Myths and Realities in Grant Proposal Writing

In every grant proposal development process, writing is an important task.  But as John C. Lauderdale – the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Government Contracts (2009) – points out, you must differentiate between myths and realities in proposal writing in order to create a good proposal.

Below are 11 myths and John’s response to them, all based on the hard reality of writing a great proposal.

Myth 1:  Proposals are written.

Reality:  Proposals are created.  Proposal writing is part of the proposal development process.  Do not write proposals – develop them.

Myth 2:  Proposals are read.

Reality:  Proposals are scored.  You must write your proposal so that it can be scored highly.

Myth 3:  The best writers are English and journalism graduates.

Reality:  People with many kinds of educational backgrounds and careers can learn to be good writers.  Do not focus on educational qualifications.  Focus on skills and an ability to learn and work as a team.

Myth 4:  The best writers are Subject Matters Experts (SMEs).

Reality:  SMEs may or may not be good writers.  Knowing a subject well does not automatically mean you can communicate your knowledge clearly and effectively on paper.

Myth 5:  All our management plans are the same.

Reality:  Your organization may have a basic management plan, but you must write each one to specifically address the grant guidelines.

Myth 6:  Ignore the grant guidelines.  We can organize the written response more logically.

Reality:  Some guidelines are not clear, but reviewers will score proposals based on the grant guidelines and not on your criteria.  Follow them religiously in your writing.

Myth 7:  We will win the grant because the funder knows us well.

Reality:  Your proposal will be scored by reviewers.  Writing a great proposal that receives a top score is the best way to win.

Myth 8:  Our editors will create a great proposal.

Reality:  You cannot create a great proposal just by editing a written document.  The content and organization must be solid for editing to improve your document.

Myth 9:  Focus on what we will do after we are awarded the contract.

Reality:  In your writing, feature what you have already done prior to the grant award.  In proposal writing, one of the most important phrases is:  “We are already….”

Myth 10:  Focus on the features of your solution.

Reality:  Focus on the benefits of your solution.  Features should support your benefits.

Myth 11:  Use standard graphics.

Reality:  Use graphics that address the grant guidelines and that include action captions that are closely tied to your text.

As Lauderdale notes, address these common myths in proposal writing and you will submit more competitive proposals.  The key to good grant proposal writing is to make it part of a thorough and thoughtful proposal development process.  In grant proposals, writing is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

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