Grant Readiness Challenge: Day 21: Start with a Blank Page

Is a blank page 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, but is a great challenge for you to try as part of your grant readiness challenge. 

There is very little consistency between funders and their proposal requirements. Therefore, 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 keywords. 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 page 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.


Don’t forget to share your journey on the 30-Day Grant Readiness Challenge by using the hashtag #grantreadiness on your posts and updates on social media.

Did you miss the launch of the 30-Day Grant Readiness Challenge? It isn’t too late for you to start! It’s free and you can sign up at any point and it will start you back on Day 1!

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