Saturday, May 1, 2010

Grants Are Like Box Lunches

Have you ever received a box lunch at a conference? You file past tables stacked with boxes and with signs like “Ham and Cheese,” “Turkey,” or “Vegetarian.” You choose a box, a drink from an ice-filled tub, and then grab some plastic utensils and a napkin. It’s like a picnic for thousands of people.

I like box lunches because they’re like opening a present. Plus, I like to eat, and I especially like to eat things prepared for me by someone else. A box lunch usually has a sandwich, a salad like macaroni or potato, a treat like a cookie in a wrapper, maybe some kind of chips or other, and if you’re lucky you even get a pickle. Box lunches are good fun.

Grants are like box lunches because the funder gives you an empty box (RFP instructions) and you get to fill it with tasty goodies and hope someone chooses it off the table and wants to eat it. If you want your grant to be delectable, do the following things:
  1. Be sure to communicate what’s in the box effectively. Be creative and upbeat but use concise language. Don’t say “pig parts and coagulated milk” when you mean “ham and cheese.” That’s unappetizing writing.
  2. Be organized and complete. Give the readers everything they need from napkins to a fork for their potato salad. If it’s too hard to eat it, it won’t get eaten.
  3. Be sure you use the best ingredients, including a quality program with lots of specific details, a budget the reflects your program, and an evaluation that will ensure results are measured. You don’t want to say you’re selling turkey sandwiches and then have no turkey between the bread.
The key is to fill your grant with things that the funder is hungry to see in it. If they’re looking for a ham and cheese, don’t give them a turkey or a vegetarian or they will probably wind up throwing it away uneaten.

In order to build a grant that readers will want to eat, be sure to read the rfp and fill the box with what the hungry lunch crowd wants to eat. Give them a pickle and a cookie, and they’ll eat your grant up.


This post was written by non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link.

Related Posts:

Some Grants Are Like Peanut Butter

Grants Are Like Donuts

Grants Are Like Sausage

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Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.