The Development Source
Most of us have trouble focusing our attention on anything for too long. We flit from topic to topic, idea to idea, task to task, person to person. It is difficult to quiet our minds and concentrate. You do not have to be a Buddhist to understand and appreciate this truism.
Grant proposal reviewers are no different. They have been put in an unenviable position – they are being asked to neglect and ignore their everyday responsibilities to concentrate on your proposal. Naturally, like you they will have trouble focusing. However, you can provide them with proposal content that encourages them to pay attention.
According to Scott Aughtmon of the Content Marketing Institute, you can take five steps to make your content more noticeable. Although he is not directly talking about grant proposals, his advice applies to them with some slight modifications.
Use intriguing and provocative subtitles
Proposal headings should follow the language of the Request for Proposals (RFP), no matter how stilted or awkward it may be. However, you are free to use your own subtitles. Find ways to use dramatic titles to attract attention.
Stories are one of the most successful and underused methods to engage reviewers. Too many proposals are dry and have no plot line. Tell the reviewers stories about your organization and your services, and you will help engage and persuade them.
Help reviewers find what is most important to them
Too many proposals have no hierarchy of content. Everything is accorded equal weight even though reviewers are quickly looking for things that are most relevant to them. Use subtitles, call-out boxes, good graphics, and other techniques to emphasize your most important points. Help reviewers understand your key themes by using the principles of good information design.
Use the power of surprise and the unexpected
Too many proposals are utterly predictable and utterly boring to read. These will not get reviewers’ attention. Provide reviewers with provocative questions and content that surprises and engages them.
Use the power of anticipation
We like good literature because it encourages us to anticipate what is about to occur. Good proposals are no different. They create suspense and anticipation, which helps reviewers stay engaged and focused. Treat your proposal like a good story with an exciting plot.
I am sure you can identify other techniques to get your content noticed. Our grant proposals face the same challenge – we want reviewers to pay close attention to us, but this is not realistic given the time constraints and pressures that reviewers face. Consequently, we need to find ways to make our content interesting and engaging. If you cannot do this, reviewers are not likely to pay much attention to your proposal.