Grant applications are increasingly rigid in format, leaving little room for creativity. Or are they? There are several places where you can inject some storytelling into your application, particularly if you have moving examples of the clients you serve or the impact you make.
The statement of need or organizational background is a good place to tell a story using a “bookend” technique. That is, you open with the beginning of the story, move to the organization content, and then wrap up with the conclusion of your story. Here’s one example of a grant application I submitted for an agency that treats women suffering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs:
Statement of Need
By her own account, Beth was a “normal” professional woman. She had a thriving career in international marketing, but she also harbored a dark secret—addiction. It started with taking extra migraine pills, which made her “feel great.” Soon, she spiraled out of control, abusing different prescription medications. “The doctors gave me what I wanted because I looked like a normal business woman,” she says, “One even gave me a prescription for morphine pills.” When the doctors finally curtailed her prescriptions, Beth turned to alcohol, which was easily available.
Beth’s story is all too common in our communities. Addiction affects two out of three families at all income levels, all ages, all religions, and all races. The national statistics on addiction involving women and children are startling….
The section continued with statistics and background on addiction in the US and in the local community and then concluded with the organization’s approach to treatment and evidence of success:
The good news is that treatment works – treatment that reflects women’s lives works better. Effective treatment must address the individual’s drug use and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems…[Organization] treats the whole woman while combining our philosophy or empowerment with the philosophies of 12-Step programs.
After multiple courses of treatment, Beth is now sober, the proud mother of a high school senior, and a popular volunteer at [organization]. She is proof that treatment works, and she takes daily walks with women at [organization] as they travel their own path to recovery. “I tell the residents to take one day at a time and it will get better. It did for me.”
There are a few caveats to storytelling within an application:
- Keep your story brief. Don’t let the reviewer wonder, “Are they ever going to answer the question?”
- Tie the story directly to the section. Don’t make the reviewer try to determine why you’re telling the story.
You’re doing good work and the world needs to know. Rather than just checking off the boxes for all information required, take a moment to see if your application truly tells the story of the lives you touch.