Grant Writing 101-The Basics

Grant proposals are a part of any fundraiser’s portfolio. Although grants can be from a variety of sources (such as foundations or a government entity), most require the same basic information in grant proposals. Most grantmaking organizations have their own proposal/application forms, although a few may only give you some basic guidelines. In any case, here are the most common sections of grant proposals, and the information you should include.

1. Cover Letters for Grant Proposals

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You may think that writing the proposal is the most important task a grant writer has. It is, but attention to the finer points of putting together the proposal package, including the cover letter, can make or break grant proposals.

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2. Executive Summary for Grant Proposals

The summary actually comes first and helps the grantor to understand at a glance what you are seeking. At the beginning of your proposal, write a short summary of your proposal. The summary can be as short as a couple of sentences, but no longer than one page.

3. Need Statement (may be called a statement of need or problem statement)

This is the meat of grant proposals, and where you must convince the funder that what you propose to do is important and that your organization is the right one to do it.

Assume that the reader of your proposal does not know much about the issue or subject. Explain why the issue is important, and what research you did to learn about possible solutions.

4. Goals and Objectives for Grant Proposals

What does your organization plan to do about the problem? State what you ultimately hope to accomplish with the project (goal), and spell out the specific results or outcomes you expect to accomplish (objectives).

5. Methods, Strategies or Program Design

Once the goals and objectives of your grant proposal are in place, you need to walk the grantor through the methods you will use to achieve those goals and objectives. You may be required to provide a logic model in this section.

6. Evaluations for Grant Proposals

How will you assess your program’s accomplishments? Funders want to know that their dollars actually did some good. So decide now how you will evaluate the impact of your project. Include what records you will keep or data you will collect, and how you will use that data. If the data collection costs money, be sure to include that cost in your budget.

7. Other Funding or Sustainability

Have you gotten committed funds from other sources? Or have you asked other sources? Most funders do not wish to be the sole source of support for a project. Be sure to mention in-kind contributions you expect, such as meeting space or equipment.

Is this a pilot project with a limited time-line? Or will it go into the future? If so, how do you plan to fund it? Is it sustainable over the long haul?

8. Organizational Information

In a few paragraphs explain what your organization does, and why the funder can trust it to use the requested funds responsibly and effectively.

Give a short history of your organization, state its mission, the population it serves, and an overview of its track record in achieving its mission. Describe or list your programs.

Be complete in this part of your proposal even if you know the funder or have gotten grants from this grantmaker before.

9. Budgets for Your Grant Proposals

How much will your project cost? Attach a short budget showing expected expenses and income. The expenses portion should include personnel expenses, direct project expenses, and administrative or overhead expenses. Income should include earned income and contributed income.

10. Additional Materials for Your Grant Proposals

Funders are likely to want the following:

  • IRS letter proving that your organization is tax-exempt.
  • List of your board of directors and their affiliations.
  • Financial statement from your last fiscal year.
  • Budget for your current fiscal year.
  • Budget for your next fiscal year if you are within a few months of that new year.

11. Putting it all together

Put everything together with your cover sheet and a cover letter. You may need to have your CEO and/or the Board President sign the cover sheet or letter. You do not need a fancy binder, but it should all be neatly typed and free of errors.

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