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4 lessons about grant applications from The Bachelor

February 23, 2022
This image depicts a young Black woman in casual clothes leaning against a multicolored wall with a phone in her hands.

In light of the hit reality TV series The Bachelor, we’ve been thinking a lot about the parallels between fundraising work and competing for love on TV. While we doubt the contestants of The Bachelor have much to do with your nonprofit’s purpose, there are a handful of wisdom diamonds to be found in the mine that is weeknight television. 

What is the best strategy to get noticed by the object of your funding affections, work effectively with peers, and cultivate resilience? Let’s dive in.

1. Communicate effectively in every proposal, whether it’s for a grant or for marriage.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, whether that’s stepping out of the night-one limo or writing out the first words of your cover letter, so make it count! Here are a few grant proposal tips to keep in mind:

  • Minimize jargon so the funder can easily interpret your proposal. 
  • Don’t send a proposal if a funder isn’t accepting new ones.
  • While you should keep the language accessible, avoid using clichés or erasing nuance to get the funder you’re courting on the same page as you.

Another strategy that can make your application stand out is your storytelling. Despite very different end goals, both nonprofits seeking a grant and Bachelor contestants competing for a date card are driven by compelling narratives. Circumstances will dictate whether that means sharing a difficult personal story for the first time as you compete for the Bachelor’s heart, or describing the hardships faced by the people your organization serves. 

To be holistically persuasive, appeal to both the ethical nature and logistical side of the Bachelor (or funder.) Tell your organization’s story in a compelling but practical way that proves you need funding and are prepared to use it well.

2. Do your research to prep yourself for meetings with producers (or program officers.)

The way you approach people doesn’t go unnoticed. Take advantage of making a positive impression during the grant application process by building relationships with program officers.

Program officers hold sway with the funder’s board and can put in a good word for you if you’re prepared for your meeting with them, show how their funding objectives fit in with your work, and demonstrate that you are responsible and organized. Enlist any help you can get in doing background research on the season’s Bachelor (or prospective funder,) and watch it pay off.

3. Be your best self with other contestants (or fellow nonprofits.)

Whether you’re in a grant desert and thirsting for funding or starved for attention from the season’s lead, you and your peer organizations need each other to survive. Other nonprofits will be valuable allies for you, whether they write letters of recommendation for your organization or serve as your fiscal sponsor. Other contestants aren’t your enemies. And you never know, someday you might find yourself doing sponsored content together on social media or partnering on an event.

You have a lot in common with your would-be competitors, so build healthy, positive relationships with one another, and don’t let anyone or anything pit you against one another.

4. Prepare for the worst, expect the best—and if you fail, try again later. 

If you compete for the final rose (or grant) and don’t win, make sure that you have a backup plan and are prepared to get to work on other grant applications or potentially dip into your reserves.

Being resilient is a crucial quality, whether you’re approaching a funder or #BachelorNation. Don’t write off reapplying to the same funder (or franchise) later on, either. If they have multiple deadlines per year, maybe you’ll have better luck Baywatch-running to the funding finish line across the Grant Proposals in Paradise beach!

Happy rose-hunting, and remember to incorporate these tips on your next grant application.

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