Ah, bid writing, my old friend…
You’ve got a fundraising strategy.
You’ve got strong evidence your project’s needed and a list of funders to apply to.
You’ve checked their guidelines and know you fit them. You know your project and your approach. You know what questions you must answer.
You’re ready to go. All that stands between you and a world-beating bid is a blank page.
This is the hard part; where the pain begins.
But it needn’t be so difficult. And it can be less painful. There’s a simple process that can make writing the bid easier, help you feel in charge and save you time. Here’s how.
My bid writing process, in tasty Yorkie size chunks.
1. Get it out of your head
If you’re clear on your project’s approach and details, then you’re ready to take this step. If you’re not, then you should still do it anyway and notice the gaps.
You need to capture all the bid related thoughts, ideas and questions that are in your head. They are better off somewhere you can see them. I usually dump everything into a rough spider diagram – but you could also use post its, a wipe board or mind mapping software.
Start with a question or statement written where you can see it in the middle of your board or paper. You might take the first question on the application form, or a question of your own.
Then look at the question and as you consider it capture the thoughts that surface.
Write everything down. Dive as deeply as you can.
Repeat for each of your bid’s questions.
2. Get another head involved
Don’t be alone. Two brains storm better than one.
Rather than only having a question to stimulate your ideas you’ll have your friend/colleague/boss person to spark off too.
Bounce ideas around. Connect your thoughts and burrow into each question. Share the pain and capture the inspiration together.
You may find that if you’re the one making notes then, in the moments when you are scribbling, your partner will think very productively. It’s almost as if having a witness makes them focus better. Swap roles if it helps.
Brainstorming is best done without censorship. So don’t question your ideas. We’ll do that next.
3. Process and plan
Got everything out of your head? Now it’s time to process it.
Here you’re trying to take what you’ve captured and shape it into a skeleton or outline response to each question. You’re taking what came out of your head and ordering it into a logical narrative. Some of this will have occurred while you brainstormed but most of it will need fitting together in a way that’s going to make sense to the reader. Often its helpful to start with the general and move towards the specific.
Use a computer to do this. It produces a cleaner and tidier output, ready for later.
I use sub headings for main points or paragraphs, and bullets for the details. Full sentences aren’t needed. Don’t be tempted. Stick to keywords and phrases.
Consider any word limits provided by the funder. Look at how many points you’re making for each question. One main point or a medium sized paragraph is about 100 words, so don’t be afraid to ditch the least important ones. They’ll never survive later edits, anyway. Trim the chaff now and it’ll save you time later.
4. Hold off until you’re at max revs
By now you’re probably itching to write that first sentence. But its better to hold fire until you’ve finished processing your outlines and are comfortable with the bid’s overall narrative.
But don’t hold off so long that you lose momentum. If you feel resistance to writing those first proper sentences then I’m afraid there’s no pill for it. You’ve just got to bite the bullet (or the end of your pen) and commit.
5. Write drunk, edit sober
Don’t take this literally. Alcohol may ease the pain of bid writing, but it’s also likely to make a mess.
The principle behind Ernest Hemingway’s words is that you’ve got to sound real. Your words must have passion. Funders need to see that you believe in your work.
Do this by writing as you, rather than in an adopted or overly formal style. This can take a bit of practice. However, there’s nothing more authoritative than our own voices and a cause we believe in. Funders get turned on by a bid with personality and passion. They feed off your enthusiasm. Use your outline as a guide and just tell them what you want to say.
Release your passion and just write. Even if its a little ott. Because it’s easier to edit passion out of a bid than edit it in.
6. You can’t plan everything you will write
You’ll never dive more deeply into a bid than when you’re in the real blood and guts act of drafting it. Submerged in the flow you may have your biggest Eureka moments. The best inspiration is often found in the deepest, most pearly depths. Sometimes these flashes lead to a rethink in your bid’s content or approach. But usually they slot in and enhance it. When they come, let them flow. Don’t stop writing. You can review and edit later.
7. Edit. A few times.
People ask me how many times they should edit their bid. I don’t think there’s any limit.
But there will be a limit to your attention and your writing momentum.
When you’ve completed your first draft, ask someone else to read it. Ask them “is it coherent? Are its ideas and terminology congruent? Is its logic clear and plausible?”.
Keep drafting as much as time allows. You may find it helpful to redraft within 24 hours of the previous one, or you may prefer to leave it a week. I prefer to leave it a week if I can. Other prefer not to leave it that long.
Was that useful?
Hopefully. Try it and see how you go. Chat to me about it, or ask me to outline a bid for you.