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How do you write the history of a nonprofit?

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

In most grant applications, you will include information about your organization's history in a grant proposal's "Organization" section. Crafting this section may seem easy, but it will take effort to balance the content included with the space allotted to the section. I keep it under two paragraphs or between 250 and 500 words. Enough to inform and interest without becoming redundant or boring.

Although brief, there are a few key details to include 1) Origin story, 2) Services, and 3) Significant accomplishments.

1) Origin story: An origin story summarizes how your organization came into existence. You may choose to share the date you began to provide services, the date you received the IRS determination letter or both. Next, briefly describe the founder(s). You can explain how many people started the organization and provide relevant information about their background. Unless the founders are publicly known figures or influential in their industry, give a general description instead of listing their names because most funders support an organization because of the mission, not the founders.

Next, tell your reader why the founders established the organization. What did the founders see, experience, or want to change in their life or community? Usually, founders notice a gap in services, access, and inclusion and want to fix it. Providing a glimpse into those reasons humanizes the nonprofit and connects to the reader's heart. Finally, how did the nonprofit start? Did it start with a small budget from a handful of donations, and now it's a well-funded thriving organization? Tell that story!

Click here for sample origin stories.

2) Services: Next, you want to share your services. I like to emphasize the growth in services or changes to services throughout the organization. For example, you may say, " Our nonprofit began to provide weekly food boxes during the economic recession to meet community needs. Since then, we have grown to a daily food pantry and community health clinic serving over 500 people monthly."

3) Significant Accomplishments: You may add both quantitative and qualitative information in this section. You want to share accomplishments relevant to the grant project and attractive to the funder based on their historical giving or priorities. Quantitative data refers to any information that can be quantified, counted, measured, and given a numerical value. For example, for all applications, I share how many people have been served during the nonprofit's lifetime or annually across all services. Qualitative accomplishments are descriptive and include the impacts of your programs, essential partnerships, and awards.

Overall: This history section of a grant application is essential because it humanizes the work and the people at a nonprofit. It helps the reader connect to the organization and relate. In addition to using this history information in a grant application, it can be shared on your organization's "About Us" page and used in marketing.

Need help getting started? You can check out our sample here.

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