Grant Seekers Meet Monster Anteaters: What Your Concept Paper Can Learn from a Movie Trailer

Monster green anteater movie trailers can improve your concept paper.

Not immediately finding this obvious? Nuclear powers now square off over Twitter, and jumbotrons post marriage offers. In times like these, it seems logical to borrow magic from a medium that attracts millions of eyeballs.

Grab that $8.00 bucket of popcorn and read on.

Why movie trailers? A trailer is a compelling invitation that gets movie-goers to come back for more action at a later date. When launching a campaign or project you also seek a direct connection to your audience’s interests with the aim of persuading them to meet, or talk, or otherwise engage. This “invitation” – to prospective partners, funders, or allies — is what the concept paper is for.

These are the elements:

What’s the main issue? A problem or challenge is key to engaging the audience’s attention. This is where the movie trailer starts, and where your concept paper should start, too. This is also where you connect your issue to a problem or opportunity that you know your reader cares about.

Your target audience likely has some background or knowledge. So avoid over-long descriptions. Attach a focused “explainer” document if more background is needed than the concept paper can provide.

Why this project now? The trailer has mere seconds to get movie-goers to care what happens next in a specific film. In a world of competing challenges, you also need to quickly secure this reader’s attention. Does a crucial program face loss or cutback? Is a narrow window opening for policy progress? Tell your reader the most important things at stake.

Why us? Great characters and match-ups transform the trailer into a message that creates buzz. Introduce your key people, your value and your accomplishments in this space. Your main partners in the work are a major asset: describe the difference they make. You also may need to state (simply and respectfully) your differences with “competitors.”

Summary program plan. This is your brief description of goals, outcomes, strategies and tactics, learning plans, and resources. Avoid the trap of exhaustive detail: A movie that includes all the novel’s minor characters and sub-plots sinks under that weight. A concept paper loses value as an “invitation” when it looks and feels like a book of blueprints.

Call to action. The movie trailer ends with a crescendo and the invitation is hard to miss: Coming Soon to Theaters Everywhere. (Keep an eye out – don’t miss it.)

Don’t just end your concept paper by summarizing what you’ve said: Make the finish count. “Please join us to make this crucial vision a reality” is an invitation that sparks imagination and helps make your paper memorable.

Looking for more ideas to improve your concept papers – or can’t get enough monster green anteater action? My concept paper primer – with anteaters galore — can be downloaded from my Resources page.

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