Writing Winning Grant Proposals through Good Organizing

The proposal profession has benefited greatly from Steve Shipley and his company, Shipley Associates.  Mr. Shipley and his colleagues not only provide outstanding proposal services to companies, but they also convey their knowledge and passion for wining proposals in publications and presentations.

Shipley Associates’ Proposal Guide for Business Development and Sales Professionals (I have the second edition from 2003) is the clearest, most succinct, and most helpful guide to doing proposals available.  I strongly recommend this book to any proposal professional.

Brad Douglas, a Shipley Associate, has excellent advice about writing winning proposals.  He recommends a very sensible five-step writing process:

  • Plan:  Think through your proposal section.
  • Organize:  Use the customer requirements as your outlining guide.
  • Write:  Write in a free-flowing manner.
  • Examine:  Walk away from your writing and review it later while letting others review it too.
  • Revise:  Emphasize clarity, conciseness, correctness, and persuasiveness.

I already have discussed planning.  In this blog, I will discuss organizing.  Grant proposal writers should take three simple but effective steps to organize their writing assignments:  (1) follow the fundamentals of persuasive organization; (2) organize as instructed; and (3) organize around funder/evaluator hot buttons.

Follow the fundamentals of persuasive organization

Present information according to the funder’s needs.  Focus on providing a solution to the funder’s problem with benefits and evidence of proof.

Group together similar ideas.

Place the most important information first.

Keep introductions short.

Use headings to guide evaluators.

Organize as instructed

The grant guidelines usually contains a section about proposal instructions and a section about evaluation factors.  Organize your proposal narrative according to these sections.

Organize around the funder’s hot buttons

Acknowledge the funder’s vision, challenges, objectives, and requirements.

Establish and prioritize the funder’s needs and desired outcomes (hot buttons).

Present details of your solution in the same order as your prioritization of the funder’s needs and desired outcomes.  Emphasize the benefits to the funder of your solution and provide proof that your solution is very likely to work.

In subsequent articles I will discuss the other three steps.

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