Tag Archives: grant proposal

Stories are an essential part of every grant application, as they help the funder connect with your nonprofits idea, mission and overall goals. It’s the best way to set yourself apart, and there’s a much better chance your proposal will resonate with the reader. However telling your nonprofits story isn’t easy, even if you know the organization like the back of your hand. It takes organization and creativity if you want it done right. 

If you’re unsure where to start, think about your grant proposal like a novel. Every novel has five quintessential areas: a purpose, plot, characters, an audience, and great writing. So, how do you bring these to life in your grant proposal? Let’s break it down. 

Grant proposal

Step 1: The purpose.

Why does this story need to be told? And why is it important to tell it now? Every good story starts with a well thought out purpose, as it sets the baseline and guides you through the rest of your storytelling journey. You want the funder to know why your project is worth funding and what impact it’s going to have. 

Step 2: The plot.

This is what we call the “meat” of your story. When it comes to grant applications, this means incorporating any organizational information, budget details, supporting documents, etc. What can you provide that will show the funder how the problem should be addressed, what the approach will be, and the expected logical outcome. If your project isn’t well planned out and outlined, these outcomes won’t make any sense to the reader. It’s important to continually stress the steps that are in place from beginning to end, so it’s clear how their input will make a difference.

Step 3: The characters.

Every great story includes great characters. The question is, who are these characters relative to your nonprofit? It’s important to remember that the application is not about you as a writer — it’s about the project leaders and staff on your end, and those participating on the funder’s side. But more importantly, the main characters are the people and causes that your nonprofit is aiming to serve. Because at the end of the day, this is what your goal is all about — helping!

Step 4: The audience.

We hear it all the time: storytelling is about knowing your audience, and grant writing is no different. An application should only be submitted when you know that the funders objectives and mission statement is in line with your own. Storytelling helps build relationships, and you don’t want to tell a story they don’t want to hear! In the same respect, make sure you aren’t changing a story just to try and sit them. If you start feeling yourself doing that, the funder probably isn’t a good option for you anyway.

Step 5: The writing itself.

Keep in mind anyone can have a great story, but the delivery matters. To deliver your story well, the first step is allowing yourself enough time to prepare, write, and submit it. You’ll want to make sure you’ve answered every question and requirement by the funder, and have somebody else (or multiple people) proofread it before submission. If it helps, ask your proofreader to explain the project back to you. Because if they can’t understand it…neither will the funder.

And there you have it! We hope these storytelling tips will take your grant proposal to the next level and increase your chance of attracting fundraisers. Need help in your grant writing process? RBW Strategy can help! Visit our services page for more info. 



grant proposal weaknesses
Writing a grant proposal takes a lot of leg work, and nobody gets it 100% right the first time. If you’re looking to improve your grant writing skills, it’s important to do some reflecting on prior proposals, and understand where you can improve. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the most common grant proposal weaknesses, so you’ll have the tools necessary to make your next proposal the best it can be. 


grant proposal weaknesses


Weakness #1: Using too many hyperboles. 


Hyperboles are exaggerated statements or claims that are not meant to be taken literally. We have a tendency to include these without realizing it because naturally, you want to “show off” your organization and highlight all the wonderful things about it. But make sure you’re being factual, and not overselling. Don’t include any unnecessary fluff, or make claims about your organization that can’t be backed up 100%. Keep in mind, there’s also a fine line between confidence and arrogance. You can speak highly of your organization without boasting! Reviewers have a heightened sense for scoping out these ego trips, so make sure you remain confident, but humble. In addition, we also recommend using language that suggests real action, versus a thought. So for example, use words like “expect” and “anticipate” vs. words like “hope.” These words are more action driven and show that you’re not all talk.


Weakness #2: Poor organization. 


These are arguably the biggest grant proposal weaknesses today. Remember, you’re supposed to be telling a story. And if you’re jumping all over the place, it’s harder to convey your message. If your story isn’t presented in a logical order, the reviewer is likely to lose interest or misinterpret your goal. We recommend using numbers, letters, and/or bolded headlines to create structure in your proposal. Be clear in your writing, and think about it as if you were reading it from the reviewer’s lens. There’s a good chance the bulk of the proposal will be scanned, so really drive in the main points as concise as you can. Be sure to start off with your hypothesis, go into the specific aims and goals, and close with a conclusion. We also recommend sharing the proposal with an honest friend. Reviewers aren’t going to spare your feelings, and it might be better to hear any constructive feedback from a friend first. 


Weakness #3: Failure to prove significance and innovation. 


One of the toughest parts about grant writing is finding a way to stand out. It’s possible to write a great grant proposal without providing any real uniqueness; and we see it often. Make sure you’re honing in on the “why.” Why is this problem particularly important? How does the grantor fit into your overall efforts and what part do they play in shaping the future of this problem? In addition to not proving a problem’s significance in grant proposals, we often see a failure to communicate any real innovation. What are you doing to make this project original? What makes your efforts special and what unique ways are you approaching the situation? In a nutshell — stand out! 


Weakness #4: Language and grammatical errors. 


There is no excuse for turning in a proposal with spelling and grammatical errors! You should have at least two other people proofread before submitting it. If you want to go the extra mile, consider hiring a freelance proofreader. It’ll give you peace of mind knowing you’re letting someone handle this who does it for a living! In addition to spelling/formatting errors, make sure you’re focusing on your language. If you fail to use the correct industry terminology, your credibility will decrease drastically and quite frankly, you’ll look ignorant. If you’re unsure on terminology, try reaching out to an industry professional for a second look. 


If you need assistance with your grant proposal weaknesses, RBW Strategy has you covered! We create a work plan to ensure alignment with funding opportunity guidelines. Our team is also skilled at integrating program-specific language, graphics, literature reviews, and research to create a detailed statement of need that effectively demonstrates your organization’s request for funds. Contact us online today!