A successful application depends on the design of a sound project, which addresses social, political, and economic issues of a community. In order to get funded, it is important to spell out your needs, plans, and evaluation strategies in a way that allows the potential donor to understand the importance of your project and become interested in what you are doing. The proposal you send represents your major opportunity to get funded, so it is of crucial importance to learn how to write it in a consistent and effective way.
Firstly, take time to familiarize with the vocabulary of your potential donor. Read their website carefully and their calls for proposals, taking note of the words they use to frame their values, goals, and strategies. It could be useful to create lists of phrases, concepts, and verbs that you find in the donor’s texts that could be used for your own application. To speak the ‘same language’ will immediately create a strong connection between you and your targeted funding body.
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Secondly, keep in mind that the search committee will read and assess several applications. A winning proposal is the one that stands out of the crowd by being clear, precise, and engaging. Avoid rhetorical questions and complicated sentences; your style has to be fresh and your phrasing simple and accessible. Always opt for clarity, brevity, and be direct. Project proposals are normally short, so you don’t have space to elaborate much. Be committed to concision. This will involve several rounds of re-drafting your proposal, so start well in advance in order to meet the deadline.
Thirdly, always use action verbs – this will give the idea that you and your project is set to achieve results and not only to reflect about the issues at stake. Avoid vagueness and be precise. Your proposal must convey concrete ideas and paths to achieve concrete results. For instance, do not write, “a group of people will benefit from” but “10 young people will be trained to do…” such and such. Be realistic; a successful application is not a grand proposal to change the world. Rather it is a project that should achieve set goals in a set timeframe. The more precise you can be, the better it is. In fact, not only will you be more likely to achieve your targets, the donor will be able to assess the results against clear milestones and parameters.
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Fourthly, be engaging. Do not over-use statistics and numbers; paint compelling portraits and captivating life-stories. This will consistently allow the donor to understand your engagement with the local community. Insert glimpses of everyday life in order to illustrate with concrete examples what problems you wish to address and who the individuals in your target group are.
Once your proposal is finished, leave it for few days and then go back to it with fresh eyes. You will find mistakes and ways of improving it by detaching yourself from the text for a short period of time. And always remember that, if you are writing in a language that is not your first language, it will be necessary to seek professional proofreading. The donor will appreciate the effort you put towards producing an error-free text.