We know staff resources are tight at every nonprofit and the grant-writing process can often be tedious and consume many hours of the work week. Our hope is that the following tips will minimize the time needed in writing your proposals and will be helpful in positioning your grant proposal in the strongest and most competitive light.
Tips for a Successful Grant Application:
While acknowledging every grant panel is different, certain approaches are sure to make for a more competitive grant proposal. Please consider the following tips when preparing your application:
- We love to read about the great work you are doing, but first and foremost: answer the questions! It’s an easy pitfall to stumble into: when describing aspects of your programming and the various ways your organization enhances the community, you forget to tie the information back to the question in the grant application. Remember, your answers don’t need to be long or elaborate; they just need to specifically provide the information requested.
- Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes. With limited grant dollars available, it’s important for the Foundation to closely track program outcomes from grants. This helps us to measure the impact of our philanthropic investments and it helps us to continue raising funds which can then be reinvested in the community. When listing outcomes in your grant proposal, it is important to keep them specific, realistic and achievable.
- Budgets! Every organization creates budgets differently – and that’s OK. However, despite the different formats, it is always important to clearly show exactly where grant funds would be used if awarded. Don’t hesitate to be detailed in your budget. Odds are, the grant panel would prefer to see the details than have questions about what budget line items would be covered by the grant.
- Consistency. Sometimes grant applications will ask for the same information in multiple places. Be sure to double check that the information you provide is consistent throughout the proposal. For example, if you indicate that you will impact 2,500 individuals on your cover sheet, be sure you don’t write that your program will impact 5,000 individuals in the grant narrative.
- Collaborate. Collaboration is not required for grant funding, but it can strengthen your proposal. Funding dollars are consistently limited, so it’s always attractive when a grant can tangentially support multiple organizations. The aim is not to force collaboration, but to support non-duplicative services among partner organizations. When describing a collaboration in your proposal, be sure to demonstrate how your program operates in a way that is mutually beneficial to two or more organizations and the populations they serve.
- Presentation is key. Grant panelists review many proposals in a short amount of time. In an effort the keep grant proposals organized and easy to comprehend, the Foundation has set forth organizational guidelines for proposals, such as title sections for the grant narrative and titles for grant attachments. Please be sure to follow these guidelines, as it will help the reviewers to clearly read and review your materials.
- Questions are welcome. Our goal at the Foundation is to support our community and to ensure we are making strategic and effective grants. We are here to help you! If you find yourself struggling through a proposal or uncertain of what program would be a competitive fit, please contact our Grant staff at: firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can never predict the grant panel’s funding decisions, we can try to offer tips or suggestions that may prove helpful in the application process. Note: Foundation staff are not on the grant panel and do not have an official vote on funding decisions for the Competitive Grant Program.
If you are new to grant-writing, we recommend you visiting The Foundation Center’s website for additional tips on writing proposals and preparing grant budgets. The Foundation Center offers a wealth of information, in addition to many free webinars and seminars that could be invaluable in submitting a competitive grant proposal.