Making Grant Applications Visually Appealing
Some grant applications only allow for text and many of those grant applications have limits on how many characters you can use to get tell your story and share your vision. For those grant applications we want you to know two things today:
- We feel your pain.
- Be concise.
We want to talk about the grant applications where you have flexibility with your content. Of course, your first priority for grant application content is to follow the funders guidelines and requirements. Once you have covered those elements, it is time to look at formatting, graphics and pictures to bring life and readability to your narrative.
White Space is Your Friend
One key element that is often overlooked is white space. The use of white space improves readability for blog posts, magazine articles, and annual reports. Grant applications are similar to other informative content. We want to give the reviewer a path to follow and room to breath as they review our application. The absence of text and graphics plays a role in increasing comprehension of the content.
Becky Jascoviak shared this great point about white space on SmartEGrants
- Whitespace – This is the space around paragraphs, images, graphics, etc where the paper (or white space) shows through. White space allows your eyes to rest while still creating clearly defined sections of information. Whitespace will create easy-to-identify visual sections without the use of other design elements.
Key Format Elements to Improve Grant Design:
Consistent formatting gives the reader a clear path to absorb the content. Some grant developers use tools like Publisher or InDesign to format the look, feel and outline of their grant applications while others use formatting in Word to build their formatting structure. What ever you use for formatting the most important part to consider is consistency throughout your application and your communications.
- Headlines/Subheadings – A good rule of thumb to follow is to have headlines at 16-18 points, subheads 14 points and text at 12 point font. Note: Many grant makers require 12 point font and some grant makers require a specific font.
- Lists, Bullet Points – Grant writers are good at compiling compelling lists and clear bullet points to convey a project plan, process, impact and or partners
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Characters
Often, going beyond text and formatting and being able to add tables, graphs or pictures is not an option in our grant applications. However, when it is an option you should use that option to your advantage.
- Photos – Not all funders love pictures in grant applications, and most pictures won’t give your reviewer the type of information they need to score your grant application. Some great examples of when to use photos for your grants are:
- A food shelf needed to purchase a new freezer. A specific size and brand was needed to fit into the existing space. Otherwise, significant renovations would be needed to install other, less expensive models. A picture of the current space helped the grant maker understand the need for the new freezer and the more expensive model.
- A new delivery truck was needed for a program. A picture of the truck that showed the size, brand, etc. help provide the grant reviewers, especially those who were unfamiliar with truck sizes and brands, a clear idea about the size and scope of the project and the way the funds – and the truck – would impact the success of the project.
- Tables/Charts/Graphs – Tables can be used in so many creative ways. I have found that when data, demographics, and timelines need to be communicated a table can be a grant writers best friend. Sharing data in a table will, more often than not, take up much less space than trying to communicate the same data in a paragraph format. The same is true for charts and graphs.
- Other Visual Elements – Adding page headers and footers can give your reader a reminder of the project name and keep your full organization name in front of the reviewer. Often, due to page and character constraints, we use acronyms for our organizations or projects. Remember to include page numbers, too.
What are you doing to improve the readability of your grant applications? What tips and resources can you share with the community?
Speaking of sharing tips and resources, don’t forget to check out the #GrantChat Transcripts and Becky’s Fundable Fonts: From Word Count to Friendly Proposal Design on SmartEGrants