is a process that requires planning, research, and relationship
building. The ultimate goal of this process is to create a partnership
between an organization with the capacity to carry out activities
and programs and an organization that can provide the dollars to
support those activities. Neighborhood Networks consortia seeking
grants must be willing to invest time and effort into developing
relationships with a network of funders, so they can rely on them
for support in the long term.
Preparing for Grantwriting
Below are important steps to take in preparation for grantwriting.
You are likely to find preliminary grantwriting steps to be the
most time consuming, yet the most vital aspect of the process. If
done well, your preparatory work will simplify the writing stage.
||Assess goals and needs. |
The grant seeking process begins with an assessment of your
consortium or center's needs and goals. Neighborhood Networks
Consortia that have completed the strategic planning process
may simply refer to their strategic plans to assess their current
needs and goals. The strategic plan outlines an organization's
short- and long-term goals and objectives, and serves as a guide
for pursuing funding opportunities that align with an organization's
mission. Once an organization has articulated its objectives
and the specific needs relevant to accomplishing those objectives,
it will be better prepared for grant seeking.
||Define the project. |
The project or program you design should directly address the
needs and objectives identified by your organization. Your project
design should include information about the following:
||The purpose of the project.|
||The scope of work. |
||Broad project goals. |
||Specific objectives that define how you
will focus the work to accomplish those goals. |
||Beneficiaries of the project. |
||Expected project outcomes in measurable
||A timeline that includes the planning phase,
the period of searching for funds, proposal writing, and
the intended project start date. Periodically, update
the timeline as you learn more about submission deadlines,
award timetables, etc. |
||Research and identify potential funders.
It is most useful for Neighborhood Networks consortia and centers
to focus on potential funders whose funding priorities and guidelines
match their own mission and goals. Those grants that do not
align closely will be more difficult to obtain, and if obtained,
may be less beneficial for the consortium or center. Visit the
Web site of each potential funder and review the lists of grants
awarded in the recent past. Pay close attention to the size,
geographic location, and focus areas of past grantees, as well
as the typical grant size. This information will help you determine
which potential funders typically fund organizations similar
to your consortium.
Follow these guidelines when researching funders:
||Utilize foundation centers, computerized databases,
station development offices, publications, and public libraries
as resources to assist your funding search. |
||Determine if funding levels of the grants you
select are appropriate for your project. Note whether there
is a funding floor or ceiling. |
||Find out whether the funder has other grant
sources for which your project is eligible. |
||Do not limit your funding search to one source.
||Create a grant schedule. |
While some foundations accept grant proposals on a continual
basis, many only accept them at certain times of the year. Neighborhood
Networks Consortia and centers should create a grant schedule
in order to anticipate requests for proposals (RFPs) ahead of
time. This will allow consortia/centers enough time to contact
the funder, submit a letter of inquiry, and develop and submit
a proposal prior to the deadline.
||Get to know the funders. |
Once you have identified a potential funder as a good match
for your consortium, contact the funder directly to begin developing
a relationship with the organization. Allowing the funder to
become familiar with your organization early in the grant application
process (or even before applications are being accepted) can
increase your chances of being awarded a grant. You can submit
a letter of inquiry to introduce your organization to the funder
and to solicit feedback about whether your program does, in
fact, match the funder's priorities and guidelines.
The following are helpful steps to take when communicating
||Identify a project officer who will address
your questions. |
||Use potential funders as resources of information
and, in some cases, technical assistance. Some funders offer
technical assistance, others do not. Ask for technical assistance,
including a review of proposal drafts. |
||Inquire about how proposals are reviewed and
how decisions are made. |
||Inquire about budgetary requirements and preferences,
like matching funds. |
||Remember, the contacts you make may prove invaluable,
even if not for now.|
||Acquire proposal guidelines. |
It is crucial to follow all instructions included in the grant
applications. Funders often receive more proposals than they
can really consider. Therefore, those that do not follow the
guidelines precisely are discarded during the first round of
elimination. You will find that many funders require the same
standard information about your organization, such as staff
résumés, statistical program data, and financial information.
If you keep this information updated and available, you won't
have to compile it for each individual proposal. This will allow
for more time and energy to be spent on the portions of the
proposal that are specific to the program you are proposing.
Consortia and centers should request guidelines for
each grant application they intend to complete. Guidelines usually
specify the following:
||Submission deadlines. |
||Eligibility requirements. |
||Proposal format, i.e., award levels, forms,
margins, spacing, evaluation process and restrictions on the
number criteria of pages, etc. |
||Budget requirements. |
||Funding goals and priorities. |
||Award levels. |
||Proposal review timetable. |
||Evaluation process and criteria.|
||Whom to contact. |
||Other submission requirements. |
||Know the submission deadline. |
Neighborhood Networks Consortia and centers must pay close attention
to proposal deadlines to ensure that proposals are submitted
on time. Plan to submit your proposal on or, preferably, before
the deadline, but be realistic about whether you have time to
prepare a competitive proposal that meets the deadline. Consortia/centers
should know funders' policies on late submissions, exceptions,
and mail delays. Also, find out how the funder will notify you
about the receipt and status of your proposal and factor this
information into your timeline.
||Update your timeline. |
Your timeline needs to be updated once you have completed the
preparation phase of proposal development. The updated timeline
should reflect what you have learned about the funder's submission
deadlines and review timetables. Remember to factor into your
schedule time to write multiple drafts, gather relevant and
permissible materials, and prepare an impartial critique of
your proposal for clarity, substance, and form.
||Consider working with other organizations.
As you assess your organization's ability to successfully apply
for grants, consider the option of partnering with a similar
organization to strengthen your proposal. This is one of the
benefits of consortium membership - when you apply for grants
in cooperation with other centers, you can show funders greater
numbers in terms of how many clients you serve and your overall
impact on the community. The relationship between partnering
organizations should be formalized in a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) or a similar document that specifies each party's responsibilities.
It is also beneficial to review successful grant proposals written
by other organizations for programs or projects similar to yours.
In addition, you may want to acquire several letters of recommendation
from partner organizations that can attest to your ability to
administer grants and programs.
Writing the Proposal
steps you take in preparation for writing the actual proposal will
make the writing process easier. Structure, attention to specifications,
concise persuasive writing, and a reasonable budget are the critical
elements of the writing stage. There are many ways to organize proposals.
Read the guidelines for specifications about required information
and how it should be arranged. Standard proposal components are
the narrative, budget, appendix of support material, and authorized
signature. Sometimes proposal applications require abstracts or
summaries, an explanation of budget items, and certifications.
the following information in the narrative section of your proposal:
||Statement of need -- Purpose, goals, measurable
objectives, and a compelling, logical reason why the proposal
should be supported. Background provides perspective and is
often a welcome component. |
||Approach -- Method and process of accomplishing
goals and objectives, description of intended scope of work
with expected outcomes, outline of activities, description of
personnel functions with names of key staff and consultants,
if possible. |
||Method of evaluation -- Some funders require
very technical measurements of results. Inquire about expectations.
||Project timeline -- Paints a picture of
project flow that includes start and end dates, schedule of
activities, and projected outcomes. Should be detailed enough
to include staff selection and start dates. |
||Credentials -- Information about the applicant
that certifies ability to successfully undertake the proposed
effort. Typically includes institutional or individual track
record and résumés. Identify required personnel both by function
and, if possible, by name. |
typically must satisfy the following questions:
||What do we want? |
||What concern will be addressed and why? |
||Who will benefit and how? |
||What specific objectives can be accomplished
and how? |
||How will results be measured? |
||How does this funding request relate to the funder's
purpose, objectives, and priorities? |
||Who are we and how do we qualify to meet this
are many ways to represent the same idea. However, the narrative
should tailor the description of the idea to the interest of a particular
funder. Use this section of the proposal to align the project with
the purpose and goals of the funding source. This is a critical
aspect of any proposal narrative because it determines how compelling
reviewers will perceive your proposal to be.
are cost projections. They are also a window into how projects will
be implemented and managed. Well-planned budgets reflect carefully
thought out projects. Funders use these factors to assess budgets:
||Can the job be accomplished with this budget?
||Are costs reasonable for the market, or are they too
high or low? |
||Is the budget consistent with proposed activities?
||Is there sufficient budget detail and explanation?
funders provide mandatory budget forms that must be submitted with
the proposal. Don't forget to list in-kind and matching revenue,
where appropriate. It is also important to include personnel compensation
in the budget. Finally, be flexible about your budget in case the
funder chooses to negotiate costs.
materials are often arranged in an appendix. These materials may
endorse the project and the applicant, provide certifications, add
information about project personnel, exhibit tables, and charts,
etc. Be prepared to invest the time to collect resources, document
capability, update a résumé, collect letters, and include reference
reports or whatever is needed. But first, find out if supporting
materials are desired or even allowed before including them, because
policies about the inclusion of supporting materials differ widely
among funders. Whether to allow them usually depends upon how materials
contribute to a proposal's evaluation. Restrictions are often based
on excess volume, the element of bias, and relevance.
must be written and formatted according to specifications from the
funder. Be sure to include only the number of pages allowed and
follow font, spacing, and other formatting specifications. Edit
proposals carefully to ensure that they follow guidelines and are
free of typographical errors. Proposals must also be neat, complete,
and on time. They should be submitted with the requested number
of copies and original authorized signatures.
the funding source about the status, evaluation, and outcome of
your proposal. It is important to request feedback about a proposal's
strengths and weaknesses so that you can use it to improve on future
proposals. Keep your proposal records organized and updated so that
you can easily reference old proposals. Reference information is
especially useful if you choose to approach another funder with
the same project idea. Be sure to obtain feedback on all unsuccessful
proposals to better understand deficiencies in program concept,
design, and projected implementation strategy.
Online Grantwriting Resources
following Web sites offer information about grantwriting for nonprofit
This Web site provides numerous resources for grant seekers,
including an online foundation directory, information about
grantwriting workshops, and links to common grant applications.
News Digest RFP Bulletin|
The Foundation Center compiles this list of current RFPs from
funders across the country. Grant seekers can also sign up to
receive a weekly grants bulletin via e-mail.
Provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service,
this service lists current grants that may be of interest to
programs of service.
vs. Private Funding Sources: |
This page compares the advantages and disadvantages of seeking
support from public and private funding sources.