a great primer.

Board Essentials Book

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About Dave Coleman

Dave Coleman Principal / Consultant Phone: 253-237-4118 After many years of nonprofit leadership and the privilege of getting to know hundreds of organizations through my work with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, I am pleased to offer my services to you at BoardTrek Nonprofit Consulting. Our small Pacific Northwest based company is focused on helping guide nonprofit organizations and their leaders into the future by offering our services in board governance, strategic planning, leadership development and organizational change. Always feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions.
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