Successful Bid-writing: The Power of Words

Ah, the power of words.  I was running a course on tendering for local authority contracts in Devon a couple of months ago, and on the evaluation forms one participant wrote “I never realised that the WORDS mattered so much.”  It raised a wry grin from me … well actually I had to supress a bit of a laugh.  Just what else do we have to persuade a funder to give us money?  Videos, slideshows, photo-montages are all well and good but I’m yet to find a charitable trust or foundation that doesn’t still want something written down!

Even in tendering, the Local Authority putting out the tender will announce the weighting they have put on the costings versus the written proposal.  Normally in care services it’s about 60:40 in favour of quality (ie the written part of the submission).  In fact this tender in Devon was for care, but was on a 50:50 weighting.  So once you’ve done the budget and have come up with the correct PRICE for your service (ie cost plus surplus), there is probably little you can do to change that.  Whereas the WORDS you use can make a big difference.

Let me tell you about Top Tweeter Andrew Knowles.  He tweets as @andrew_writer and is well worth following for marketing tips, writing tips, and indeed tweeting tips!  My reason for mentioning Andrew is that he writes for a living.  He writes press releases, leaflets, letters, tweets, Facebook updates for businesses, perhaps even fundraising applications.  He’s also a BT Storyteller for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.  And on average, Andrew re-drafts a 140-character tweet four or five times.  Because he’s a pro.  So why might we dash off a quick funding bid on the afternoon of the deadline, press “Send”, and then wonder why it didn’t get the money?  Andrew, his professionalism, his concentration on detail and on crafting every word to be the most effective, could be what we’re up against.  Follow him on Twitter for a regular reminder that we can’t be slapdash in writing funding bids.

I also want to tell you about another writer, a Bournemouth-based fundraising copywriter called Nicole Schmidt.  Like Andrew and all good bloggers / networkers, Nicole gives away her tips – take a look at www.copyphilanthropy.com to read her take on why words matter.  Nicole spoke this week to the Dorset Fundraisers’ Network, and probably her biggest tip was “Show, don’t tell.”  Don’t TELL a funder what your organisation does / will do with the grant – SHOW them.  Introduce them to a person, show them inside that person’s life, show them the impact of your organisation’s work.  She also highlighted the difference between an organisation-centred line – “We’re protecting endangered species …..” and a donor-centred line – “By adopting an animal YOU can help protect endangered species …..”

If you were going to learn a foreign language, or learn to drive, you’d know you had to go and get some help, maybe take a course of lessons.  But because we can all write , we all think we can write!  We’ve all been writing since an early age, as in forming words and sentences – but we can still learn from the professionals.  I particularly wanted to introduce you to these two consummate professionals this time, and I hope you’ll explore Nicole’s and Andrew’s work to pick up some ideas.

©  Tamara Essex 2011

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2 Comments on “Successful Bid-writing: The Power of Words”


  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much. You have a great blog here.

    Love writing? We would love for you to join us!

    Writers Wanted

  2. Nicole Says:

    Happy New Year, Tamara! And thanks for being a words evangelist:-) I’m often amazed that the power of words needs to be justified at all. But, hey, I suppose I’m a bit biased.


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