How to Tell a Story Effectively for a Powerful Grant Proposal
Another article, A Good Grant Proposal Tells a Story, describes the benefits of creating an interesting narrative in your grant proposal. Briefly, you get a grant more easily if your proposal tells a story. Most of us are not born storytellers, so we need to learn the elements of a good story, the order to present them, the purpose of each, and how to convey them all in the most effective way. All of this boosts your chances for your overall goal to get a grant.
Stories establish a relationship between the teller and the listener, and make your point really get heard. You can lay out facts and use statistics in your grant proposal and, while they help establish your credibility, they don’t create the connection that a story does.
As mentioned in A Good Grant Proposal Tells a Story, you are obligated to follow the funder’s guidelines and to be truthful in all that you write. With that in mind, though, you will be in a better position to get a grant if you follow these suggestions. Some of these guidelines were inspired by ideas from Mike Bosworth.
First, decide what the main idea is that you want the reader to get from the story that you tell in your grant proposal. You can add descriptive or colorful details, but everything should support what you want the takeaway to be.
Also, be sure to describe your goals, your obstacles, and the desired outcome. Similar to the plot in a story, there will be a problem, some actions taken to get past the problem, then a resolution. These are necessary elements in a proposal, or else the funder won’t quite understand why you should get a grant.
Next, choose the ending or climax ahead of time. That way, all that leads up to it will be relevant and interesting, and you’ll avoid side stories and rambling. Of course, the conclusion or the most interesting part will strongly support the main point that you want your reader to take away from your story. Usually, your main point will be why you should get a grant.
Describe the decision that made you want to strive for the desired outcome. This is not the same as the turning point of the story; it what propels the initial action. It tells the reader why you are motivated and causes them to also care about the resolution to your story.
Also, when you begin your narrative, start with who, where, when, and a hint of direction. During the time that the reader is trying to figure out where you’re headed and get some context, your message is not getting through very well. You’ll start by mention a person (or a group of people), usually either yourself or the ones who will benefit when you get a grant. Then mention where things are going to happen. That’s especially important when funders target a specific area (make sure it’s in their accepted geographic boundaries, or you won’t get a grant). Also, when you orient the reader to the timeframe, you’ll usually contrast “now” versus “then” or “later”, you’ll set the stage for a change that’s going to be happening.
You can add interest by using effective details. It puts your reader into your story and helps form a mental image. But think of it like using spices to season a dish. A little sprinkling, done right, makes it tasty. Too much, and it overwhelms and ruins it.
Then finally, provide the ending and again highlight the takeaway. Make sure your point came across, but use a little finesse. Tie your story and your takeaway together without repetition and without talking down to your reader. Concluding by summarizing what happened and why it’s important will help you get a grant.
Telling a story creates a connection between you and the person reading your grant proposal. Telling it effectively and memorably leaves an impression, makes your point strongly, and, most importantly, helps you get a grant.