The Development Source
Competitive grant proposals have a balance of features and benefits. Features are the details of your program or services. They answer the big question: what?
Benefits are oriented around your customer and explain the value of your program, or services. They answer the big question: so what?
Too many grant proposals are strong on features and weak on benefits. You must put your benefits front and center in your narrative or else reviewers will not understand the value of what you propose to do. As Gregory W. Pease, a Managing Partner of Tenzing Consulting, points out, there are techniques you can use in proposal development to make your proposals strong on the benefits side. Although his recommendations are directed at companies, they apply to nonprofit organizations too.
Here are four techniques that Pease recommends.
Train and communicate benefits
Most grant proposal efforts begin with a kick-off meeting and a training/orientation session for team members. Provide training that does the following:
Design benefits into the first draft
Too many grant proposal efforts begin and end with features. Identify your benefits at the beginning of the development process and help the team incorporate them into the proposal narrative. Use your reviews to add benefits to the narrative. As you develop your proposal, benefits should become more prominent in your prose. If they do not, your proposal is not likely to be competitive.
Start with benefits
Answer the So What? question early. The Executive Summary or Introduction should emphasize your benefits. Proposal sections should include the benefit or benefits in the first paragraph. Use the benefits to organize your prose.
Assign someone to plug the benefits
Too many proposal teams get enveloped in the details and lose sight of the importance of benefits. On your team, assign someone to help the team incorporate benefits into the proposal. They should keep incessantly asking two questions: (1) so what?; and (2) how will this benefit the funder?
Think about benefits early and often and incorporate them into your proposal from the kick-off meeting onward. The result will be a customer-oriented and more competitive proposal.