3 rules for telling a memorable EMS grant story

Write a compelling narrative with passion, conflict and resolution to engage grant application reviewers in your project

Writing a grant application narrative is similar to writing an article for a professional publication. An idea — for an article or a grant application — usually starts with a conversation with colleagues that develops into a set of key points.

Those talking points become the outline for a story. Just like storytelling, grant proposals have a similar criteria that make them compelling to reviewers. Here are three rules to make your story more engaging.

1. Tell a passionate story
As a grant writer, you have the opportunity to tell the grant maker a story. Passionate people are attracted to EMS. Use your passion for EMS, your agency and providing the best possible prehospital care for the community in your application.

For example, when asking a grant maker to fund the purchase of CPR manikins tell a story of improving cardiac arrest survival. To start a community CPR initiative requires an immense amount of time, resources and ultimately passion. Bring that passion to the application by stating your desire to increase bystander CPR training and turn your community members into life savers.

2. Create conflict and resolution
A story has characters who have a problem, and the bulk of the narrative is about how they are going to overcome these issues to have a happy ending. This is not much different from the needs section of a grant application.

First, describe your plight or problem. Perhaps it is the lack of resources or overuse of the system from frequent patients. Next speak about the goal and the objectives to attack the problem, such as purchasing equipment or starting a community paramedicine program.

Just like a good story, these goals and objectives in the narrative must be realistic and believable to create a connection with the audience reading your story. The grant maker will want to know how you are going to accomplish these goals and how they can help.

This brings us to the resolution of the story, which starts with project funding. The role of the narrative in the grant application is to create an imperative conflict that the grant maker is compelled to fund.

Your resolution to a problem causing conflict is being funded. Drive home the point of how the solution will solve the problem.

3. Engage the audience
Have you ever read a good book that you could not put down? While your grant application may not read like "Harry Potter" or "A Thousand Naked Strangers" it must engage the grant maker's interest and imagination.

The challenge of writing grants for EMS is that the grant maker often does not understand what we do. While writing your grant story recall conversations you have had with your non-EMS friends about what you do.

Keep those conversations in mind, walk the grant maker through your plan and its implementation (activities/methodology) and demonstrate that your outcomes match the grant maker’s goals for success (mission statement).

The difference between a successful grant story and unsuccessful one is the latter states a solution that is too simple. Statements like, "a new power stretcher will solve all of injury problems," is too tidy.

To avoid proposing simplistic solutions, your interventions should be innovative, make a tangible difference and impact the lives of your target population in a significant way. Showing how a power stretcher will help the problem of the on-the-job injuries and align it with a wellness and injury prevention program that enhances the lives of your employees is the compelling story. 

Remember, your story should convey the overall impact of resolving the difficult problems your community faces and the role the grant maker can play in your story ending with an "everyone lived happily ever after."  

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