Aaaah innovation! How I am coming to detest that word.
Ok, I don’t really detest innovation. But the language of innovation has been a fad in recent years, and yes, fundraising has fads, mostly involving the use of language and metrics, not colours or fabric prints.
The innovation trend has been of particular importance to Tiny Frog Strategies because we’ve been grant writing and innovation often shows up in grant writing as a desirable state of being.
Did you know that Tiny Frog Strategies writes grants? Well, it turns out we do, and we’re not too bad at it either – over half a million dollars raised in the last year.
The thing about innovation is that it is always desirable and not always well-defined. However, in the particular grant I’m working on right now, the funder is very specific in their definition of innovation, and I think that might be worse! It’s like taking a test in school without the benefit of attending a lecture.
All right, no matter what the trends are, grant writing isn’t going to go away any time soon for most fundraisers. Here are some fundamental things to keep in mind when you want to write the most “innovative” grant proposals:
Use the language of your audience (usually your funders).
Be aware, this is a lot of work – first you have to understand it, and then you have to fit your work into their boxes in a way that makes sense. In a sense this is a translation project – helping someone from another context or situation understand what your organization does in their own words .
Use concrete examples alongside theoretical language.
This is also hard to do, especially since there are usually limitations on word count, but it is important. Concrete examples, such as a client story, quotations from the relevant staff or technical details, help flesh out an understanding of what innovation looks like at your organization. Finding these examples is easier if the grant writer speaks directly to the staff that would carry out the programing if and when funding is granted.
Don’t forget to explain the problem or challenge your grant request will address.
I find that it feels awkward to write about the rough times. As a fundraiser, I’ve been trained to put an upbeat spin on things and to emphasize what is working (or maybe this is just my own natural optimism shining through). But what is working doesn’t matter if the funder doesn’t understand the problem. After all, this is an ask, so be realistic but detailed about the challenges your organization faces.
Grant writing is hard work. If you need a hand, let us know.