Many proposals focus on the benefits for the applicant and few pay enough attention to the benefits for the funder. A grant proposal should be viewed as a win/win proposition. As you are going through various components, remember to articulate your project’s fit with the funder’s interests. It may be helpful to write a template proposal using the elements discussed below. Then tailor this proposal to specific potential funders. Always be sure to follow the funders' guidelines.
Some grants will need to be submitted through an online form and some will need to be printed and mailed. Funders do not follow a standard proposal blueprint with online applications. However, they are usually addressing the same types of content although they may ask different questions. These are some of the common elements you can expect to see (and again, be sure to follow any guidelines):
By focusing on a funder’s interests, you can show them how they could advance their mission through supporting your work. Therefore, it is important to highlight common concerns throughout your proposal. We’ll take a closer look at each proposal component with an eye to what funders may want to know.
Here is a sample outline that may highlight some of the key proposal components. You may find it useful to refer to them in this section.
In this section, describe the specific need your grant proposal addresses. In particular, consider:
This section provides an overview of your project, including how you propose to address the need you just described. In particular, consider:
In this section, describe both your organization and the work that you do. Help your potential funder to develop a clear sense of who you represent and why you are the best organization to do this work. Specific things to include might be:
For individual projects, this section is where you will describe why you are the best person to complete your project, and why funders should fund you specifically. Some funders may require these items separately and possibly earlier on. Specific things to include might be:
The conclusion should answer the “so what” question. You have provided all of the information in previous sections. Now help the reader to pull everything together and understand why your project or organization is the best candidate for this particular funder. Demonstrate that you have vetted your potential funding partner and that this is a good match. Some things to consider are:
There are typically two parts of a budget–a budget narrative and the itemized budget. The budget narrative is usually a short (1-2 page) description of items in the budget. It is an opportunity to describe why you need individual items and provides justifications for costs. The line-item budget is typically a spreadsheet which contains an account of the total cost of your project broken down by categories.
Funders often request a variety of supplementary materials in addition to the proposal itself. For organizations, these might include a list of board members and biographies, proof of nonprofit status, financial audit documentation, and tax returns. For individuals, this may include transcripts and letters of recommendation.
Depending on the type of project and the type of funder, you may need to include public access policies and a research data management plan. This will typically be stated in the funder’s guidelines.
In general, proposals from individuals do not exceed five single-spaced pages, in addition to the cover letter and the budget. Below is a typical breakdown:
|Proposal Element||Individual Length||Organization Length|
|Cover Letter*: Written specifically to the appropriate contact person at the foundation.
*This may be called a Personal Statement or could be in addition to the statement. Not always applicable to organizations.
|1 page||1-2 pages|
|Executive Summary (organization) or Abstract (individual): Describes concisely the information that will follow.||250 words or fewer||1-2 pages|
|Introduction: Helps to establish credibility as a grant applicant.||1 sentence to 2 paragraphs||Part of Narrative|
|Statement of Need: Describes a problem and explains why you require a grant to address the issue.||1 page||1-2 pages|
|Objectives: Refine your idea and tell exactly what you expect to accomplish in response to the need.||1 page||1-2 pages|
|Methods: What you will do to accomplish your objectives within a stated time frame.||1 page||1-2 pages|
|Evaluation: Measures your results and effectiveness. This should correspond to your objectives.||1 page||1-2 pages|
|Future Funding: Details feasible plans to sustain your project. This applies only if the project will run indefinitely.||1 paragraph||1-2 paragraphs|
|Conclusion: Tailor to funder’s needs and mission.||1 paragraph||1-2 paragraphs|
|Budget: Itemized list of income and expenses that shows precisely how much money you will need and how you will spend it to accomplish your objectives.||1 page||1-2 pages|
Communication during the writing phase is centered around ensuring your proposal is as strong as it can be. Be sure to have both an internal and external person review your proposal–-someone who is closely involved with your project and someone who is not familiar with your work. A person familiar with your project can make sure your proposal is still closely tied to your project goals or the organization’s mission. An external reviewer can make sure your proposal is clear for someone who is not familiar with your work, and that your proposal clearly connects to the funder’s goals. You may also see if the grants officer who works with the potential funder is able to review proposals prior to submission.
When going through the process of writing your proposal, here are some tips to help make it successful:
With most applications being online, here are a few tips to help with your proposal submission:
You will need to upload files in online applications. Frequently, but not always, you will be told the file format. Please consider the following for consistent and clear file-naming and formats: