Government, Foundation, and Corporate grants are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations that need funding to carry out their mission. This fact is more salient for small, community-based organizations that do not have the staff to craft winning grant proposals. In these instances, grant writing often falls in the lap of an inexperienced Executive Director. These Executives need guidance on how to write and send winning grant proposals.

This article will outline the steps needed to write grant proposals for government, corporate, and foundation grants to access funding for your nonprofit or community-based organization.

Finding Grants

Before we start the grant writing process, we first need to find donors that award grants to nonprofits that fall under your mission umbrella. Meaning, if your nonprofit provides social services, you can’t apply for grants allocated for community-based organizations that build homes for the homeless.

A quick Google search for grants using specific mission-focused keywords will yield lists of where to find eligible funding for your nonprofit. You can also opt for membership in the Foundation Directory Online (FDO).

The FDO is a good resource for finding complete information about grantmakers and grants they’ve before made. This feature makes it easier for you to fine-tune your search to find eligible awards for your organization. You can also search for federal grants on grants.gov or state grants offered through your local Department of State.

Where should I apply for grants?

You can opt to apply for Federal, State or, local municipal grants. Grants from these sources tend to be in higher amounts and focused on a particular social or community issue.

You can also search for and apply for grants from Corporations (corporate giving). Most corporate websites have a page dedicated to charitable giving. Fill out their eligibility quiz to see if your nonprofit or organization is eligible for their grants. You can also search for corporate donors in FDO to see if your organization is eligible for their awards and how to apply.

The bottom line is this: the best approach is to write proposals to all sources that give funding to nonprofit organizations serving your target population or your mission.

Steps to writing your proposal

After doing your grantmaker research and armed with your list, the next step will be to read and adhere to the application requirements to increase your organization’s chances of winning grant money. You have to write a proposal describing a problem or barrier, and how with funding, your organization will be able to solve that problem.

What should be included in a grant proposal?

Now we are ready to compose our proposal. What should we include in it? This depends on the grantmaker. Some ask you to fill out a simple application form, but others need a full narrative detailing your organization’s interventions to solve a problem and how with funding, your organization can have a positive impact on affected communities.

The following components are important sections to include when writing your grant proposals.

Cover Page

The first page or cover page of your proposal is a formal introduction to your nonprofit organization. A cover page includes your organization’s name, address, logo, and other relevant information. The cover page also shows the title of the proposal as prepared by your organization.

Table of Contents (TOC)

The next page following your proposal’s cover page is the Table of Contents (TOC). The TOC shows a quick overview of the proposal’s sections like the summary, narrative, and any required attachments (budget, tax-exemption documents, etc.)

Summary

Following the table of contents is a summary of your proposal. This section summarizes the topic or problem and how your organization will work to solve it. This section can also include a brief synopsis of your program’s goals and objectives and how they align with the grant requirements and mission of the grantmaker.

Main Narrative

The main narrative is where you layout your grant proposal by first introducing a topic or problem. In the introduction, you explain the issue and cite credible sources that show the negative impact of the problem. You may also cite evidence that proves that your proposed intervention resolves the issue or barrier.

Following the introduction, you go into the main section of the narrative by describing your proposed services or programs and how they will solve the problem. In this section, you will need to be specific in your who, what, where, how, and when.

The following questions will help guide your narrative:

  • Who is your target population?
  • What are their needs?
  • How will your programs or services solve those needs?
  • What is the timeline needed to complete these programs?
  • How much funding is needed?
  • What is the number of people who will receive services as a result of the grant?

Once you answer all these questions in detail, you will be well on your way to writing an effective and award-worthy grant proposal.

Expected outcomes and evaluation

You will wrap up your proposal narrative by including a final section that describes all expected outcomes and program evaluation. In this part of the narrative, you outline all expected results of your program interventions and how you will check those results.

Make sure to be clear when discussing program evaluation because it might make a difference in your organization receiving a grant or not. Consider the following when crafting your program evaluation section:

  • What evaluation tools will you use?
  • What is your service model?
  • Which metrics will determine programmatic success?

Program Budget

The budget is a critical section of your grant proposal, so give it the requisite attention. Start by adding a budget narrative to explain all costs of the proposed program and how they relate to implementing all program activities.

After the budget narrative, it’s time to prepare a budget document that shows all line items and other expenses for your organization. Budget line items include but are not limited to the following:

  • Overhead expenses (fixed costs not related to labor or materials)
  • Staff salaries
  • Supplies/materials
  • Postage
  • Transportation

If the grantmaker has their own budget template, complete it accurately by following all budget requirements and showing all funding expenditures. Check out this article for some items to include in your budget.

Reporting

Grantmakers often need a report of when and how you used their funds to fulfill grant obligations. These reports may be required every quarter, twice a year, or annually. Make sure to emphasize your intention to follow all reporting requirements.

Attachments

Almost all grant proposals need to include attachments like a budget document, tax-exempt certificate, financial statements, and so on. You can also add your appendices that serve to strengthen your proposal (case studies showing the benefits of your program intervention) Re-check the requirements and add all requested attachments.

Putting it all together

The final step in writing a grant proposal for your nonprofit is to assemble your application package according to the grantmaker’s requirements. As mentioned, be sure to include a cover page, table of contents, summary, and proposal narrative. Add all required attachments and submit your package to the grantmaker by the stated application deadline.

As you write your proposal, keep in mind overarching everything the narrative should be easy to read. Write your proposal like you’re telling a story. It should have a beginning, a middle, and an end with your nonprofit as the protagonist or hero. Good luck!

Do you need help with applying for a grant? Contact me and let’s work together to write your successful grant proposal.

6 thoughts on “How to write a grant proposal

  1. I found this a great read and was fascinated that so much goes into a grant proposal. I’m part of an orchestra and they have been talking about applying for grants as they exchange with a community orchestra in Japan every two years. There are a lot of young adults who we need to fund and many parents just don’t have the money. Hence, grant applications are very important. It sounds like quite an art to write a good story and include not just the relevant information but attract their interest. Thanks for all the tips, I will bookmark your article for future reference and to get in touch if I need some help.

    1. Hi Lily,

      I’m so happy you found the article informative. I’ll be glad to offer any assistance you may need in crafting a winning grant proposal. Thanks again and have a great day!

      Dawn

  2. Thank you for sharing this very interesting article (Which I have also bookmarked for reading again). This is something that I need to get my head into gear and get on with. But often just the initial thought of it can seem overwheling at times. But after reasding articles like these, it makes the pssibility far more realistic. Thanks again

    1. Hi Kwidzin,

      You’re welcome! I know how you feel about getting started, sometimes the motivation is just not there. I’ll be glad to help you with your proposals whenever you’re ready. Thanks and be well.

      Dawn

  3. I am grateful I found your post. And what I like the most is that you actually have given us a step by step process on how to writing our proposal. I have been asking people I know and they have just given me some general outlines. But having some actionable steps is just what I needed. Thanks a ton!

    1. Hi Ann,

      I’m glad you found this post useful. Feel free to contact me if you ever need assistance with a proposal. Thanks for reading!

      Dawn

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