Fundable Fonts: From Word Count to Friendly Proposal Design

If it can't be read, it can't be funded - Fundable Fonts

Fundable Fonts: From Word Count to Friendly Proposal Design

By Becky Jascoviak, MBA (@NonprofitBecky) 

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” When you’re counting every word, every character, like a grant writer is often forced to do, a picture or graphic should be a welcome tool to convey your message. But too many grant applications, when given freedom of presentation, are just a sea of words on a far too full electronic page.

If it can’t be read, it can’t be funded! Becky Jascoviak

Maybe you’re like me.

When I pick up a new book, magazine, or report, I do a quick visual scan to see how much work it’s going to be to process. Various factors go into this snap judgment including whitespace, photo/graphic content, font and font size, line space or leading, reverse type, and more. In the first 2-3 seconds, I’ve made an evaluation as to how difficult the content will be to understand and how long it will take me to read it.

Grant reviewers are no different.

Design Tricks

Here are some tricks that designers use to add readability and visual interest to their professional documents?

  • Whitespace – This is the space around paragraphs, images, graphics, etc where the paper (or whitespace) shows through. Whitespace allows your eyes to rest while still creating clearly defined sections of information. Whitespace will create easy-to-identify visual sections without the use of other design elements.
  • Headlines/Subheadings – Use a title and subtitle that communicates simply the overall theme. Use a bold, sans serif font, at least 4-8 points larger than the body copy. Subheads should be in the same bold font as the headline but smaller in size. For example if body copy is a 12 point font, make headlines 16-18 points and subheads 14 points.
  • Lists, Bullet Points – Lists make information easier to scan and digest in pieces. Where possible use a bullet headline to make the list even more succinct. The way this list is presented shows the use of a bullet headline.
  • Font, Size, and Style – Three fonts is a good general rule of thumb. One for headlines/subheads (see more info above). One for body copy – serif fonts work well in long, printed documents while sans serif can work in short or electronic documents. One for highlighted or called out information such as captions, chart descriptions, etc – these are typically sans serif, smaller, perhaps condensed and even in an accent color. It is also a good idea to select font families that come with bold or italic selections within the family rather than using the automatic bold and italic options that Word provides.
  • Paragraph Style – Paragraph style determines how words are grouped on a page next to other grouped words. Paragraph styles include left, right, center, justified alignment; leading between lines of the paragraph and between paragraphs; margins, etc. Left aligned is easiest to read in body copy, while justified makes whitespace more important. When creating space between paragraphs, 1.5 lines is preferable to a double return. In addition, indenting paragraphs can be limited to 3-5 spaces if used in your style guide. Finally, double spaces after periods are no longer appropriate. Use a single space after a period.
  • Photos, Charts/Graphs – When using photos or charts/graphs be sure they complement what your narrative states. However, this can mean that it presents different information (use captions well to describe), but it shouldn’t be contradictory. Also, make sure the chart is legible. Make it as large as it needs to be to read easily.
  • Other Graphic/Visual Elements – These include captions, text box outlines, page headers and footers, pull quotes, and other elements that aid in comprehension or graphic appeal. Captions and pull quotes are wise ways to make important points stand out. Be thoughtful about the use of other elements without overdoing and compensate with whitespace.

Becky is passionate about helping non-profits improve their business acumen and communication skills. She is currently the Development Writer for Kids Alive International where she spends about half of her time on grants and half on major donor proposals. Prior to KAI, she spent 20 years in marketing. She is an avid theatregoer and enjoys directing community theatre with her husband. Becky hails from Northwest Indiana where she earned an MBA from Valparaiso University. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @NonprofitBecky.


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Becky Jascoviak

Connector, Collaborator, Consensus builder. Grantwriter, Strategist, Board wrangler. Passionately pursuing excellence, living by grace.

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