[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]
Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:
7 Tips for Winning Proposals
- Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
- Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
- Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
- Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
- Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
- Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
- Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.