Quite often, if you want to receive grants and funding, you will be asked to submit a grant proposal. How you structure it will depend upon what the grant funder requires and your own decisions on what’s best. Each request for proposals is unique, with varying degrees of how creative you can be. As usual, though, we’re going to follow our rule of doing exactly what the grant provider asks of you, to maximize your chances for grants and funding.
To the extent you can, you should make your grant proposal tell a story. Grant writing, at its essence, really is just storytelling, and your story should give the facts in a compelling manner, and give the audience (the grant reviewer) the narrative that they want to believe in. You want your project to match the funder’s priorities, so that means to highlight how you’re compatible with them and to help lead them to the conclusions that you want them to draw. What it doesn’t mean is fabrication–your grant proposal must always be factual. You don’t want to get grants and funding through dishonesty.
Here’s how you benefit when your grant proposal tells a compelling story. A cohesive, flowing narrative holds the reader’s attention and is an effective vehicle for delivering your overall point. Your reader has certain expectations, and a good story delivers the goods and provide satisfaction in the reading experience. Also, grant reviewers read a lot of proposals, and some can be dry and plodding. If your proposal holds their attention, you will be viewed more favorably in your quest for grants and funding. And finally, everyone loves a good morality tale where good prevails. Of course, your grant proposal won’t be that melodramatic, but if you effectively illustrate how you can take a problem and spin it into a situation where there’s an ending that benefits everyone, it satisfies the reader’s basic need for an upbeat conclusion.
Here’s an example: I recently critiqued a grant proposal that one of my students wrote for her project that is the marketing of a program she created to provide at-home help for persons with family members who are battling addiction. She set her proposal up as a story of how she had experienced this, had learned many hard lessons, and now wants to help others who are going through the same struggle. I found her proposal very readable because I wanted to know what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. She effectively showed how what she was proposing could achieve the desirable conclusion of recovery, so she has a good chance of getting grants and funding for her program.
Grant reviewers gravitate toward proposals that are readable and interesting, that also fit well into the framework of what they are expecting. This can be a little challenging if the grant proposal request is disjointed, but with practice, you can make your proposal as interesting as possible, and you’ll achieve good results. Simply put, the better you are at telling the story, the better your odds at winning grants and funding.
In another article, How to Tell a Story Effectively for a Powerful Grant Proposal, I will tell you the mechanics of how to weave an interesting story so that you know the elements involved and how to reconcile the structure of a compelling narrative with the proposal requirements. This knowledge, plus a little practice, will make you a great storyteller in no time!