There is always more to learn about how to research and find the best grant opportunities and funders for your nonprofit organization. But what happens when it’s time to talk to that potential funder? What do you say?

Nonprofits Should Ask For a Grant In 20 seconds

How do you get their attention and fuel their curiosity? How can you talk about your nonprofit without overwhelming them with details?

The competition for grant funding is fierce

Funders and donors are deluged with grant requests. For example, the Ford Foundation only funds 1-3% of all grant applications received and they are not alone. Grants from U.S.  government agencies often only fund the top scoring 1-5% of all grant applications that are received. With such stiff competition, not only is an excellent grant proposal and air-tight project budget essential, you also need to stand out in other ways. That is why at Grants4Good we’ve created a self-paced online course to help nonprofits really stand out.

How to make your nonprofit stand out

One critical way to stand out from thousands of applicants is by understanding the importance of contacting a funder BEFORE you apply. But how and what you say matters!

This article shows you how to give a funder a snapshot of the importance of your project in 20 seconds or less [and leave them wanting to know more]. To do this, consider developing a value proposition, which can also serve as your “elevator speech”.

Defining the Value Proposition of your nonprofit

The term “elevator speech” refers to the brief time you have to tell someone about your organization or program, grab their attention, and be memorable. This is essentially the time it takes to ride an elevator—about 30 seconds (but we are going to aim for 20 seconds or less). In business, a value proposition is defined as “a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives.” (Skok, M. Forbes; June 14, 2013).

Value Propositions for Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations face many of the same challenges as businesses, and can also benefit from a value proposition. This is especially important in grant development because nonprofits are essentially competing for funding. You need to stand out from the competition—that is, from the other organizations that are providing similar services to yours and possibly vying for the same grant dollars. The value proposition differentiates your nonprofit and helps you communicate clearly and succinctly to your potential funders and donors.

How to create a value proposition

To create a value proposition, fill in the blanks: We […or name of your organization] work with [insert your target audience] to [insert what you do] as needed to achieve [insert your key outcome/impact].

There are many online templates available that can help you create a strong value proposition. The following is one that I recommend, as it directly relates to grant development. While it was created for business, it can also be adapted for the nonprofit sector.

The items in parentheses parallel the requirements typically found in a grant proposal:

  1. Highlight the enormity of the problem you are tackling. (Needs Statement)
  2. Tell the audience upfront what your company sells. (Organization Description)
  3. Distill the differentiation down to one, easy-to-comprehend sentence. (Unique)
  4. Establish credibility by sharing the pedigree of the entrepreneurs, customers, or investors. (Past Accomplishments).

Note: If your nonprofit or program is new, you can establish credibility by drawing on the success or impact of similar programs in other locations, and/or highlight your great leadership/team.

Sample of a Value Proposition

“One person dies of melanoma every 62 minutes. We offer a dermatoscope app for iPhone that enables people to easily diagnose their skin, leveraging patented pattern recognition technology trusted by the World Health Organization.” (7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work”, Lingo Labs, November 29, 2011).

Develop a Value Propositions for Your Nonprofit

Value propositions are extremely helpful in differentiating ourselves, as well as the nonprofits we work for. NOW is a good time to craft your value proposition to create that strong first impression! It will go a long way toward connecting meaningfully with others, including the funders with whom you hope to partner. And after that…funders may be asking or inviting you to apply! To learn how to find the best funders and develop inning grant proposals, check out our self-paced online course:

About the author Margit Brazda Poirier, Grants4Good LLC

Nonprofit grants

Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. is the Owner and CEO of Grants4Good LLC, a grant consulting company that specializes in online training and grant strategy. and

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