Grant Templates aren't Skeleton Keys.
by Laura Chynoweth, Founder & CEO
Typically, the first task we take on with new clients is creating a one-sheet for each of the organization's main programs. We then use those to create a comprehensive grant template. These documents take time and a LOT of it. As such, I can understand the temptation for overworked, underpaid nonprofit workers to send in completed one-sheets or grant templates as-is in response to a proposal solicitation. However, doing so may seriously hinder your ability to get funding (and may make me react like Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode III).
I get it. It was everyone's dream in college: Write one paper to turn in for credit in two separate classes. It's not necessarily laziness. It's resourcefulness. We all want to do more with less, and for nonprofit organizations, this mindset may seem like a necessity for staying in business. However, this simply does not work for grant writing.
Grantors include the questions and supporting documentation that will help them best understand your project. In short, they are asking you to speak their language. Even if you include all the information requested in the application, but you do not present it in the manner or order specified in the guidelines, you might as well not submit a grant proposal at all. The grant world is highly competitive, and most grantors receive more applicants than they could ever possibly fund. By not speaking their language, you are presenting an immediate reason for them to eliminate your application from the pool.
Additionally, by not taking the time to communicate in the way the funder wants does not convey that you are busy; it conveys that you don't care about what they want. Remember: funders are busy people too, and their decisions are subjective. Making them read between the lines for requested project information (if they do indeed read your entire application) only instills in them ill will toward you and/or your organization. And since we humans have excellent emotional memories, these negative feelings can affect the outcome of all future grant applications to the same funder. Take a hint from Mad Men's Pete Campbell (and replace 'client' with 'grantor'): "A client shouldn't have a single negative feeling in your presence."
Remember: You are amazing, and you're well on your way to successfully fundraising for your cause. You have already completed Step 1: designing an impactful project or program, and Step 2: creating template documents for fundraising and marketing purposes. You owe it to yourself to set yourself up for the best chance at winning grants and follow through on Step 3: tailoring your template language to fit the guidelines and requirements of each and every unique grant application.