Application Tips

Funder vs. Investor

The Funder

  • Invites submissions and selects from those applying.
  • Uses multiple criteria—including need, work plan, quality of proposal writing, evaluation design, etc., to select. May offer points for proposal sections.
  • Funds direct services, capacity-building, technology, etc. using the same approach.
  • Spends most of the time at “front end” making new grants

The Investor

  • Seeks to uncover all possible promising opportunities.
  • Answers three questions of each opportunity.
    • What are we buying?
    • What are the chances we will get it?
    • Is this the best possible use of our money?
  • Clearly distinguishes among investment in programs, innovations, and organizational growth.
  • Reserves considerable time for “back end” understanding results from past grants

Important Tips for the Results First Application

As you approach the Results First Investment Application, keep these five helpful points in mind.

This approach is a mindset difference. We have moved from being a funder of your programs to being an investor in your results. Funders grade proposals. Investors want to answer three questions:

    • What difference will this program make? When our money is gone, what will be better and for whom?
    • What are the chances that differences will be made? How strong are you on factors that forecast success?
    • Given all opportunities before us, is this program of high comparative value? Does it stand out in any way for high return in human gain?

    The application is organized around these questions.

Words are used carefully. Many funders use words like outcomes, results, targets, goals, or impacts interchangeably. We offer a small set of key words and urge you to keep them in mind as they appear in the questions:

  • Results. The specific intended accomplishment to be made by individuals or groups served by a program. These are clearly stated and well understood by all who help make them happen. They are the consequences of our activities and those of nonprofits in whom we invest.  Results are commitments, not aspirations and they contain the specific minimal level of change that a program must make to be successful.
  • Milestones.  These are things that must be accomplished on an incremental basis to forecast that a program will reach its results.  Milestone management is the approach for generating and using information to make course corrections were needed.   Milestones go beyond a work plan to focus on what participants must get out of and use from program steps.
  • Verification.   This is what we do to confirm the level of result achievement when the program ends. It includes clarity on the yardstick to be used to show change and the specific level of change achieved.  With some exceptions we are not evaluating programs. We are validating accomplishment within programs.
  • Impacts. These are broader gains (or losses) which come from achieving a result. Some happen simultaneously in other areas of gain while others come later. Impacts increase return on investment when a result keeps on giving.

Make sure the person or people who will implement the program are involved in writing your application. You are asked to define and commit in ways that go deep into what you do and achieve. You are not “writing a grant.” You are providing key data points to attract investment. 

Look carefully at the Guidance and Examples provided for each question in the narrative. Our staff will take your questions only after you have read both Guidance and Examples and remain unclear.  Do not assume the questions are the same as the prior year.

Note that length of response is not a virtue. We have tried to make the questions different enough that you need to say things only once. Also, the words needed to speak to results and who gets them are far fewer than the words needed to speak to activities. Word limits are in place to reinforce brevity. If we want more detail, rest assured we will ask for it.

New to Results First? Download a worksheet to help you develop results, milestones, and verification.