A question I’m often asked is how to get across to grant funders the importance of the nonprofit’s program in an online grant application with limited character space.  I know that this presents a challenge because I’ve experienced it myself.  After years of this though, it has almost become like a game to me to see just how much good stuff I can pack into limited space.  Furthermore, it’s made me mindful of weeding out the “fluff” in all of my applications, not just online, resulting in a tighter, more concise application.

Here are just a few ways I write meaningful online applications without sacrificing impact:

First, I note “buzzwords” on the grant funder’s website. I research their mission, I make sure I understand what it is they want to fund and then I incorporate some of their own words into my application.   This way, I’m giving them exactly what they’re asking for.

Second, I use most of my space in the “tell us about your organization” to describe the nonprofit’s need. If you’re applying to a foundation whose mission matches your own, which I hope that you are since that’s the number one way to get funded, they want to hear more about your need since they’re trying to meet the same need as you.  According to grant funders, feeling your need makes the most impact on them.  If you take up your space describing what your organization does in minute detail rather than a description of the population you’re serving, you’re wasting valuable space.

Third, I will use concrete evidence to support my need rather than providing anecdotes. It’s important to tell a good story to a grant funder but I would rather prove that my nonprofit’s services are needed in the community with hard evidence such as journal references, county or state demographic data or program evaluation rather than writing a personal testimonial.

Fourth, I ask myself if I would want to learn more about my organization. If I bore myself to tears, it’s back to the drawing board.  Giving the grant reviewer a “hook” to want to read more is key.  Yes, it’s a balancing act between numbers and personalization but practice and you’ll get the hang of it.  There’s no hard and fast rule such as 80% numbers and 20% personalization.  If you’re unsure though see the point I make above. :)

Fifth, get others’ opinions of your application. Getting your application in front of several sets of eyes, especially those eyes that aren’t familiar with your organization or its services, is a good test to see if you’ve done your job well.  It’s telling if they understand the impact your organization makes or if they have more questions rather than answers.

Yes, it can be a tight squeeze for sure!  Have more suggestions?  Please share them below. :)