New Year's Proposal Writers Resolutions

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As the developer, writer and steward of funding proposals, you might consider approaching 2024 with new ideas and new energy for the task. It’s a wonderful/terrible tradition that we make resolutions at this time of year, so why not think about these for your proposal-writing list.


Resolve to give yourself enough time to anticipate bumps in the road and avoid too many crunches at deadlines. This might mean resolving to work a little closer with program people, perhaps being more specific about when you need program details if you are going to prepare a winning request.


Resolve to try something new at least once in the coming year. The legendary illustrator, R. Crumb, is said to have responded to an RFP by writing “I don’t know anything about any of this” in the proposal blank boxes, “but I do know how to do cartooning that influences people.” The details are lost to history but the spirit of the idea is something to consider in 2024. Just for a change, reply to an RFP in poetry. Or write personally and powerfully about what the issue means to you. You might not submit it—or maybe you might, and who knows?


Resolve to try harder to listen to the ultimate end users of your programs—the clients your nonprofit was created to serve. After all, your work as a proposal writer is in service of an organization that exists to deliver benefits to people outside the walls of the nonprofit. What have you done to listen to the voices of those end-users? What more might you do in the months ahead?


Resolve to ask someone to read your proposal before you submit it. As well-versed as you might be in the work of your organization, and as confident as you are at the way you’ve expressed it, there’s always benefit in having someone “outside the loop” read your proposal draft. At the most basic level, this helps prevent spelling and grammatical glitches (even spellcheck can mess up!). At the top end, this lets you know that you’ve been clear, compelling, and persuasive.


Finally, resolve that this will be the year you take better care of yourself. Proposal writers face occupational hazards—crunching deadlines, squinting at 500-character boxes, trying to interpret what the hell the foundation means by THAT requirement. Sitting for hours at a computer. And overall, facing down very long odds since most proposals are rejected, no matter how hard you work to make them sing. All of this can lead to burnout or meltdown. Make this year the year you improve your own odds.



Thomas Boyd is Chief Editorial Consultant for The Grantsmanship Center
and an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations.


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