How to write a winning grant proposal.Don’t let fear of writing keep you from applying for top
Grant writing is one of the most overwhelming, confusing,
and time-consuming tasks you’ll be faced with—both in
starting your nonprofit business, and in managing it long-term.
In fact, most people who start a nonprofit organization
have never learned how to write a winning nonprofit grant
However, mastering the art of grant writing is critical
for nonprofits—especially when securing grant funding
may mean the life or death of your organization.
grant funding is even more difficult given the fact that
grant agencies receive literally thousands of applications
for a single award. And all of them are for worthy causes.
So how can you make your organization stand out in the
stacks? It’s all a matter of what you say, and how you
and foremost, winning grant proposals must be well-written.
Your cause could be the most critical in the world, but
if your grant is unorganized and ineffective the grantor
won’t make it past the first paragraph.
short, winning grants must be two things: Informative
and engaging. That is, they must be clear, concise and
tell a compelling story.
Make sure your proposal is
free of typos and grammatical errors. You may want to
have someone other than the author do the copyediting.
Or, you may want to hire a professional copyeditor,
or a professional grant writer, for an extra competitive
edge in securing grant funding.
are the main components of a grant proposal and some grant
writing techniques that will be useful. Just remember:
When writing each section of your grant, if you make sure
it is informative and
engaging, you’ll already be ahead
of the curve!
of Inquiry, or Cover Letter. It is critical
that your nonprofit grant proposal have a strong cover
letter. The cover letter introduces your organization,
its mission, and specifically states what you are asking
for. This includes the exact amount of your funding
request. The cover letter should be concise, and include
novel information. It should not be a regurgitation
of what is in the proposal itself. The cover letter
is your chance to let your funder know up front that
you understand their agency’s goals, and that your grant
fulfills their requirements.
for writing a cover letter:
- Address your cover letter to an individual—making sure
they are the correct person.
- Limit your cover letter to one page with three or four
- Include a statement of support for the project from
your board of directors.
- Do not include a cover letter in federal or state grant
applications, unless they specifically request one.
executive summary is one of the most challenging parts
of a grant proposal to write because it must be both
comprehensive and concise. You must immediately grab
the reader’s attention and make them hungry for more—while
providing an overview of what you are asking for, and
for writing an executive summary:
- Identify your organization.
- Include your mission statement.
- Emphasize the key points of your grant proposal.
- Clearly communicate the need for your program.
- State the cost of the project and the amount you are
- State the time period for the project.
- State the results that are expected from your project.
of Need. In your statement of need,
you must clearly articulate the need your grant proposal
is addressing, and you must do it in a reader-friendly
The need statement, or problem statement, explains why
the issue is important, and why your nonprofit is the
right organization to provide a solution. Include background
research, such as historical data, as well as stories
that illustrate the need your proposal addresses.
for writing a statement of need:
- Make sure your statement of need is well-written and
- Use quantitative data: statistical analysis, trends
and expert views that support your argument.
- Reference reputable research, literature and comparative
data to support your argument.
- Explain your time frame, and why securing funding is
and Objectives. In this section, capture
the grant reviewer’s attention with powerful, persuasive
language. State what your nonprofit hopes to achieve,
including specific results and/or outcomes, using key
words like: Increase, reduce, provide, protect, improve
Your goals will be broad statements, and may be abstract.
But it’s critical that your proposal’s objectives be
concrete, precise and measurable. Objectives are explicit
statements as to how you will work toward reaching your
for writing your proposal’s objectives:
- Use quantifiable terms.
- Identify who or what your objectives will serve.
- Make sure your objectives are measurable and realistic.
- Objectives should be consistent with your statement
or Program Design. The methods section
of your grant proposal tells the reviewer how your nonprofit
will accomplish its stated objectives. Your methods
must be clear and concise, and leave no doubts in a
reviewer’s mind. Write the methods section with the
assumption the reader knows nothing about your nonprofit
or your project. In addition to tying your program design
to your objectives, this section should reference your
statement of need and your budget. All methods and activities
must be feasible and logical.
for writing the methods section:
- Be explicit.
- Explain why the methods you’ve selected are the best
to achieve your objectives.
- State the supplies, equipment, resources you will use
for your project, including who will perform specific
- Include a timeline.
- Include who or what will benefit from your services.
The evaluation section is where many nonprofit grant
proposals fall short. It is also one of the most important
sections for grant reviewers. The evaluation section
is where you explicitly state how you will measure your
project’s results. Granting agencies want to know your
accomplishments will be objectively measurable, and
that there will be hard evidence that their dollars
did some good. Clearly state what records you will keep
and/or what data you will collect. Data may be quantitative,
qualitative, or a combination.
for writing the evaluation section:
- Make sure this section is consistent with your methods
- State how the evaluation will measure whether you met
- State how you will use the findings.
- Specify whether you will conduct an internal evaluation
or hire outside help.
Sustainability. Grant agencies want
their funds to both produce results and facilitate future
results through project sustainability—either with or
without their additional help. Indeed, if you’ve written
a strong grant proposal so far, the reviewer will care
deeply about seeing that your services continue over
the long term.
In the sustainability section, state your future plans
for the project, after the grant money requested has
been used. In other words, tell the grantor how your
organization will raise money to continue its programs
in the future. Your future funding plan can include
a mix of strategies and sources.
for writing the sustainability section:
- Outline specific future fundraising plans.
- Provide a blueprint of how you will effect these plans.
- Make sure your plans are realistic, given your resources.
- Include information on hiring additional staff or freelance
contractors, if necessary.
organizational information section is where you provide
detailed information about your nonprofit organization.
This is also where you write to impress the reviewer.
Spin a compelling narrative about the uniqueness of
your nonprofit and include a brief summary of your statement
of need. Using persuasive dialogue, let funders know
that your organization is the best qualified to carry
out the projects you have outlined.
Explain your nonprofit’s history and background, provide
its mission statement, describe its programs, state
the recipients of its services, and give its track record
to date. Offer a compelling overview of your nonprofit’s
role in the community, and its important accomplishments.
for writing the organizational information section:
- Write as though the funder is hearing of your nonprofit
for the first time.
- Give your nonprofit’s full, legal name and its legal
- Name your board members, staff and volunteers.
- State the location of your headquarters and any satellite
- Include financial information, such as annual donations
Don’t be shy. It’s time to come right out and
ask for the money. The budget section must be professionally
done in order to create confidence in your organization
and reassure grantors you are financially competent.
the budget section, tell the grant agency how much your
project will cost, and provide an explanation of each
expense. Include personal expenses, project expenses,
and other administrative and overhead costs.
include any expected income—either earned or contributed.
The more community support your nonprofit receives,
the more encouraged reviewers will be. Also pay close attention
to any supplemental materials requested by the granting
agency, such as a tax-exemption letter from the IRS
or financial statements.
for writing the budget section:
- Make sure all figures are 100% accurate.
- Specify direct costs—the expenses for which the requested
grant funding will be used. Direct costs include personnel,
fringe benefits, travel, equipment, and supplies.
- Specify all sources of income and contributions, including
volunteer services calculated at “market value.”
- State all indirect costs and overhead associated with
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grant writing mistakes and grant writing tips.
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