Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#45: Can a catchy name help get a grant application funded?

Do you think a catchy name for your program that is also descriptive of the project can make a memorable first impression?

Project names can be challenging. Sometimes we just stick with the title of the RFP -- bureaucratic and boring -- and sometimes we get quite hysterical brainstorming for a name when the application deadline presses.

And, I'm always interested in whether a client sticks with the catchy name we used in the application or ends up changing it during implementation.

Nancy Friedman presented six naming strategies in a two-part article on Visual Thesaurus. A couple of them won't work well for grant applications but most will trigger some ideas.
  1. People's names - who has inspired this program? Who's the founder?
  2. Connecting two words, like CareerWorks, Facebook, Wordpress
  3. Blended, or portmanteau, names like Technorati (a blend of technology and literati) - these are tricky.
  4. Affixed words - using a prefix or suffix with a descriptive word. For example, add Bene-, Bio- or Pre- at the beginning, or -ist, -ish, -cast, -ly, -ite at the end. BeneWorks, maybe, or BeneFunds;
  5. Invented words -- like all those accounting/consulting firms and the pharmeceuticals advertised on TV -- not a good choice for our projects.
  6. Phrases like 'Habitat for Humanity' and 'Teach the People.' One client's after school program is called 'McKee After 3'
Please note, Nancy didn't add acronyms to her list. Let's avoid ACE (Achievement it Career and Education) and ACT (Assisting Children Through Transition).

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Anonymous said...

As a grant writer who’s been writing proposals since dinosaurs walked the earth, project names are very important to the funding process. Picture yourself as a peer grant reviewer in DC to read a stack of 20 Upward Bound proposals. Of these, 19 are called variations on ____________ [name of city here] Upward Bound Project and one is called Project YEAH (Youth Empowerment Action Helpers) or Project YES (Youth Enrichment Services). After slogging through 20 proposals that have more or less the same components and trying to score them, which one will you and the fellow reviewers remember? I think Project YEAH or YES is somewhat more compelling that the Dubuque School District Upward Bound Project or DSDUBP. Thus, try not to use Eye Chart acronyms and, of course, it’s always a good idea to avoid such unfortunate combinations as Community Outreach for Women’s Services (COWS).

Ruth Wahtera said...

Thanks, Isaac, I think you make a great point here. I gravitate too easily to the 'Podunk Upward Bound.' On the other hand, I hate titles that don't tell you what the program is about.

Anonymous said...

I think Isaac has a great point about considering the fact that the reader is slogging through a number of programs asking for the same thing. I had a writing teacher give us a stack of identical resumes (we thought they were different) and told us that when we found the 5 best in each stack we could leave early. We tore through them, and came up with mostly the same resumes. So there's something to be said for the presentation. However, class didn't end early and we discussed the merits of the candidates. In the end, we still came up with the same few front runners. And I'm guessing the funders care enough about their money to care about the content of your proposal, too, but it always helps to get your foot in the door with a unique and appropriate title.

Anonymous said...

I think that a creative name is pretty cool, and i will take your advice-Julien Wirt