By Erin Weldon
Your description of the program should follow from the content of the needs section. Your funder has just been convinced of a pressing need and believes something must be done about that problem. The goal of the program description is to convince that reader that you have the solution to that problem. Think of the Program Description as answering the question “What is your organization doing to meet these needs?”
Here are a couple of tips as you go about answering that question:
Don't expect funders to give the benefit of the doubt. You have to prove your case through concrete details about your program offerings. Don’t rely on adjectives to do your work for you!
- Don’t write: Excellent educators will provide great lessons for students who usually don’t do well.
- Instead, write: ABC program will hire a team of highly-qualified educators, with over 2 years of classroom experience and a track record of above-average student scores. Lessons will be developed from the state standard using the nationally-recognized backwards planning process, which research has shown is linked to higher student outcomes (Cite). ABC program focuses on students with a history of low academic achievement; in 2012, our average entering freshman was 3 years below grade level in reading and writing skills.
Know your funder and tailor your proposal to them. Consider their knowledge base and familiarity with your sector. If you are seeking funding from the state Department of Education—the same folks who develop the state standards for your education program—they don’t need a detailed explanation of those standards. If you are seeking funding from the Smith Family Foundation which funds a variety of initiatives benefiting children, give them an explanation. Also consider their area of interest. Do most of their grants benefit students of color? Provide information on your student demographics.
For example, the guidelines might say: “Provide a brief description of the qualifications of the program leader.” But this is a pilot program to be launched later, and you haven’t selected a leader yet. You might be tempted to skip this question. Instead, explain why you don’t have an answer, Provide a brief description of agency leadership, and explain why you don’t have a program leader yet. For example:
- As ABC program will not be launched until March 2013, program staff have not yet been hired. Application requirements for the program leader include 5+ years of classroom experiencing, a history of producing high student outcomes (top 90% of cohort), significant leadership experience, and a passion for closing the achievement gap. ABC Program Leader will be supervised by Director of Education Joe Smith, who has 20 years of experience in education reform and received the 2012 Excellence Award from XYZ.
This is the third in an eight-part series on grant writing from Aril Consulting.