For those of you missionaries who are avid readers of literature, I have a test question for you:  what is the length of the longest sentence in published literature?


Answer:  13, 995 words!  It is in The Rotter’s Club, a 2001 novel by British writer Jonathan Coe.  If you haven’t heard of Mr. Coe, you might recognize 2nd place for longest sentence:  4, 391 words by the famous Irish novelist James Joyce, in Ulysses.


Now for those of you missionaries who are avid readers but who also need to write successful grant applications, forget about those crazy-long sentences in The Rotter’s Club and Ulysses!  In our work as grant writers, the motto is “less is more.”


Now this might surprise you, but also I ask you to NOT forget about good literature.  Because what does good literature do?  It conveys with elegance, brilliance and enduring appeal whatever it chooses to write about:  a person, an event, an emotion, a need, human relations, our deepest aspirations.


Good grant applications, in their narrative descriptions should also attempt to be elegant, brilliant and appealing to the foundation officers who read them: your words should convey your passion for the project and give the foundation officer a descriptive feeling for the value and need of the project.  This will move them to want to support it.  Choose your words carefully!


Some writers will rework a single sentence a dozen times.  You don’t need to do that, but always review your writing at least once with an eye to offering that description that will tell your story, but using as few words as possible.



June 15, 2018

“Is there a Local Contribution?”  


This is the question that every missionary should ask her or himself when completing an application for a project grant.   If there is not a specific line on the application itself for this information, be sure to announce your “local contribution” as early in the application as appropriate.


SO WHAT IS A ‘LOCAL CONTRIBUTION?’  Your “local contribution” is what you- your congregation, the people who are directly assisted by the grant, or the local community– contributes to the total cost of the project.


“Local contribution” is often not money.  It can be time that people contribute in manual labor, it can be local expertise such as a work provided by a teacher, a nurse or an engineer.  But if it is money, even a small amount, its symbolic power is very strong for a foundation who reads your application.  If it is all three-  labor, expertise, money– even better!


It shows that you believe enough in the project’s worth to give from your own limited financial resources to make the sacrifice.  The contribution of time and labor shows that not only do you believe, you are in fact committed to making this project succeed.


Finally, it will give the applicant a sense of confidence that their application is much more than “begging” but rather, an invitation to become a true “partner” with the local missionary and community who will see the project to completion.


IMPORTANT:  the “local contribution” can come from people of all ages.  Of particular value would be showing that young people or children also want to make a contribution.  Young people are the future of your mission and its project and this will leave foundations feeling there is a real future to your good work.


Welcome to 2018!  Ever wonder what’s really on the mind of funders? Check out the interview we did recently with the Raskob Foundation, a US funder dedicated to supporting all kinds of Catholic missionary projects!




I am in the middle of an experience that causes me to risk your seeing me and MPS as a broken record. What do I mean?


This past summer I have worked with missionaries in Zambia and Mexico to submit applications to a US foundation. The proposals are compelling, reasonable and promise high impact for the foundation. For one of these, however, we forgot to include an important requirement of the application: “Endorsement of the Local Ordinary (bishop).”


All that work and it may fail because of just one detail, but an important one for this foundation.


Please see page 30 of the MPS Funding Guide and add a #13 to the checklist: “Include all requirement endorsements.”


In seeking these endorsements, ask for them early in the process. One popular foundation I know only allows 1 application per mission diocese. Bishops in particular are often juggling priorities of endorsing local, diocesan projects and religious congregations can sometimes take second place. The response from bishops is often more supportive if no other application is seen to compete with you, so it is best to ask early.


Missing important details happens to the best of us- I’ll let you know how things turn out for Zambia and Mexico!


                  CHECKLISTS FOR PROPOSALS (page 30, MPS Funding Guide)


  1. Cover Letter
  2. Title Page (Separate)
  3. Summary (Separate)
  4. Introductions
  5. Problem Statement
  6. Program Objectives
  7. Methods
  8. Budget
  9. Future Funding
  10. Monitoring
  11. Evaluation
  12. Appendicies
  13. Include All Required Endorsements


I had a meeting recently at a large funding organization that makes grants by committees that are dedicated to various parts of the world, such as an Africa Committee, a Latin America Committee, et cetera.


At one point in our meeting, one of the committee directors, without any prompting from me, simply stated that “I wish more applications would give me a feeling for the needs and challenges they confront in their ministry, I want to understand what it is really like where they are working.”


The funder’s desire, for us to “give them a feeling” concerns how we describe the SETTING of our Project Application.   It is quite understandable for each of you to take this for granted, because it is something that you live each day, BUT do not underestimate the need, even for sophisticated funders such as I was meeting with, for an informative description of the setting in which you work.


I provide two illustrations below, which capture the two important elements you need to include as you describe the setting of your Project Proposal: 1. The uniqueness of your setting and 2. The vital and unmet need your project addresses.


Here are examples of what I refer to, using fictional congregations and locations. I have highlighted what I think is the language that speaks to the uniqueness and vitality I mention above:




The Sisters of Missionary Heart seek a grant to support their school in Missionville, a remote town in XYZ Mission Country. Missionville has only 1 paved road and is 45 miles from the nearest village. Sisters of the Missionary Heart are the only qualified teachers in this area, where the literacy rate is estimated to be at only 25%. Without formal education the children of Missionville have virtually no chance of future employment and will most likely remain subsistence farmers like their parents, continuing a cycle of poverty and hunger.




The Brothers of Kindness seek a grant to establish a medical clinic in a distressed area of Giantville, a city of nearly 10 million people in XYZ country.   The Brothers work in Forgottenland, an overlooked area of Giantville populated by slums and other shanty-style shacks. Since the Brothers arrived in 2007 they have not witnessed any medical personnel visiting the families of Forgottenland, where a simple wound often leads to dangerous infection because of lack of medical care. The Brothers have located a centrally located facility where the clinic could be established and have also engaged several physicians and nurses who would be willing to make monthly visits to provide “Clinic Weekends” for the sick of Forgottenland.


Don’t forget, even the smartest grant-makers with the largest hearts do not understand the reality of your mission as you do- they need your help and your descriptions to enter the SETTING and appreciate the value of your proposal.


As always, our most hopeful regards and gratitude for all that you do!


  1. Thou shalt never miss an application deadline because it will cause automatic disqualification of your application
  2.  Thou shalt not apply for a project that the foundation does not fund because this would be wasting your time (and theirs)
  3.  Honor the foundation and learn as much as you can about them from their website before beginning an application
  4.  Thou shalt not ask for more money than the foundation guidelines suggest
  5.  Honor the community the project supports by including their “local contribution” in the grant application
  6. Thou shalt always indicate, where true, that the grant project addresses a need that no other party is addressing
  7.  If a grant is made, always honor the foundation by completing a grant report, if required
  8.  Thou shalt always include a photo/photos with your application, if possible, to better tell your “story”
  9. Thou shalt always indicate in the application the impact, in numerical terms, that the grant project would have on the local community 
  10. Thou shalt always have one specific person who is responsible for the grant process:  preparation, timely submission and reporting


Heed these commandments!

Arthur A. Pingolt, Jr

The Unmet Need


I spoke recently with a foundation director who returned from a visit to India, where he spent time at several locations, visiting with a variety of missionaries. One can only imagine that his head was/is spinning, but not from the noise and crush of people in India. Rather, it was the enormous number and variety of project needs that were voiced to him that was at once encouraging and discouraging: encouraging to see all the good work being proposed, discouraging to know that his foundation could only fund a small fraction of the total number of projects.


What to do? How to decide as a grant maker?   How to distinguish yourself as a grant seeker?


“The Unmet Need”


What is important to establish in your proposals is the idea not only that your project is meaningful, but that it also essential. Tell how your project addresses a need that is currently unmet by any other pastoral or human-development initiatives. Further, if you know it to be true, indicate that unless your project proposal is funded, this need will NOT ever be addressed.


For a foundation or a donor to know that but for their support a group of people will NOT be assisted is a compelling proposition.


Who among us would choose to give food to a hungry person who we know will eventually be fed versus someone whose only meal will come from our hands?




“If only the foundation knew how valuable this work we are doing is OR how much of a different even a small grant would make for our work!”


I have heard this or similar statements many times by missionaries and they always make an impression on me- BECAUSE THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE!


I would advise all grant writers to try and make the same impression with each foundation, but to be of two minds:


With one mind, be factual and detail oriented, providing all the information and documentation that the foundation asks for, by no later than the foundation requires, hopefully earlier.


With the other mind, tell your story, and be descriptive, about the meaningful and deeply needed service you provide and the powerful assistance that will be given with a grant from the foundation you are applying to. If there is no space on the form, add a cover letter or cover email. Always include a good photo if you can. Communicate in emotion and colorful detail in such a way that the foundation executive feels like he or she is in your country, because most of them have not been to any or very few mission countries!


Foundation executives do not like to admit that they often have little understanding of what life is really like in the many countries where applications come from. If your application can give them a sense of confidence that they understand the local situation in your country, it is easier for them to feel and speak with conviction about the grant request you are making.


But don’t forget, you need BOTH minds- get all the details and documentation and deadline first, then tell a story of meaning and hope that they will not forget!

Many years ago, I was a Jesuit novice, for the Midwest Province in the United States.   One of the stories shared me and my fellow novices was about St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and the lengths he would go to in trying to bring a person to the Christian faith.


In this story, he particularly hoped to reach out to a “notorious sinner” who lived where Ignatius happened to be at that point in his life. Ignatius heard that he always traveled to town via a bridge over a small river. As it was then wintertime, that was how the saint felt he could “reach” this person: BY STANDING IN THE RIVER’S ICY WATER, WAITING FOR THE MAN TO CROSS THE BRIDGE. I think it was hoped that the fire of the Holy Spirit would melt the sinner’s cold heart, and perhaps warm Ignatius’ cold legs!


What is my point? Well, in some respects grant research and writing is like Ignatius’ icy water: it is not comfortable. Also, given your busy schedules, you have to go out of your way to get there and do the work. And finally, even with the best of intentions, there is no promise that you will get the attention of the foundation you’re applying to!


Still, what lengths will you go to in “reaching” those you serve?  Remember, a successful grant is often the difference between teaching a few people or a few hundred people. Between medicine for a family or medicine for a village, between feeding hundreds or feeding thousands.


So think of Ignatius and step into the uncomfortable waters of grant-writing, remembering how deeply important it is to find resources to greater assist those you serve!