2 women sitting beside each other on a couch, working on a project.

Helping funders see the people you serve

Writing grants is different than crafting appeal letters, event invitations, or corporate sponsorships. Grants are an investment – and proving that your non-profit is worthy of an investment can make for dry copy.

In a grant, you not only sell your services and outcomes, but you also showcase your organization’s business support systems to assure compliance. Given the usual word limits of many grant applications, it can be hard to showcase the emotional effects of the work you do. It’s easier to highlight the people you serve in a grant report, but we often get stuck in the habit of writing all grant-related narrative formal and boring.

But grants administrators are people too! They will appreciate—and remember—small tweaks that bring your mission and vision to life, both in grant applications and reports. This is especially important in a grant report showing the impact of their funding.

Here’s five ways you can tug a little on grant administrators’ heart strings while you share information required to justify a grant investment.

Insert a quotation from a client into each content section

Check in with program managers frequently, and specifically ask for testimonials. (You can also use them for newsletters.) Or review previous television or radio interviews with clients. It’s also helpful to include which services the client receives. Try to find examples that relate to the metrics you intend to track, such as mental health referrals, stress reduction, or a decrease in hospitalizations. For clarity, use quotation marks to set it apart from the rest of the copy, and get permission from the person who said it. If you insert a quotation into each section, I promise you the reader is going to look forward to that part!

Example: (from a needs statement section focused on mental health)

“Sometimes when my husband brings my son to respite care, I just sit in my jammies all morning and I don’t do anything. And I know its ok to rest.” – a mother of a premature infant enrolled in our Morning Program.

Jazz up your program bios

Many grant interfaces allow extra space to share the qualifications of staff who serve on the programs. Use the space well! Instead of a dry list of all the certifications and educational achievements, insert some color and life. Start each bio with a short anecdote that shows what makes this person indispensable to your program, and valuable to the clients you serve.

Example:

Dr. Jane Smith’s gentle spirit puts our patients at ease from their first visit to our health clinic. At the same time, those kind brown eyes notice every detail. She helps patients share their symptoms and struggles, and developed systems to track our chronic care management. Our decline in crisis hospitalizations since 2017 correlates to the day she joined our team. Dr. Smith graduated from blah, blah, blah….

Research your needs assessment – and wrap it up in an anecdote

You know your issue inside and out, right? Think again. There are always new ideas and updated studies to consult. Every time you write a grant, spend a little time checking up on partner agency activities and official statistics that demonstrate the need for your programs. Sometimes, the needs intensify and you can find a startling statistic that is the perfect lead-in for why your organization needs MORE money, right NOW.

Example:

When Aimee and her children were evicted, they lived in her car for six weeks, hiding and parking where others could not see her. When she found help at Family First Agency, she was shocked to learn she was not alone. The number of homeless children in our county has risen 75% in the past two years due to local plant closings. Aimee got the help she needed, and now there are two less homeless children in our county. Our plan is to replicate that success for over 150 more children in the coming year, with the help of the Nice Foundation. (Then, launch into your usual statistics.)

Related: Four things every need statement should have

Add a graphic design twist to your grant report

If you have an in-house designer, or can hire a college student to help, ask for charts that show impact with powerful graphics that tell the story. Graphic designers sometimes will offer pro-bono work as well. Contact AIGA-the professional association for design to locate professionals in your area. It’s also a great idea to upload an infographic for a grant application, if it helps you to make your case.

Examples:

The Power of Reading to Your Children

Graphic Representation of Bicycles in the Field

 Personalize those letters of support

There is nothing against the rules to coach your wonderful partner agencies and clients in the process of writing a letter of support. Give specific instructions based on the grant application requirements, but don’t be afraid to ask for a specific story of your amazing work making a big difference in a concrete way.

Example:

Mercy Shelter literally saved my life. When my ex-husband followed me home from work after I left him, the counselors had already coached me on a safety plan. I followed my safety plan – and avoided being hurt again. They helped me cope and create a new life for myself and my child. Please, can you support their program so other women like me can be helped?

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Kristen West McGuire
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Grant Management, Grant Writing

June 9, 2020

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