Is a blank screen or document daunting to you? How do you approach the beginning of a new proposal? A best practice is to customize each proposal to each funder. This might not be as overwhelming as it seems. There is very little consistency between funders and their proposal requirements. I tend to create a new proposal for a new funder in three stages:
First, I read the funder’s eligibility guidelines and application criteria. I highlight areas of note and key words. In this same stage, I open and read through a funder’s entire application. The more familiar I am with the approach the funder requires, the easier it is for me to write.
Second, I open a document and create my working draft. I create an application template with all the application headings and questions. If character counts are given, I place them at the end of every question. Now, I have in my mind, both the funder eligibility guidelines and a unique application working draft.
Third, I build my narrative for this funder and its application. I’ll have at my ready, in cloud storage, all my nonprofit organization background materials: mission, vision, history of the organization, strategic plan and budget, project plan and budget, metrics and potential inputs and outcomes. I use a second monitor so I can weave transcribed details from my NPO documents into my specific narrative. I build each proposal one question at a time, with a fresh story that will catch this funder’s interest. If any application areas are missing pertinent information, I highlight them. I either reach out to the team member with the information or conduct some research myself as needed to fill the gaps.
To me, a new application is not daunting, it’s a new story to craft. There is so little consistency of criteria between different funders’ applications that I start each narrative with a blank document and build it into a free-standing story. Each narrative is a unique blend of writing about a project that matches the funder’s criteria. Even a funder’s required budget format varies from a nonprofit organization’s, so I build budgets in the same format as narratives.
I never have a blank screen for long. Building an application one step at a time from my own working template reduces potential writer’s block and increases the chances of producing a fresh application.
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