There are government grants, private grants, foundations offering grants to support causes of various kinds, grants for nonprofits, and grants for businesses.
But each grant organization has limited funds to give away, so they must select the most worthy applicants. How do you prove that you are worthy? By writing a dynamite proposal.
If you are new to proposal writing, the prospect of creating a grant proposal may sound intimidating. However, there’s no need to fret. It doesn’t matter what sort of organization you represent, or whether your project is starting a small family business, seeking funding for an education program, or creating a nonprofit agency to do charitable work. You already know the information you need to present: the particulars of the project you are proposing, what your organization can do, the benefits to the community you will serve, and so forth. All you need to learn is the best way to present that information.
Your goal is not to brag about yourself or your organization, but to demonstrate that you are professional, have a good understanding of what is needed and required to succeed, have a detailed business plan in place, and that you can be trusted to use the grant monies to fulfill your promises.
Begin your proposal writing project by imagining that you are on the committee that awards the grants. What does that committee want to see? What are their requirements and restrictions? Do they have specific forms that must be filled out, or a list of questions that must be answered in your proposal? Find out as much as possible about the grant organization. Do they have a mission statement? Do they have a particular focus for their grants (such as small business startups, education, environmental, charitable, faith-based, or community-health-oriented projects)? Have they funded projects like yours in the past? Make sure you understand who your proposal readers will be. It will pay off in the long run to do some research up front if you need to.
All grant proposals share the same basic structure: introduction, a section that acknowledges the requirements of the grant committee and explains the needs of the community your project will serve, a section that describes in detail how your project will meet those requirements and needs and what it will cost, and a final section describing why you are qualified to manage this project and make it a success.
Now, keeping your readers always in the forefront of your thoughts, begin your proposal writing project. The introduction section is the shortest. It should include a Cover Letter, which is not actually a page within the proposal, but should always accompany the proposal and be the first page that a reader would see. Keep your cover letter short–simply explain who you are, why you are applying for this grant at this time, and what you hope to do next (schedule a meeting, receive notification that you’ve been approved, etc.). Be sure to provide all your contact information in the cover letter.
Next, create a Title Page. Simply name your proposal in a descriptive way: “Request for Funding to Start a Sustainable Farming Project in Zaire,” “A Plan for a Teen Club in the Baker Neighborhood,” or “New Johnson Furniture Manufacturing Plant Will Bring Jobs to Our Area,” for example. If your proposal is complex, you may need to add a Table of Contents and an Executive Summary (a list of the most important points) next, but you can come back and do that later. Otherwise, a Cover Letter and Title Page are all that are required for the introduction section.
Moving on to the section where you describe needs and requirements, carefully consider the point of view of your proposal readers. First of all, they want to know about the needs your project will fulfill, whether those needs are commercial or charitable. At the very least you will want a Needs Assessment page, but you may also want to include topic pages like Project Background, Importance, Challenges, Present Situation, Market Demand, or Opportunities. It’s also helpful to think about how your project will benefit the grant organization, and include topics such as Benefits, Social Responsibility, Community, Constituency, Demographics, Strategic Alliances, Social Media, or Publicity to describe how your project will reflect positively on your supporters and give them greater visibility.
After you have described the need for and the benefits of your project, you will explain in detail how you plan to meet those needs and accomplish your project and what it will cost. Depending on the nature of your project, the topics in this section may vary widely. You’ll need at least a Project Plan page and a Cost Summary page. For a small business startup, this project-centered section might also contain pages like Schedule, Materials, Staff, Milestones, Resource Management, Facilities, Equipment, and Marketing Plan, just to name a few possibilities. For an education project, you might need specific pages like Tutoring, Mentoring, Assessment, Accountability, Classes, and so forth. For a charitable project, you might include topics like Approach, Training Plan, Responsibilities, Use of Funds, Oversight, Supervision, Candidates, and so forth. Use all the topics you need to thoroughly explain your plan. The more specific you can be, the more credibility you will have. If your project will be ongoing, the grant committee will want to see a Return on Investment, Future Potential, or Sustainability topic to understand your plan for the future.
In the final section, your goal is to convince the proposal readers that you can be trusted to carry out your plan and deliver on the promises you have made. You’ll need pages like About Us, Company History, Experience, Capabilities or Successes to show how you’ve carried out similar projects in the past, and topics like Achievements, Awards, Referrals, References, Expertise, Certifications, and so forth to demonstrate that you are an expert in your field.
You might want to include lists of Team Members or Personnel to showcase the skills of the staff who will work on the project. Include all the topics that are likely to persuade your readers that you can successfully complete the project. Finally, wrap up your proposal with a Funding Request page, where you ask for the funds you need for your project.
That’s all there is to writing a proposal. But you’re not quite finished yet. You want the proposal to be as professional as possible, so take some time to edit and proofread all the wording. It’s easy to miss mistakes in your own work, so it’s usually best to enlist someone who is not familiar with your project to do the final pass. Make the pages look neat and attractive, too. Using interesting graphic images on pages, splashes of color in headings, or distinctive bullet points can add visual interest and make your proposal more appealing. When all your pages sound and look perfect, it’s time to submit your grant proposal in print or PDF format to the supporting organization.
Writing a grant proposal will be easier if you do not start from scratch. A dedicated package like a proposal kit can make your writing projects much efficient. A good proposal kit contains templates for all the topic pages mentioned above, as well as hundreds more. Each template in a kit will contain instructions and examples of the type of information to include on that topic page. Make sure you use a kit that includes detailed sample grant proposals that you can use for inspiration. Using a proposal kit will give you a jump start on your grant proposal writing.
How to Write a Grant Proposal and Get Funded:
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