July 6, 2009

Too Detached from Your Attachments? Support Documents that Make Your Agency Shine

All too often proposal attachments are a last-minute afterthought; however, they have the potential to push your request into the “accepted” pile and they are often a good way to demonstrate your agency’s strengths. In this article we explore ways to enhance resumes/bios, organization budgets, and annual reports.

Much like sending out resumes during a job search, you leave a better impression from submitting an informed, thoughtful, and customized package. When we’re looking to get hired, most of us know better than to Xerox an all-purpose resume and spam corporate mailboxes. In a sense, when submitting a grant proposal, you are asking a funder to “hire” your agency.

The standard attachments listed below are just a piece of the grant seeking proposal and warrant thorough examination before submittal.

Resumes and Biographies
For resumes and bios think about the usual advice for resume writing: address the interest areas of the recipient, format and organize in a way that best reflects this information, and include specific accomplishments. Functional format resumes and curriculum vitae (used primarily when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions or grants) often work better than chronological formats. Seek to exhibit mastery of needed skills for each person who will be filling a role in the grant proposal, such as oversight of major grants, meeting reporting requirements, planning and launching programs, and forming collaborations. Jettison information that is not relevant to the case you are making, such as unrelated past job history.

Organization Budgets
When you have the ability to submit your organization budget in your own format, use this opportunity to best reflect your work. While your internal working budget may be organized by department or major category, your attachment budget can be organized by your work.  For instance, if you were reviewing proposals for programs serving the homeless, which of the three budgets below would look best?


Personnel Expenses: $500,000

Facility Expenses: $100,000

Supplies: $200,000

Postage and Printing: $40,000

Professional Services: $95,000

Utilities: $65,000

Total: $1,000,000


Administration: $150,000

Shelter: $250,000

Medical: $200,000

Education: $75,000

Maintenance & Transportation: $175,000

Food Services: $150,000

Total: $1,000,000


Feed the Hungry Lunch Program: $170,000

Workforce Education: $50,000

Homeless Safe Shelter Program: $270,000

Streets to Shelter Van Transportation: $160,000

Free Community Clinic: $300,000

Overhead Expenses: $50,000

Total: $1,000,000

The budgets above all exhibit the expenses for the same organization, just organized differently. As you can see, the closer you get to describing the effect of dollars on your community (and spreading administrative and general costs across the programs they flow to), the better the impression. The last budget would be even better with the addition of numbers served via the programs. Your accountant can help you re-categorize expenses to better reflect your efforts to help the community.

Annual Reports

An annual report isn’t something that you customize for each grant; however, thinking about funders when report time rolls around is helpful in determining content. Look to communicate heart and passion (stories and photos are great for this), recognition of what sponsors and funders have allowed you to do, efficient use of funds and responsible financial stewardship, the ability to leverage resources (in-kind, volunteers, collaborations), a strong return on investment to the community, growth and development towards program and organizational goals, and knowledge about your service area and the challenges you’re working to address. If your agency tends to approach a certain type of funder like government agencies or local family foundations consider their style when determining the report’s tone, formality, and design aesthetics. You might wear a conservative suit to an interview with a national insurance agency but would risk coming off as stuffy if interviewing with a hip, local advertising firm – where a bright dress shirt and a Mac-toting messenger bag may fit better.

While your first priority should be a solid proposal narrative, quality attachments can provide powerful support to your request and are a chance to include information that may not have fit into the main document. Ask yourself, in each case, how a particular document can reinforce your case, demonstrate your soundness as an “investment,” and connect with the people sitting at the review table. And one final tip: whether it’s numbers, staff titles, or other information, make sure your attachments are up to date and don’t contradict the narrative or other enclosed documents.

Just as much as a good beginning makes a good ending, a good ending can make or break your proposal!

Contact: Aly Sanchez, Director of Organizational Strategy and Learning, aly@thegrantplantnm.com

This post was filed under: