How to Write a Grant Proposal

Mar 01, 2024 

What is a Grant Proposal?

You’ve heard how important grant funding is to an nonprofit organization, but how do you get it? You write a grant proposal. 

The two words are easy enough to understand on their own: a grant refers to the funds your organization is applying for and a proposal refers to the document or collection of documents that communicate why your organization should receive the grant. Grant proposals may also be referred to as grant applications.  

However, the process of writing a grant proposal is much more complex than the name suggests. 

Below, we’ll explain how to write a grant proposal. Specifically, we’ll cover the benefits of writing one, the stages of the grant writing process, and what you need to know in order to select, apply for, and win the grants that will best serve your organization’s goals.  

Benefits of Writing an Effective Grant Proposal

Pursuing grants can be an important part of your fundraising strategy. 

Why? Here are just a few reasons: 

  • Grants supply your organization with a stable source of funds. This stability helps your team work more efficiently, freeing them up to focus on what they’re passionate about: uplifting others, improving communities, and scaling your organization’s impact. 
  • Grants provide your organization with the funds to pursue projects that might otherwise go unrealized. 
  • Grants help your organization diversify the types of funds you receive. These include things like one-time donations, in-kind donations, contributions from a donor-advised fund, etc. 
  • Grants enable you to start working toward your ambitious goals much earlier than you might otherwise. 

When you decide it’s time to pursue grant funding, you can begin the grant writing process.

Research and Planning

There are millions of dollars available through different grant funding opportunities, which means there are lots of opportunities for you to apply for and receive grant funding. But which grants should you apply for?

Identifying Potential Funders

The first crucial step in the grant writing process is to identify which grants you want to pursue. While it may be tempting to pursue as many grants as possible, this is not the way to approach your grant funding strategy. 

The best use of your time and money will be to pursue the grant opportunities that you consider to be viable. In other words, you should only apply for grants that your organization has a chance of winning. 

Understanding the Funder’s Requirements

If you don’t meet all of the requirements in the call or solicitation for grant proposals, you’ll likely be disqualified from the pool of applicants. That means you’ll have wasted those valuable resources you allocated to applying for this grant.

Once you have a list of grants you want to pursue, you need to carefully look at the funder’s requirements. What are they and how will your organization meet them? 

When applying for a grant, it’s important to consider things like the application period; this is the timeframe during which organizations can submit proposals. You should also pay close attention to the documentation you need to submit as part of the application. Do you have all of those documents on hand? If not, can you get them in time? 

As you go through the grant writing process, take advantage of any opportunity you have to tailor your application to the funder’s goals. How can you do that? If your project aligns with the funder’s mission, you should highlight that connection throughout your proposal. 

For example: Say you’re going to use the funds to build a playground for children in your local community. When you’re researching grants to apply for, you notice that the funder supports after-school programs. Your organization and the funder are both concerned about where children go after school. You should talk about this connection in your project description.

Clarifying Your Project Goals and Objectives

Although some funders offer organizations more flexibility when it comes to using the funds, many of them allocate the grant money to be used for a specific purpose. 

The best way to satisfy this requirement—that your organization uses the grant money in the intended way—is to clarify your project goals and objectives. When you clarify your goals and objectives and the strategies you’ll use to achieve them, it’ll be easier for you to explain why your organization should receive the funds. 

You may have decided this earlier in the process, but if not, this is the time to choose the person who will write the proposal. Because this is a complex process, you may want to hire a team with the expertise needed to write proposals that win grants. 

Gathering Supporting Documents and Information

Once you clarify your goals and objectives, you need to gather proof—supporting documents and information—that show how you’ve properly stewarded funds or achieved program goals in the past.    

Think about this part of the process as a trust-building exercise. The funder may not be familiar with your organization. Even if they are, they still need to be convinced that your team is capable of deploying the funds wisely. 

Your grant proposal is an opportunity for the funder to get to know your organization, your mission, and your credentials. When deciding which supporting documents and information to include, you should choose the ones that will make the funder believe they can and should trust your organization with the funds. 

Crafting Your Proposal

Once you’ve chosen which grants you want to apply for, clarified your goals and objectives, and gathered your supporting documentation, it’s time to start writing.

Creating a Project Description

This is the chance for you to tell a story about your organization and how the funds will help you change the community you serve. 

You’ll be competing with other organizations to receive these grant funds. Your project description needs to be as unique and detailed as possible in order to stand out. 

Ask yourself questions like: 

  • What makes your project different? 
  • What makes your project special? 
  • What will convince the funder that this project needs to be funded? 
  • What will make the funder excited to invest in the project?  
  • Is your organization’s mission or project similar to the funder’s mission, projects, and principles? If so, how can you include that information in the project description? 
  • Will a person with no prior knowledge of your organization be able to read this description and easily understand the project and project goals? 
  • Is this the most persuasive way to describe the project and why your organization should receive the funds?  

When thinking about ways to persuade the funder, look at the stories and stats you highlight in other successful fundraising campaigns. If you can get to the heart of why your project needs to be funded, you can get to the hearts of the funders. 

Preparing a Budget Summary and Breakdown

Like other donors, grant funders want to know how you’ll use their funds. This is another trust-building opportunity. In your budget summary and breakdown, you’ll explain how much money you need, why you need it, and how you’ll spend it.

When writing and reviewing your budget, put yourself in the funder’s position. Do you have any questions about how your organization will use the funds? Did your organization include all of the information that the funder requires? 

When in doubt, be as specific as possible. This will reassure the funder that your organization has a plan to bring your project to life. 

Developing an Evaluation Plan for Your Project

In addition to clarifying your goals and objectives, you need to define how you’ll measure your success. You’ll do this through an evaluation plan.

Why do you need an evaluation plan? Understandably, the funder will want to know that you’re using the funds as intended and are making progress on your project. 

Look at your goals and objectives. How will you know that you’re making progress and are on track to achieve them? How will you track or measure those metrics during the project term? 

Writing a Cover Letter or Executive Summary for the Proposal

Funders have to sort through a large number of proposals. That’s why they usually ask organizations to provide a cover letter or executive summary with their grant proposals. 

In your cover letter or executive summary, your goal is to quickly explain what your organization does and why you’re applying for this grant.  

Overview

This is where you’ll share a little bit about your organization and your project. 

Problem Statement

Ultimately, your project is trying to solve a problem or address a need. This is where you’ll describe that problem or need and explain how you’ll use the grant funding to address it. 

Solution

Your project or program is your solution. This is where you’ll briefly define what your project or program is and how it will solve or help address the issue you described in the problem statement.

Expected Outcomes

What happens when you spend the funds and/or complete the project? To put it bluntly: What return should they expect on their investment? 

Again, be as specific as possible. Make it easy for the funder to understand exactly what your vision is so they can buy into it too.

Finalizing Your Grant Application

Before you submit your proposal, do one final comprehensive review of the package you’ve put together. 

Submitting a Complete Application Package

When reviewing your proposal or application package, ask questions like:

  • Have you met all of the funder’s stated requirements? 
  • Do you have all of the supporting documentation and information you need?
  • Is the proposal clear and persuasive?
  • If you were the funder, would you trust your organization to use the funds wisely? 
  • If you were the funder, would you be excited to fund this project? 

If possible, ask someone who hasn’t worked on the proposal to review it before you submit it. They may catch small errors that you didn’t notice. 

Once you’re confident you have everything ready to go, submit it and celebrate the hard work your team put in to pursue this opportunity.

Pearl Solutions can assist you with your grant writing services, as well as help you apply for 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). You can find more information about the services we provide at Pearl Solutions here.


chevron-down