To advance any project, let alone one involving a federal grant application, you will need to determine who is leading and supporting the application, receive approval to pursue the application from management and/or leadership, and assemble an effective team of internal and/or external partners to develop a compelling project. A focused, brief concept note can help with each of these steps from the beginning.
The goal of a project pitch or concept note is to inform and secure buy-in from internal and external decision-makers and other stakeholders. The process of developing it also helps clarify gaps in the project strategy and questions that are unresolved. An effective pitch should clearly and succinctly communicate:
- what is being proposed
- who is proposing what
- why this is beneficial
- how your proposed project will support local goals, advance existing climate action or sustainability plans, and/or addresses community needs
- project timeline
- budget needs (including any leveraged resources you have)
- your “ask” (including data or information, lead/support roles, approval, matching funding, etc.)
- any concerns (and ideally how you plan to mitigate those concerns)
Tailor your “pitch” to the audience of your request, including your ask. This could mean you actually have many different versions of a very similar pitch – all slightly tailored to different types of audiences. Internal audiences may include your direct manager, city manager, local elected officials, other departmental partners, and your organization’s board of directors. External audiences may include neighborhood associations, community-based organizations, public or private sponsors, or even local journalists. Remember, it’s far easier to make a great first impression than have to scramble to correct and clarify misunderstandings and wavering support later on. Take the time to do this right, and check out our Pitch Deck Checklist for Local Governments for additional suggestions and guidance.
Lastly, don’t forget about the title and subtitle of your project pitch. Sometimes this might be all someone looks at, so make it descriptive enough to communicate what you are doing and why as well as the initial ask and compelling enough to encourage them to read further. In short, an effective pitch is one that people will read and react to, even in capacity constrained environments, so aim for no more than 2 pages.