Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Writing well: Practice makes perfect



Author: Charlotte Francis


So you’ve done your research and identified a charitable foundation that is a great match for your organisation. You’ve called the funder and checked that your project is indeed a good fit, and you’ve been given the green light. These preliminary steps before you even think of putting pen to paper or hands to keyboard are vital and will increase your chances of success. But what about the writing itself?

• Always stay within the word count – if a funder asks you to describe the project in 100 words or less, they mean it! 
• Adhere to formatting guidelines and make it look professional 
• Make sure you answer the question clearly and concisely 
• If there is no set application form, break up your text into logical headings 
• Pay attention to grammar and spelling and keep your writing as simple as possible.Practice

Here’s how to avoid some of the most common stylistic and other errors:

Accommodation has two c’s and two m’s.

Alternative – there can only be one of these, not several. Anything else is an option.

Discreet means to be careful in one’s actions and choice of words but discrete means individually distinct. For example, ‘this is a discrete program in our Family Services portfolio’.

Avoid tangling with tautology! Tautology is the needless repetition of an idea using different words such as ‘necessary requirement’, ‘uniquely original’, ‘adequate enough.’ While we all use these for emphasis and as figures of speech, avoid these double-ups in your writing. For example, describing a new project as ‘ground-breaking, new and innovative’ would be over-kill. Less is more (especially with word limits)!

Make it active - The active voice, which is identified by a verb – ‘the manager wrote the acquittal report’ – is more powerful than the passive voice, which is often identified by a part of the verb to be combined with a past participle - ‘the acquittal report was written by the manager.’

Jargon, clichés and acronyms – avoid this pesky trio or risk confusing your reader!

Practice is a noun and practise is a verb - hence, one practises their grant writing skills, but it is practice which makes them perfect. Practice contains another noun ‘ice’ – that’s an easy way to remember which is which.

Verbs instead of nouns - wherever possible, use a verb – a doing word – instead of a noun as it will bring the sentence alive. Instead of saying, ‘the Council will allow for the provision of increased funding for schools,’ you would simply say, ‘the Council will provide increased funding for schools.’

W is for Waffle – avoid wordy phrases such as ‘At this point in time’, ‘Due to the fact that’ ‘It is important to note that’ ‘we are cognizant of the fact that.’ Keep it simple.

Always get a colleague or third party to proof-read your written application. Another pair of eyes is invaluable! Failing that, print it off and read it out aloud – that’s a sure fire way to spot any errors or inconsistencies.