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Writing Tips


Rule 1:              If you don't have writing talent and experience, find someone who does, even if you have to pay for this service.


Rule 2:              Get Started.  Once you take the first few steps, your momentum builds.  Write your first draft today. 


Rule 3:              Get to the point early.  Foundation project managers do not have time to read through all proposals thoroughly.  Give all the essentials in the opening paragraphs.


Rule 4:              Tell why your project is significant and why it will have impact beyond the project itself.  For example, your success could pave the way for similar projects around the country.


Rule 5:              Don't be afraid to state up front how much the project will cost.  This is one of the first questions a foundation executive wants answered.  (If the figure seems too high or too low for the foundation, then you are probably approaching the wrong funding source in the first place.)


                        If you are seeking only a one-time grant, make sure you point out this fact in your proposal.


                        If you have other funding sources, then state the additional funding support in the proposal.


Rule 6:              Don't leave anything for the reader to guess or assume.  If you don't include something in your proposal or addendum, the foundation program manager will probably conclude that it wasn't part of your program, or even worse that you overlooked it through ignorance, and lack of homework.


Rule 7:              Write to a human being, not to the abstract foundation.  If you spoke to a program manager during your initial background work investigating the foundation then it may be helpful to pull positive feedback into the final proposal letter.


Rule 8:              Focus on the human element of the project.  Identify how people will benefit from your project outcomes.


Rule 9:              Use exciting language.  For example, use the active voice (We will solve the problem) rather than the passive voice (The problem will be solved by us).  Also use image-provoking adjectives (the hungry child) if it describes conditions accurately.


Rule 10:            Use simple words.  Complex words and terms will slow down the reader.  Try to avoid professional jargon in your field.  Someone on the reviewing panel might not understand the terms.


Rule 11:            Be specific.  Use concrete examples ad facts to support your case. 

                        Be credible.  Be straightforward with the foundation; don't sell more than you are willing to deliver.


Remember your application becomes a legal contract once approved.  Be sure you can deliver everything you promise.


Rule 12:            Write, edit, and rewrite your proposal again and again.  Read your drafts into a tape recorder.  If you lack flow or smoothness it will become immediately apparent. 


                        Enlist others to read and criticize your proposal.  These people should include members of your staff and industry experts.  When selecting third-party readers to review you proposal, make sure they are willing and able to give constructive criticism.  Steer clear of committee writing.  Obtain criticism and ideas from others, but in the end let one person mastermind the final draft.  A cohesive writing style will result.