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Writing a Successful Grant Application

Getting Started

There are several things to consider before you start writing your proposal. The first is the type of grant money that you are applying for, and the agency to which you intend to apply. We'll assume that you're already familiar with how to chose a grant and grant sponsor. Research and planning are a crucial step before attempting to write your proposal. How can you ask for assistance if you are not quite sure what you need assistance with?

There are many different kinds of grant requests, and the application format and technique vary depending on your target grant and sponsor. To make things easier, we will separate grant request types into categories based on the type of request they are: Business Loans, Community Improvement, Scholarships, and Personal Assistance. The fundamentals of writing a grant are the same regardless of the type of grant you are applying for, but there are some differences that need to be adjusted according to the type of grant that is being applied for. Now that we've covered these basics, lets get started with the writing process...

The Grant Proposal Summary

Your grant proposal should begin with a summary outlining the proposal. This instantly allows the Grant Sponsor to understand the purpose of the requested grant. This is an extremely important part of your grant proposal. Be careful: You do not want the Grant Sponsor to be confused about the purpose of your request, and you don't want them to have to read past the summary to determine the subject of your request. The Summary tells them what you want to accomplish, and the rest of the proposal tells them why they should help you and details your request.

Most rejected grants fail because of mistakes made with the summary. If your summary isn't compelling and convincing, none of the rest of your proposal will matter. Remember: be brief, get to the point, keep the summary to around 4-5 sentences at most, and remember include a contact name and phone number.

NOTE: You may decide to do a Cover Page and/or Title Page for your proposal. These make your proposal look more professional than a plain grant proposal. Cover letters are usually extremely brief and contain little more than a greeting and the same information in your summary and your contact information.

Remember to limit your title page to the title of your proposal, name and address of the company requesting the grant, the date your proposal was submitted, and the sponsor agency and specific program to which you are applying.

* It is very important to be extremely specific regarding what type of grant you are applying for: scholarship, venture capital, technical assistance, capital improvement, etc.

A grant proposal is unlikely to be approved if the grant sponsor is in any way unclear about what you're asking for.

Organization and / or Personal Information

In this section of your grant proposal you can introduce yourself to the donor agency and convince them that your proposal is worth their time and effort. Here is where you should sell yourself, not your grant request, with a few paragraphs describing yourself and your group.

If the grant request is being submitted as an individual: tell them who is involved, your location, and some background information.

If the grant request is being submitted as an organization: Outline the history, goals, and accomplishments of your organization. Describe the activities in which your organization engages, its budget and financial history, list its corporate officers and board members, and outline the organizations ties to the community.

For an organization, be sure to include some history of the organization, the purpose or mission of the organization, some goals and / or objectives of the organization as they relate to the grant proposal, some accomplishments of the organization, as well as a description of the demographic that your organization serves.

Keep in mind that your grant proposal will likely be the only contact that your grant sponsor has with your organization, so give enough information that your grant sponsor can get a feel for your organization and what it does. Never mislead, lie, or exaggerate because any dishonesty will result in your proposal being disregarded.

Remember that you will be in competition for other groups/individuals that are applying for the same grant money that you are. Try to differentiate your request by including unique or compelling information that sets your organization apart from every other applicant applying for this funding.

Proposal Description

Now it is time for the meat of the proposal. In this section of the proposal the you actually ask for funding or assistance. This is obviously the most important section of your grant proposal. This is where you describe your needs and convince the grant sponsor that your idea is worth investing in. There is no 'correct format' in which to submit your proposal, but by following these guidelines your chances for success are vastly improved.

* Justify your proposal. Explain the special needs or circumstances that you are trying to satisfy via your grant.

* Be very specific. Don't assume that the Grant Officer knows what you're talking about. Grant Officers deal with the big picture- they may provide research grants, but they probably don't know why your particular branch of research is important.

* Use an emotional appeal. Give the grant sponsor a reason to feel empathy for the goals and needs of your organization. If you are applying for a Fire Department Survivors Grant, feel free to tell them about your brother who is a fireman. Include anything that will help your grant sponsor feel empathy or identify with your organization.

* Remind the sponsor how your proposal will contribute to society. Grant sponsors must know that you have a plan for their grant money. No smart foundation wants to fund an idea or dream. Give specific ways that the funding will be used for the betterment of someone - anyone. Provide a clear outline of how much money is needed and exactly what you need it for. Do not use general terms, be SPECIFIC. Try "...to achieve this goal, our organization will need $150,000 to purchase screening devices for use at college football games", not "We need a hundred thousand dollars to expand like we want to."

* Remember that your proposal should be a solution to a specific problem, and be very clear about the problem you are going to solve. Lets say that you want to build a battered woman's shelter. Don't write "The lack of women's shelters is a huge problem in our area", when the problem in your area is the issues women face when they are abused. You are proposing a specific solution to these problems. Your proposal shouldn't be about the needs of the organization requesting the funding, it should be about needs identified in the community that you are serving. Even if you are applying for something like an educational scholarship, the proposal should be phrased so that the benefits to your state, community, or local area are highlighted.

* Differentiate your organization. Remember that other institutions are attempting to address the same issue as your organization is, so show how your organization differs from them. Show how you address areas that they do not. For example, there may already be a teen outreach program in the area, but it doesn't have after-school programs or tutoring and education assistance.

* Explain specifically how you plan to solve the problem outlined in your proposal. Don't write "Our organization will solve child abuse in this area." Instead try "By providing intervention support, education, and teen outreach programs, the child abuse funding we are requesting will result in a 23% decrease in child abuse in the greater Las Vegas area."

* Provide metrics that will detail success. Explain how your organizations proposal will improve a current problem and change things for the better. Describe how a child abuse center will help break the cycle of abuse in your community. Use specific statistics and measurable metrics wherever possible.

* Detail any special qualifications. Take time to talk about other successful projects. Detail the academic achievements of the officers of your organization. Remember that your organization must be perceived as the expert. If your organization is not perceived as very knowledgeable then it probably will not be trusted with grant funding. Be sure to provide metrics and measurable goals. Talk about how your organization will keep the grant sponsors informed of all progress on the project.

* Give credit where credit is due. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and sponsors especially like to see their name being publicly recognized for contributions.

Measurable Metrics

It's important that the grant sponsor know that you have an end goal - beyond simply getting some money. You should include a section that explains what you plan to achieve with the grant money. It could be as simple as "If you honor me with this scholarship, I will complete dental school and become a Dentist, providing quality dental care to the children of my community." Or it might be as complex as a break down of the benefits that your organization will provide to your community and the surrounding areas.

The main thing is that the donor will want to see that you're trying to accomplish a specific set of goals, not just spend money. You need to make the grant sponsor feel that they are investing in the future. They want to know that you have long-term goals and objectives, and that the money disbursed will continue to generate real and public relations benefits for years to come.

Remember: The Grant Resource Center stays up to date on the latest grant programs available so please check in regularly. We verify and update the information presented on a daily basis, so you will always have access to the most current information possible in one location. We're famillar with virtually every source of Federal and private grant money, so all you have to do is decide what type of grant you need and get started.