A Winning History: A Common Grant-Writing Challenge

On May 21, expert grant writer and nonprofit author Chataun Denis will be teaching Nonprofit University’s popular Writing Winning Grants workshop. We asked Chataun to give us a “sneak-peak” of what you will learn in the session, and how by completion you’ll have the tools needed to successfully craft your winning proposal!

In all of the grant-writing classes I teach, no matter the level of experience or understanding my students have coming in, there are a few areas that are consistently troublesome and typically in need of improvement.

One of the most important, and perhaps least consistent, aspects of the grant writing process I’ve noticed is the organizational background statement

It’s a tough recipe to perfect, but the organizations that are winning the most grants are effectively highlighting their organization’s brightest past, future, and present accomplishments in this brief section.

It’s like the first impression you give on a job interview; look unorganized, unprepared, or distracted? Good luck getting the job! The organizational background section is the same way. The statement should be concise, but also tell a compelling story of your organization. Most importantly you have to connect your mission to the funding you seek.

This section should be two or three brief paragraphs, and should emphasize the organization's capacity, strengths, and sustainably.

At a minimum, this section should include:

  • the organization's year of inception;
  • experience and expertise of staff, volunteers, and board members;
  • the mission (stated verbatim or summarized);
  • a description of the target beneficiaries (i.e. ages, incomes, ethnicities, education, etc. as applicable); and
  • number of individuals served, and outcomes achieved.

It’s a tough recipe to perfect, but the organizations that are winning the most grants are effectively highlighting their organization’s brightest past, future, and present accomplishments in this brief section. It shouldn’t be exhaustive, but has to be compelling. Don’t be modest, tell funders how their support will affect your mission and benefit the community.

Most importantly you have to connect your mission to the funding you seek.

Here are some strategies that I recommend to really tie your organizational background statement together:

  • Describe the motivation for, or the scenario that led to, the nonprofit's founding.
  • Trumpet past accomplishments and be clear about your competitive advantage.
  • Use numbers and percentages sparingly, for maximum impact.
  • Close with a striking impact statement highlighting your outcomes.

These tips and strategies represent just a few of the tested and proven tactics I pass on in my course. Join me at GCN on May 21 where I’ll be teaching Writing Winning Grants, and will show you many more ways to take your grant-writing game to the next level.

Chataun R. Denis is chief consultant and founder of Grant Source and author of "My Formula for Nonprofit Success, The 3 Ps: Passion, Planning, & Profits”. She has more than 19 years of experience working in the nonprofit arena in various capacities including direct service, development, and administration.

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