Do you know what your funders want to “buy” when they invest in your program or organization?  Funders seek to invest in social change. They are more likely to grant money to the organizations who can prove how they positively change lives and circumstances.

Want to win more grants and increase the money raised from your funding appeals? Start from the funder’s perspective when developing your grants and pitches.

Successful social sector leaders understand that funders are investors. They seek quality strategies that produce returns on their investment.  Unlike the financial investor seeking a personal financial gain, the philanthropic or government funder is seeking to invest in programs that produce a social return on investment. They expect some form of community impact for their money, such as improved schools, more jobs, cleaner air, or healthier residents.

This concept is not new, but there is greater competition and accountability. Now, only proposals with convincing arguments of success are likely to be funded.  Just as a financial investor would not invest in a mutual fund without examining its performance data, philanthropic and government funders desire to invest in programs that can specifically demonstrate their results.

The Winning Proposal

A winning proposal leaves the funder with little doubts about the program’s ability to achieve a high social return on investment.  The following five elements will portray to your funder that your program is a safe investment and will produce what they want.

  1. Focus on the outcomes: Outcomes are the level of performance or achievement that occurs because of the services your organization provided. Outcomes go beyond how many clients will be served.  They outline how lives and circumstances will be changed because of this program.  Program results are aligned with the funders desired outcomes.
  2. Include a logic model: A logic model describes logical linkages between your programs resources, activities, outputs, participants and short-, intermediate-, and long-term outcomes related to a specific problem or situation.  This is often known as your theory of change.  How does your program achieve your stated outcomes?  Even if the proposal does not specifically ask for a logic model, it is a great idea to include a graphical representation of how your proposed services will achieve the programs desired results.
  3. Prove your effectiveness: Once you established how your program achieves outcomes, you need to prove it.  Ideally, you should include existing data that demonstrates how your program is already solving the stated problem.  If you don’t have your own data yet, use data from established research on similar programs and services.  Clearly describe how your services are like the ones in those studies.
  4. Establish a measurement plan: Your measurement plan should include more than one outcome measure.  Identify a series, which include measures of participants, services, and then short- and medium-term outcomes. Describe the process and frequency you plan to gather and examine these measures.  A measurement plan communicates that you are serious about achieving success.
  5. Ensure quality:  A major cause of poor program performance is lack of fidelity to the original plan.  Staff changes, training issues, and other pressing matters often derail the implementation of the original program or service model.  Specifically demonstrate how you will use your measurement plan to ensure the program is being implemented as described in your proposal.

Why They Win

The majority of social sector programs lack several of these five elements in their requests for funding.  The typical appeal focuses on the activities the program will conduct and who they will serve.  This type of application is like an investment funding manager who says, “Invest in my funds, I’ll put your money in X”.  Just like an investor is likely to not choose this manager, so is the philanthropic or government funder likely to pass on this application.

An investor is on the other hand, likely to place their money with the fund manager who says, “I will put your money in fund X, here are the results for the past five years, here is how often I will monitor this fund for you and if it is not performing as it should, I will look for other alternatives to help you achieve your financial goals.”

This is exactly what an applicant is telling their philanthropic or government funder in their grant application when the proposal is clear about the anticipated outcomes, is based on a well-crafted logic model, proves the model can deliver the results, outlines a plan to measure progress, and ensures quality implementation. Your application with these elements is sure to stand out above all others and win the precious investments for your organization.

Start the process today!

Are you looking for help measuring your social impact so you can write winning funding proposals? Check out our upcoming Managing to Outcomes Bootcamp.  In this cost-effective, virtual program you will learn everything you need to better measure and communicate your impact.  Contact us today to schedule a call to explore if this is the best program for you and your organization.