[MUSIC] Regardless of the audience or format, the principles of proposal writing are the same. First, know your donor. Be thorough in your research and clear in your presentation. To demonstrate that you know what the donor's priorities are and how these align with your institution. Proposals have been known to fail even after being invited, because the proposal writer did not acknowledge a spouse or a partner, or address the proposal to a spouse who is deceased. Or omitted the fact that a child was an alumn, or forgot to thank the donors for the recent $100,000 that they had given less than a year before. Perhaps they neglected to express gratitude for their years of volunteer service. All these details should be available in your donor database. Use what you know about the donor to craft your document, including making decisions on content. How much background knowledge of your project or initiative does this person really have or need? As well as on your style. What tone or level of formality, vocabulary, or sentence complexity should you be using, based on your knowledge of your donor? Secondly, know your organization and your program. I am always surprised by the number of major gift officers who really don't know the program or the work of the organization they represent. Since the fundraiser is the sales force of the organization and does not provide any of the deliverables we promise to our donors. It is vital to the success, both of our written proposals and our asks that you understand the following. The first is to understand your organization's budget. I strongly urge you to spend some time with your top finance person to gain a clear understanding of the organization's budget. Do you have any idea what the total expense number is? Do you know what the total revenue number is? And what the major categories of expense and revenue for your organization are? If the answer to those questions is no, make certain that you can find those answers from someone in your finance organization. Secondly, understand the details of the budget for your specific project request. Find that number and then understand how it breaks down into every program category, or any subcategories below that. Third, start digging into how each program within your organization works. This is about understanding the need that is being addressed, how the need is being met and who is helped. If you don't understand this, how are you going to explain it to a donor? Yes, this does mean that you will have to read program plans and actually visit program sites. And it does mean that this will take time, quite a bit of time, in fact. When a new major gift fundraiser starts, it's good to spend a significant amount of his or her time engaged in this activity alone. Why you might ask? Because the fundraiser needs to know the product to be effective. But this part is the intellectual side of program knowledge. You also need to get into the emotional side of program content. No matter what the program is, either helping people, the environment, animals, whatever the cause, you need to be emotionally connected to it. So if your organization is helping the homeless, spend time with a homeless person and let that experience shape your understanding. If you're helping animals, get into their world and feel it. If your program is about conservation, make certain to explore the beauty and wonder of nature and everything around you. Personally, I will regularly find myself walking the campus of UC Davis and visiting with students and faculty to feel their energy, see their potential and understand the impact of the university on the world. Your heart must be engaged. You can not stand outside of the emotional impact of your cause, and hope to be an effective major gift fundraiser. Finally, gather stories and pictures that illustrates need and impact. The primary role of a major gift officer is to transport the donor right into the need that the organization is addressing. That is not an easy thing to do. These representations are delivered via words and pictures and they involve intellectual information as well as emotional information. If all you do in your proposal is fill the donor's head and not move his or her heart, you have failed. So gather stories and photos about the challenge being faced. These stories and pictures should cause you to feel the reality of the situation and experience the joy when the need is met. Make a strong case for support. Your opening statement should be a short summary of your project, it's importance and what support you need to make it happen. I.e the problem, the solution and the donor's opportunity to make an investment in your institution, because your institution is best suited to solve the problem. Because of X,Y and Z. Elaborate those facts in the proposal. Grab their attention. Most proposals are sent to very busy people and suffer the risk of not being read. To attract attention, consider the physical characteristics of your proposal, your title and your leading statements. They need to stand out. Even small details such as placing your logo and the audience's logo, or name on the cover, will psychologically link the two for the reader. Also think about how you will present the final proposal. How the pages will be bound and fall open, the quality of the paper you will use. If you will use a folder and perhaps, what electronic format you will use to ensure the reader can open it? Finally, use images and graphics effectively. Images must add something to the narrative or to the overall atmosphere of the piece. A picture, image, diagram, or quotation, can have several purposes. To illustrate a complex point, to catch the eye of your donor, to stave off boredom of reading big blocks of text, to serve as a symbol or serve as a punctuation, if you have a long document and want to provide stopping off points for the reader. Write all of your text first and then see where images might be useful to explain the text or increase aesthetic appeal. Remember to be culturally sensitive about your images and focus on people rather than on static buildings. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Be ruthless in your editing and get your main points across quickly and clearly. Perfect spelling and excellent grammar are important. Do not rely on your computer's spelling and grammar check. It will not pick up on other countries spellings, homonyms, misspelled proper names, or misused or missed keywords that may look like you meant to write them. Make sure you check not only the body text, but also the titles, captions, any graph contents, all of the verbiage within your proposal. Make certain to engage in other perspective to see if you are making sense. When you are writing a proposal, it can be difficult to distance yourself from the contents and take an objective view of the document's clarity or persuasiveness. You need to sense-check your proposal. Are there any inexplicable jargon words, confusing acronyms, unreferenced quotations, or claims or sweeping assumptions about the reader's pre-existing knowledge? Is the proposal interesting? It is laid out well with appropriate illustrations, diagrams and quotations? It can help here to ask someone with no technical knowledge in the field to read it. If that person can't understand it, chances are the reviewer or your prospect won't either. It is also useful to do an ethics check. Have you represented your evidence and claims accurately, or are you guilty of any over-exaggeration or using information without appropriate recognition of a third party? The only right way to organize a proposal is the way your prospect wants it. The following are points that constitute a complete proposal shown in a typical order of presentation. First, identify the proposed gift, summarize the need or opportunity and make the ask on the first page. Make certain to recognize past support if applicable. You may wonder, why do we put our ask on the very first page of a proposal? It's human nature for your donor prospect to want to know what the dollar amount of this discussion will ultimately be. So inherently they turn to the last page of a document when you hand it to them. Placing the dollar ask upfront allows them to understand the request and put the rest of the document in proper context. Next, outline the information about your institution and priorities. This begins with language from your core case for support and builds toward the next section, which is about the proposed gift and what it supports. Here, we're providing a description of the specific project, whether it be a facility or an endowment, the details of the amount that we're asking for and it's structure. We also want our donor to know how your gift will leverage other funding sources, if applicable. And finally, what your organization or institution will do to contribute to this project. Ultimately, we want our donor to know how the gift creates measurable benefits, and for whom. The next component is typically recognition and stewardship. This also helps us outline the name of a proposed endowment, program or space at this point. Articulate any commemorative signage, including a picture or a floor plan of the location of that signage. Any internal or external recognition which may include newsletters, annual reports, etc. And reports and other stewardship activities that you would be providing to your donor.