Once Upon a Time…How Storytelling Can Help You Make a Persuasive Argument By Maryam Gilmore, JD

Many funders see far more applications each funding cycle than their dollars can feasibly reach, forcing them to give careful consideration to how they wish to accomplish their respective missions. Even if your organization is doing amazing, life-changing things for the population it serves, if you fail to articulate those amazing things in a way that convinces the holder of funds to invest in you, you could be missing out on funding.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we grant writers have within our particular set of skills. It’s one of the oldest means by which humans have conveyed messages because it’s practical and, when done correctly, can leave a lasting impression. But for a grant writer, you also need to induce your funder to take action: specifically, the action of cutting a check to your agency. Let’s explore some key strategies that can help make that happen.

  • Good vs. evil. Not literally of course, metaphorically. If you’re writing about your plastics recycling agency, TooLegit2Quit, the evil might be greenhouse gas emissions and your good is the act of recycling which helps reduce the need for activities that lead to excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Conflict resolution. The work your agency does is wonderful for the population you serve, so use your narrative to show how your agency is resolving the issue(s) at hand. In the case of our plastics recycling example, perhaps TooLegit2Quit recycles plastics in a highly cost-efficient manner by using an evidence-based method.
  • Stay relevant. If you’re including details that fail to move your narrative along or add clarity, omit them. As awesome as your love of Boston Terriers is, this detail does not likely fit into your agency’s plastics recycling project.
  • Get on their level. Speak using language that an average person would understand. This may be more complex when you’re dealing with technical subject matter but when appropriate, break it down into plain language so your reader can really grasp what you’re saying.
  • Make it relatable. Use your spacing restraints wisely through carefully crafted prose so your reader can easily ascertain the connection between the goal your funder seeks to accomplish and how your agency can help them accomplish it. These are things like how your program/project resonates with the funder’s goals, strategies, and/or mission and what the direct result would be if they fund you: the impact on the population served and, if appropriate, the community or world.
  • Cover your bases. Your narrative should be multi-faceted (e.g. analytical, emotional, data-based, etc.) to increase the likelihood of creating a connection with your funder. The way you position your program/project/organization to prospective funders can be the difference between an award or a denial.
  • Show them what you’ve got. Your agency’s uniqueness is part of what sets it apart from others. If TooLegit2Quit is the oldest operating recycling center in town or has other awe-inspiring distinctions worth noting, mention it.
  • The power of confidence shall compel them. Confidently, and always ethically, use your narrative to position the funder to see the world through the eyes of the population you serve Since your funder sees hundreds of proposals each year, it’s critical that your compelling proposal sets you apart from the rest of the applicant pool.

GPC Competency 9: Ability to write a convincing case for funding; Skill 1: Make a persuasive argument.