There are thousands of grants and millions of dollars available to nonprofits from the federal government, states, foundations and other sources. Unfortunately, you can’t just ask nicely and expect to receive them. Qualifying for the funding your organization needs generally requires you to submit thorough, professional and compelling grant proposals. Here are a few tips.
Know your grantmaker
Just as you’d research potential employers before applying for a job, you should get to know grantmaking organizations before asking for their support. Familiarize yourself with the grantmaker’s primary goals and objectives, the types of projects it has funded in the past, and its grantmaking processes and procedures.
Performing research enables you to determine whether your programs are a good fit with the grantmaker’s mission. If they aren’t, you’ll save yourself time and effort in preparing a proposal. If they are, you’ll be better able to tailor your proposal to your audience.
Support your case
Every grant proposal has several essential elements, starting with a single-page executive summary. Your summary should be succinct, using only the number of words necessary to define your organization and its needs. You also should include a short statement of need that provides an overview of the program you’re seeking to fund and explains why you need the money for your program. Other pieces include a detailed project description and budget, an explanation of your organization’s unique ability to run this program, and a conclusion that briefly restates your case.
Support your proposal with facts and figures but don’t forget to include a human touch by telling the story behind the numbers. Augment statistics with a glimpse of the population you serve, including descriptions of typical clients or community testimonials.
Follow the rules
Review the grantmaker’s guidelines as soon as you receive them so that if you have any questions you can contact the organization in advance of the submission deadline. Then, be sure to follow application instructions to the letter. This includes submitting all required documentation on time and error-free.
Double-check your proposal for common mistakes such as excessive length, math errors and missing signatures. Also watch out for overuse of industry jargon.
Don’t wait until the last minute to write a grant proposal. Occasionally, you might hear about a grant just days before the deadline. But in general, it takes time to craft an effective proposal.