How would Robin Hood write a grant proposal?

I recently read Katya Andresen's book Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes. Ms. Andresen is a thought-leader in the nonprofit scene -- you can learn so, so much by following Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog.

Robin Hood Marketing is about "approaching social good with a marketing mentality borrowed from the business world."

This book has a lot to offer for those of us who are looking for new ways to engage grantmakers.

Are you ready for some great ideas inspired by the story of Robin Hood?

  • "In thinking about partners, instead of asking who is like us, ask who wins when we win. Look for partners with a compatible agenda with respect for our audience." -- Chapter 5, "Building a Merry Band: Partnering Around Mutual Benefits"
  • "The closer we align with our audiences' values, the higher our chances of motivating them to take action." -- Chapter 2, "Robin Hood Reconnaissance: Appeal to Your Audiences' Values, Not Your Own"
  • "It is the reward, and not our own mission, that most effectively makes the case to our audience to take action." -- Chapter 6, "The Heart of the Good Archer's Arrow: Put the Case First and the Cause Second"

So how would Robin Hood put these principles to work in developing grant applications?

Let's pretend that Robin Hood had the patience for grant proposals, along with a subscription to Foundation Directory Online, a decent computer and a large supply of fair-trade coffee to keep him alert.

These are two things that I think he would do:

1) When Robin Hood went prospecting for potential new grant funders, he wouldn't rule out the foundations that may seem on the surface to have little in common with his nonprofit. He would dig deeper, looking at the organizations they fund and their true motivations for giving, rather than just at their board list, location or assets. 

For example, a foundation may have been founded by a Jewish family with the primary purpose of supporting Jewish causes, but it will still fund a Catholic social service organization -- because both entities care about helping vulnerable immigrants.

2) Robin Hood wouldn't open his grant proposal with the sentence, "Founded in 1392, the Friends of the Sherwood Forest has the mission of robbing from the rich in order to promote yeoman empowerment and foster well-being of the poor." This is a snooze fest! Yes, your proposals must include clear information about what your organization aims to do and how long it has been in operation, but you should engage the funder by starting the proposal with a concept or vignette that resonates directly with them.

The first sentences of your proposal set the tone for the whole document. Is your organization donor-centric -- is it able to step back from its own identity to connect with and truly engage its supporters? Or is it so obsessed with itself and its needs that it doesn't understand that donors care more about impacts than organizations?

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Grantwriting business coach Betsy Baker recommended Robin Hood Marketing to me. If you're interested in learning more about grantwriting to help your nonprofit succeed, or if you want to strike out on your own as a grantwriting consultant, check out Betsy's teaching tools, including her blog!

Nonprofits usually treat marketing and fundraising as separate efforts, and Robin Hood Marketing is not a primer on working with donors. Principles explained in the book mainly apply to reaching a nonprofit's target audience -- its clients -- in ways that will resonate with them. As a former journalist, the author also explains how to work with the media in her "Robin Hood Media Savvy" chapter.

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What about you? Do you have a grantwriting alter ego such as Robin Hood? Tell us about it in the comments!