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William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director


June 2005 Featured Grant

Appealing and Appalling Proposals

Pat Bohse, President of Bohse & Associates, Inc.

Are the proposals you send out to funders appealing or appalling?  You be the judge.

 It’s important to understand that the municipality receiving the grant is only the conduit from the funder to the people who will ultimately benefit from the project or services.  Keeping this in mind, the proposal, aside from the demographics and supporting documentation, needs to tell a good story. 

The following checklist will guide you through the process of preparing proposals that will stand out from the rest:


         Appealing Proposals:


  • Tell your story in the simplest terms so that the reader understands exactly what you are looking for.
  •  Great writing skills:
    Organized thoughts
    Getting to the point

    Short concise sentences

    Good paragraph structure
    Adhering to the required number of pages found in the guidelines

    Good grammar

    Good punctuation
    Good format
    Correct spelling

    Proofread the proposal;

           • Have someone outside of your department read the document to assure that

             what you’re asking for is clearly understood.

    Make your proposal attractive and easy to read


  • Budget:
    Have someone double check the budget and the figures to be certain that they are accurate
    We recommend that you always do a budget narrative describing how you have arrived at your figures
    Make sure that the budget agrees with the project narrative and staffing requirements

  • Use preferred fonts:
    At least 10 to 12 point Arial or Times New Roman
    Avoid using fancy or distracting fonts

  • Proper page set up:
    One inch margins on all sides so the grant reviewer has room to score the proposal
    A header or footer identifying the organization on all the pages

    Make it easy to read;

          • KISS  - Keep it SIMPLE and SPECIFIC

    Use double spacing; if you don’t have page limitations
    Number the pages

    Follow the directions;

          • If the proposal is a question and answer format don’t deviate

          • Answer repetitive questions if asked; if not, DON’T be repetitive

  • Proper packaging.  Usually when funders receive proposals they separate them for different teams to review.  Help them out.
    Don’t bind it 
    Don’t put it in a 3-ring binder (too bulky – funders usually don’t have storage)

    Do use a 2-hole prong fastener or a large binder clip

    Make the appropriate number of copies that were requested in the guidelines
    If there is a check-off list, make sure your documents are in that order

    Use an off-white or cream colored paper, if allowed;

            • Do not use colored paper.

    If inserting color charts, graphs or pictures into your proposal be aware that your photocopies will be in black and white.  Remember to make adjustments to your copies if you want them to be legible
    Sign the original proposal in blue ink (so that the original can be recognized when photocopying)
    Assure that all requested attachments are included with the appropriate number of copies

  • Delivering your proposalTo win it you need to be in it…therefore, you must be in on time!

    Hand deliver;

           • Bring a typed receipt for recipient to sign and date indicating receipt of your proposal.

    U.S. Mail;

           • Send proposal via Certified Mail with a return receipt requested.


            • Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your proposal.  We have seen

               technology fail and proposals rejected because they were not received on


                        – Refer to the January 2005 article, Seven “Get Started” Tips, located in

                           the Grant Seeker’s Toolkit, on how to get registered to submit Federal

                           grants on-line

  • Always thank the funder for the opportunity to apply for their grant funds.

    Appalling Proposals:

    Are sloppy
    Have many omissions

    List unrealistic spending projections

    Have insufficient documentation
    Do not follow application guidelines

    Assume all funders operate in the same way

    Assume the reader knows the organization
    Provide no sign of a board, commissioner or community support for the project
    Do not meet the objectives of the funder
    Have goals and objectives which do not meet the documented needs
    Omit a thank you to the funder



 Full version of June Article in Adobe PDF format for printing


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