Make a great first impression: get to the point

Posted on June 9, 2013


Imagine Chuck, a talented candidate about to interview for a job. He dresses in his best suit and arrives early.

The waiting room is overflowing with interviewees, and they’ve all come to impress with well-crafted pitches. The schedule moves quickly; each interview lasts ten minutes, tops. Then it’s Chuck’s turn.

“Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer prompts.

Chuck breaks into a broad grin and says, “On behalf of Chuck Smithton, I am pleased to be sitting in front of you for a job interview. Born in 1970, I lived in Dallas, Texas for the first eight years of my life with a passion for baseball cards…”

Sound silly? Unfortunately that’s how many grant requests begin.

A stronger introduction can set you apart

Much like a crowded waiting room, tall stacks of requests await review on a funder’s desk. She knows why they are all there. There’s no need for general introductions. And it’s not compelling to open with the year your organization was founded.

Instead, get to the point.

If Chuck had wisely used the first of his ten minutes, he would have started with something stronger, like this: “As a program analyst for your firm, I’d like to help you increase sales by 10% and reduce costs by 5%, which I achieved in my last job.”

A specific introduction will set Chuck apart from the dozens of candidates that begin their interview with bland, uninformative monologues. Similarly, a grant request can grab attention with a powerful opening — one that describes how this grant will advance missions at both organizations.

You’re writing for scanners

Chuck would have loved an hour or two to share all of his incredible qualities. But the interviewer can only afford ten precious minutes.

Grant reviewers often move at a similar pace. Savvy grantwriters hit the highlights early and make the request easy to scan. They quickly convey how their programs help fulfill the funder’s mission.

If you are interested in other suggestions on how to use that first line of your next grant request, view my earlier post: Lead with the right hook.