Where To Start With a Grant Proposal

Grant writing can seem like a daunting process at first, especially if you are working on your first project. All foundations and funders will have different processes for processing grant requests, but there are a few basic things that you can do to get started that will help put you ahead of the rest.

Find Foundations Whose Mission Matches Yours
A lot of funders are passionate about specific areas such as education or the environment. No matter what your proposal is, try to find a funder who will be interested and passionate about your cause. You will be able to elaborate on this connection in your grant proposal, which will make it more personal. For example, if you hope to start a community garden, searching the internet for “environmental grants” or “community grants” will show you foundations with an interest in projects like yours. You can also try search engines specifically for grants, such as Grant Watch.

Explore 990 Forms
Each year, nonprofits must file documents with the IRS outlining their financial information. This form, called a 990, is highly detailed and will give you some insight as to what a foundation has funded in the past. Guide Star is a great resource for finding nonprofit documents. Once you find a foundation that seems compatible with your project, seeing the average amount of grants that they award, how many projects they fund, and the exact nature of these projects will give you valuable insight.

Identify a Contact Person
Each foundation will have different steps for processing grant requests. Sometimes a project will be assigned one staff person as a point of contact, while other times you won’t ever see one person’s name on any correspondence. Before you even submit your request, try to identify someone within the foundation to form a relationship. If a website does not list a point of contact for grant proposals, give the foundation a call, describe your project, and see if there is someone available to be assigned to your case. Having a connection with someone will help to streamline correspondence.

Map Out a Story
Every project has a story. Listing facts tells what an organization does. Sharing someone’s experience shows what an organization does. By bringing a more human element into your proposal, you will make it much more memorable than a dry proposal that is driven only by data. Prior to writing the proposal, think about interesting angles you can take. Maybe there is an inspiring story from someone who benefitted from your service. Maybe someone on your staff has a personal connection to your chosen issue and can offer a unique take on it. Having a story in mind before writing your proposal will help to guide you in a more creative way as you put it all together.

By investing some time in some of these pre writing practices, you will be in a position to make the most out of your grant proposal. Making a connection with the mission of a foundation, their staff, and your own project will greatly benefit your chances of receiving funding.

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