How to Write Knockout Proposals

How to Write Knockout Proposals: What You Must Know (And Say) to Win Funding Every Time
by Joseph Barbato

Joseph Barbato has written a very useful and easy-to-read book on how to write foundation grant applications.

Rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of proposals, he focuses on the essential lessons a good grant application writer must know or learn to be successful. Using the advice in this book will help the reader think and act like an experienced proposal writer.

The chapters are short, concise, and well-written — a good mantra for crafting successful foundation proposals. I recommend the book highly. I wish that the author had addressed Federal and other governmental proposal writing as well, for two main reasons. First, while it’s a great idea to solicit advice and counsel from a foundation’s staff, it’s between difficult and impossible to work with a government program officer while drafting a proposal. Working without this counsel requires the proposal writer to hone all the more closely to the written application guidelines — a point not made as directly in the book as it might have been.

Second, the very brevity and conciseness valued by foundation program officers may actually work against a federal or other governmental proposal being funded. The written guidance often mandates a certain amount of repetition between proposal sections, both in material to be covered and, occasionally, in the structure of the proposal itself.

These two small issues aside, I really like this book. One particularly effective use of it would be as a supplemental text when delivering grantsmanship training. The book includes much of the good advice a trainer would give orally while handing out written materials on the minutiae of the grant application. Reading Knockout Proposals is like having a grantsmanship coach at your side during the writing process.