For public museums, few funding sources are more daunting, confusing and time consuming than the Request For Proposal, or RFP. We’ve responded to our share of RFPs in our day, and yeah, they can be challenging. But as much as we’d rather curl up in bed and disappear into the latest Westworld episode whenever RFPs come up, many museums, nonprofits and other state-funded entities can’t shy away from this valuable funding opportunity.
So, if we must RFP, we may as well find a few ways to hack the process to take away the most painful and soul-sucking parts. With that in mind, let’s dive into six ways you can create a compelling grant proposal and boost your chances of securing some much needed funding.
Six tips to writing better grant proposals
1. Identify and leverage what you have to offer
This might seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to take stock of the assets at your disposal, and identify what you have to offer that sets you apart from other grant-seeking organizations. It is also important to not just focus on the what (the features of your museum, e.g. actual exhibits, outreach programs, or subject matter experts), but also the why (the benefits you provide to visitors, like preserving an important artifact or boosting awareness of an important issue) when writing your proposal. Always be sure to highlight the difference your organization makes and how the grant you’re proposing will support that initiative.
2. Data is your friend
If you have facts to support your claim, always always always include them. Studies from reputable sources, scholarly articles, survey data and expert testimony can be invaluable resources in making and supporting your argument. This creates a sense of credibility; it shows the RFP holder that you know what you’re talking about, and–equally important–that you’ve taken the time to think things through and support your argument.
Remember in math class when teachers would always ask you to show your work? It’s like that, only real life. And now you can use a calculator whenever you want. Author’s note: take that Mrs. Swanson.
Thankfully, there are tools available to make this process less taxing. For example, Flonomics’ is a business intelligence tool that analyses visitor traffic and houses all your data in one place. Perfect for museums looking at the number of people reached and which exhibits were most popular. The perfect data to include your proposal to show how many people your establishment has served.
3. Answer all the questions. Even the redundant ones.
RFPs will often contain multiple questions that ask for similar pieces of information, and you’ll likely find that answers overlap from question to question. In order to save space and time, it might be tempting to avoid re-stating points made in previous responses. Yes, we’ve been there too, but hold it right there!
As unnecessary or frustrating as it may seem, you need to offer a thorough, complete answer to each question, even if it means re-stating a point you’ve previously made. The reason: many organizations score each RFP question independently. So in order to maximize your potential score, make sure to thoroughly answer each and every question.
4. Talk the talk before you walk the walk
Ever heard of behavior mirroring? This psychological concept is generally known to create a positive first impression between individuals in social situations. Basically, when interacting with others, people will often mimic or mirror the behaviors of others (posture, gestures, vocal tone and pitch, etc.) Most of this happens subconsciously, and results in a positive impression on the person who is being mirrored.
How does this apply to a museum grant RFP? It’s simple: terminology. For example, if a grant RFP provides for a Communities Engagement Assessment, make sure to use the exact term “Communities Engagement Assessment” throughout, wherever applicable. This shows that you’ve paid attention to detail, and that your priorities are aligned with whomever is providing the grant. Not to mention, using identical terms and will eliminate any possible confusion that may arise otherwise.
5. Pay attention to how proposals will be scored, and act accordingly
When responding to RFPs, it can be tempting to just sit down and start writing. After all, you’re busy and RFPs are t i m e c o n s u m i n g. But before you get started, make time to carefully read any available guidelines for how your response will be scored. If you don’t, you might miss out on valuable details that could make or break your proposal. And really, without taking this step, you might just be wasting your time.
6. Review and improve
After submitting an RFP, ask for your score! In most cases, RFP holders will gladly provide your score if you ask for it. So, whether or not you were awarded a grant, request and review your score to identify ways you can improve in the future. This will help you more likely to come out on top next time, if not the first time.
Contact our staff to learn more about our business intelligence tool and how it can help you write a better grant proposal. Having key data on-hand to support your RFP is extremely important as well as the five other tips covered in this article.