Writing a fundraising proposal is one of the most important skills of a fundraiser professional. The proposal must tell the story in a compelling manner, while persuading the donor that this project is meaningful.
It must also convince funders that your organization is fiscally sound, transparent and capable of achieving the goals and objectives of the proposal.
- Make contact with a “real” person and then address the proposal to him or her.
- Plan ahead so that your proposal isn’t rushed or crisis-related.
- Show that you know who else is working in the field and what they are doing.
- Involve others in editing the proposal.
- Explain acronyms.
- Keep it short – not more than 10 pages for the body of the proposal and less if possible.
- Show that you care about the work show some passion.
- Pitch the tone correctly – be human rather than academic, let the human story come through, but don’t go overboard on emotion.
- Take a “one proposal fits all” approach if you have done your homework on the funding agency, use what you know to make the proposal fit the agency.
- “Pad” your budget to include things that are not relevant to the project.
- Hide information the donor is entitled to.
- Send so much documentation that the reader gives up before he or she begins.
- Assume that the donor knows all about you so you don’t need to bother to present yourself well.
- Use unnecessary jargon.
- Make the project fit the donor criteria at the expense of what you think needs to be done.
- Write simply and avoid jargon.
- Use short sentences.
- Use the active rather than the passive voice when you can (e.g. “specially trained project staff will run all training courses” rather than “all training courses will be run by specially trained project staff”).
- Check for spelling and grammar mistakes – if necessary get someone else to read it through and make corrections.
- Revise and rewrite if necessary.
- Don’t exaggerate.
- Write for a non-technical reader.
- Use headings and sub-headings, but do so consistently e.g. all headings in one lettering or size, all sub-headings in another.
- Number your pages.
- Bind or staple the document in the right order.
- Use white space – have wide margins.
- Don’t crowd the text.
- Use a font that is easy to read.