Did you enjoy “tweeting” your last proposal? Here’s another one, based on a branding strategy that focuses on the compelling difference that separates your product from the herd.

Make no mistake. No matter how vital your social mission is, you are selling a brand. Called the Unique Point of Difference (UPOD) it hones your message down to its essentials. Here’s the formula as I learned it:

 for [target customer], [product] is the [unique selling point] that gives [tangible or emotional benefit]

First things first: target customer
Remember, you’re writing a grant proposal, so your target customer here is NOT either your actual or your desired butt-in-a-seat or individual donor. Your target customer here is the first reader of your proposal, and secondly the grants committee. Different parts of the proposal need to speak to different people, and each needs their own UPOD statement, so the first thing you have to do is find out how this works. Check the website and see if they publish their funding process. Call the foundation administrator (NOT the program officer, yet). Ask them– who reads the cover letter?  Does the full committee read the full proposal, or does staff present a digest? If staff presents a digest, for heaven’s sake, don’t let them write it for you– ask that staff person how you can help make that job easier for them (i.e., offer to write it).

Your cover letter, or proposal form,  needs to speak to that specific person in their role as gatekeeper of the foundation. The digest and/or full proposal needs to reach the full grants committee or senior staff person as your target customer. I once got long-shot funding because the organization I was writing for was located in the building where the foundation’s secretary had attended high school. I wrote that information into the letter, which spoke to her on an emotional level, and got a review I’d never have gotten otherwise.

So there’s step one– you’ve identified your target customer, sometimes by actual name.

What’s your product?
It’s a widget. It’s not a fancy widget. Or the best widget ever. Or a new kind of widget. Winnow this down to something immediately recognizable to the reader. You want them to say “I know what this is.” This is not the place to pique their interest. This is the place to make them feel comfortable and smart. You don’t want to them to think, geez, what the hell is that, either a. this agency is stuck up and impenetrable or b. I’m an idiot, or c. they think I’m an idiot. And since I know I’m not an idiot, that means A. or C. Trash pile. Done.

Why should I read about your widget?
I can hit Search and come up with a million widgets. What makes yours so special to me? The key words in the question are “to me.” The UPOD addresses a specific target customer, in this case the first reader as the representative of the foundation for the cover letter, and then the grants committee– remember you have two customers you’re trying to reach here, and they each need their own statement.  Here’s where you really need to understand what this foundation wants its impact to be. Read their website. Go over their grants list. Talk to other agencies that have received funding. Here’s where you say “my widget and ONLY my widget, accomplishes this thing that the foundation is looking for.”

What’s the benefit to me/my foundation.
This part is actually easy. Supporting your widget will allow the foundation to have the impact it needs. But put it in emotional terms. Plenty of room in the narrative to give specific objectives and actions. This, finally, is the place to tug the heartstrings.

You know, because you’ve done your training, that you can’t send out bulk proposals. Now you know why.

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