Grant Writing Tip: Make It Reader-Friendly

I sing in a women’s barbershop chorus. Whenever we adjust how we’re singing to fix a problem and hear an immediate improvement, our director shakes his head and asks, “Why would you do it any other way?”  Well, grant writing is a little like that.  If the proposal is difficult to read, you need to fine-tune the formatting to make it reader-friendly.

By the Book

Many grantmakers use screen-out criteria to narrow the field of applicants before the grant reviewers ever read a single word. The most common reasons grant applications are rejected include exceeding the page limit, narrowing the margins, and using the wrong font size.

If the grant instructions indicate how the proposal should be formatted, you’re responsible for adhering to those requirements—no exceptions.  If you choose to use .75-inch margins to squeeze in a few more words on the page instead of the required 1-inch margins, you risk your proposal getting screened out for non-compliance.

Although you can’t guarantee that your proposal will get funded, you can insure that the time you invest in writing it isn’t wasted because you used Arial instead of Times New Roman.  If you’re not a detail-oriented person, then recruit someone to read the instructions and make sure your proposal meets all the requirements.

Make It Reader-Friendly

Some grantmakers don’t provide formatting instructions.  Woo-hoo, right?  The lack of guidelines certainly opens the door for a more creative layout.  Just be sure to keep the grant reviewers in mind.  Your grant proposal may be one of a dozen that the grant reviewers will read and score that day.

These are the reader-friendly options I use when the grantmaker has no formatting requirements:

  • Times New Roman 11- or 12-point font
  • 1-inch margins with a ragged right margin
  • Double spacing
  • Headings and subheadings

I usually insert the organizational name and project title in the footer along with the page number.  If the proposal exceeds ten pages, I provide a table of contents.

It’s Your Choice

You can’t guarantee the outcome, but you can definitely increase your chances that your grant proposal will at least get read.  It’s your choice.  Follow the grant guidelines exactly and completely. And in the absence of formatting instructions, choose reader-friendly options.  So, I ask you, why would you do it any other way?

FYI, I sing in the Sound Celebration Chorus, an award-winning women’s barbershop group.  Wish us luck – we’re performing at our regional competition on April 2.

And check out my next blog post for tips about using charts, tables, and graphs to organize information, support your points, and create visual interest for the grant reviewer.