What’s Your Story?
August 22, 2021

Our task at Thomas P. Miller & Associates (TPMA) is to identify resources and put together competitive approaches to funding. Currently, the market is flooded with grant dollars—the federal government is releasing billions of dollars and foundations are offering more grant programs. This is where I should pitch you on how many millions we have won and how we can help you get the dollars you want. Instead of leading with that, I encourage you to consider your story.

Before any funding sources are targeted, the true strength lies in building out strategy with the end game in mind. We reverse engineer the step-by-step process to help our clients achieve great things for their communities. Market analysis is a key step in this process, but the most important goal is piecing together your story in a compelling way to achieve your goals. So, I ask you: What is your story? Can you explain it in under two minutes without a confused look from a colleague or stakeholder? Would you want to use your 401k to fund it?

If you can confidentially answer all three of the aforementioned questions, you don’t need a consultant and can write your own grant proposal. If not, then please read carefully the following seven tips.

1. Have a compelling story. Funders want to read something captivating that shows promise and provides solutions to identified problems. They can see past hastily put together frameworks and collaborations. They want to see the connections. Don’t be afraid to brag, but be genuine and conscientious. 

2. Read and understand the grant criteria. Most grant applications have criteria for scoring with points or percentage points assigned. Follow the rubric and make sure you are maximizing your project objectives to align with available points and allotted space in the application. For instance, if 10 points (out of 100) are assigned to the description of your region, your response is to be no more than 10% of the total page limit.

3. Avoid jargon and technical language. Don’t assume the acronyms you use every day will translate to a reviewer. There are common federal terms which are fine, but if there are local or organization-specific terminology, err on the side of caution and spell it out.

4. Include research and evidence. Best practices dictate that you should show proof of concept and demonstrate that you can achieve a tangible solution. Creativity plays a role, as a rural region in Texas is not the same as metropolitan Washington, DC, therefore applicable models need to be localized and linked to the authentic assets that exist in your region.

5. Develop a timeline. Your work plan should be aggressive and be prepared to commit to it. Any timeline will inevitably get moved back by a day or two, so imbed these days for cushion, avoiding a last-minute submittal.

6. Know the technology. Software and digital platform solutions can be an asset, but if your team is unfamiliar with available tech tools (i.e. grants.gov), this could be disastrous. Know the systems before you submit your grant. Speak with tech support sooner than later.

7. Avoid the fluff. Grants are not the venue for canned marketing materials. If you are attaching materials, follow the grant guidelines and make sure you have a connection from the narrative to the attachment before you hit “submit”.

If you do need assistance, we are here to help. We bring organizations together to build effective, impactful solutions. The majority of what we do is to coalesce your story for funders. We are available to talk through ideas and put you on path for success. Since 1989, we have secured over $300 million in grant funding from federal, state, and foundations, to support economic and workforce development [there, I added in our sales pitch]!

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Author Information:

Jonathan Faris

Director of Business Development

317-507-0189 | jfaris@TPMA-inc.com