For the first three months of every year, World of Children issues a call for Nominations from around the world. Each year, we are truly inspired as we review submitted Nominations about potential Honorees; these heroes are making a lasting impact in the lives of children around the world.
To help you write a stellar Nomination, we have compiled a list of 11 basic, tried and true tips for writing a successful grant application. While many of the points below relate specifically to the grants for our Awards, they can be applied in general to any grant application you may be submitting.
Terminology: In this post we use the words “Award,” “Nomination,” “Grant,” “Nomination Application,” and “Grant Application” interchangeably. That’s because (1) Our Awards are accompanied by a cash grant and (2) a person receives this grant, or Award, after being Nominated. Thus, the process for submitting an application for our Awards is called a “Nomination.”
1. Look at the qualifications. We see it time and time again — a person uses valuable time submitting a nomination for a person who was never qualified in the first place. Be sure to review our Award Requirements before beginning the Nomination process. In general, you should never take time applying for grants that your organization doesn’t qualify for. If the specific requirements for a grant aren’t listed, take a few minutes to write down a list of keywords from the grant description. For example, “high-visibility,” “short-term,” “education-based” or “local” might appear in the description. Make a check mark next to each word that your program qualifies for. If you haven’t checked all of the words on the list, it might be a good idea to look for other grant opportunities. If you do meet all of the criteria, be sure to weave those keywords into your application so reviewers can easily see that you would make a good fit.
2. Give Yourself Time. Many grant application periods, like ours, are often open over a long period of time. Nominations for our Awards are open for a full three months. However, don’t let procrastination get the best of you — don’t wait until the last minute to write and submit your application. Give yourself plenty of time to gather important material, think about your responses and have a co-worker or friend review your application.
3. Collaborate! Don’t try to submit an application by yourself; your application can only get better with another person’s point of view. Ask co-workers for suggestions or to proofread your answers. If you are submitting a Nomination for someone else, talk to your Nominee! We can’t stress this enough. It is virtually impossible to submit a quality Nomination application without talking to the Nominee. Ask them specific questions that will be helpful later. For example, What inspired them to start their organization? Why are they dedicated to helping children? What is their vision for the future?
4. Don’t Assume Anything. We read hundreds of Nomination applications each year. In any grant application, it’s never safe to assume that the reader knows about your organization, or why it’s important. Try to write from the point of view of someone who has never heard about you or your work. If you work in a remote area of the world, provide some cultural background to frame what you do. Clue your reader in to specific challenges facing the children you serve; then show how your work helps them overcome these challenges.
5. Show, Don’t Tell. Saying your Nominee and her organization is amazing is one thing. Giving compelling evidence is another. Offer up quotes of support, summarized case studies, links to media coverage and other endorsements. These are all excellent ways to sum up your organization’s successes and qualifications. Try highlighting your results with specific anecdotes that show how children’s lives have been changed because of your Nominee and his organization. If you feel like a particular question in the application process does not give you the space needed to provide enough detail or context, you can use the last section on page 4 of the application to share any additional thoughts and evidence to make your case.
6. Be Data Driven. In our written response questions, back up your answers with hard data and specific outcomes to show that your organization is dedicated to transparency and accountability. Highlighting specific examples of the real impact your Nominee has had on one child is much more compelling than speaking in generic terms. For example, “We housed and educated hundreds of children last year,” isn’t nearly as powerful as “13-year-old Lisa joined our education program illiterate, shy, and lacking basic needs such as clean clothes, food and shelter. We gave her a room and board, new clothes and three hot meals a day. We enrolled Lisa in our Math and English courses and began vocational training. Now, three years later, she excels in school and is preparing to be a dentist. 4,000 children like Lisa were similarly helped in 2014.”
7. Be Honest. When talking about your organization, never exaggerate! Finalists for our Awards are rigorously vetted and investigated, so overstated accomplishments are always unveiled.
8. Be Colorful! Most grant reviewers will evaluate hundreds — if not thousands — of grant applications this year. Our organization is no different. Be sure to paint a colorful picture that the reader will enjoy so your grant stands out as memorable, bold, and special. Use language that is reflective of the values and culture you work in. The application should be enjoyable and inspiring to read.
9. Choose Your Silver Bullet Wisely. Before you begin your application, write down the one thing you want your reviewers to know. This should be the “silver bullet” that makes your organization stand out from the crowd. Think about what makes your work unique: perhaps your founder underwent a major change in his or her life in order to serve children, or you have innovated a new method to solve a particular issue facing children. The last page in our application allows for you to express these attributes in paragraph text responses.
10. Edit, Edit, Edit. Don’t submit your Nomination before re-reading it more than a few times. Keep your answers succinct and to the point; and make sure you have included everything you want your reviewer to know about your Nominee.
11. Make a Copy. If possible, make sure you have a copy of your answers saved somewhere else before submitting your application. Some grant applications, like our Nominations, are submitted entirely online. Don’t make the mistake of entering your answers into the online form, only to have your browser crash before you can save it. Once you have completed your application, you can download a copy for your records before you submit it for review.
We hope these tips give you the tools you need to write a stellar Nomination and grant proposal. If you have any questions about your Nomination, please contact our office at [email protected]. Nominations for a 2015 Award are open until April 1, 2015.
We look forward to reading about your hero serving children. Good luck!