A grant proposal is a formal request made by a Non-Profit organization and sent to private, corporate, or government institutions in order to procure funds. As a Non-Profit, you need funds for a variety of activities. This could include staff salaries, upgrades in technology, and of course the means to support your cause.
This said, writing a grant proposal is difficult. Did you know that it can take up to 200 hours for the average Non-profit to craft a winning federal grant application!
It’s a daunting process — but don’t let that scare you off! In this article, we will cover the typical challenges and mistakes Non-Profits make during the grant writing process; how they can get it right; some pro tips; and guidelines to help you write a winning grant proposal. Feel free to hop over to our ‘Resources’ section that provides non-profit organizations with critical insight and data needed to smoothly run their operations.
Before you begin writing your grant proposal, there are few things you must establish. These are:
1. What is the intent you wish to communicate through this writing?
2. Who is it you are writing for?
3. What are your fundraising goals?
4. What are the estimated costs to achieve those goals?
5. What is the timeline of your project completion?
6. Can your non-profits support the fund requirements with data? If so, go ahead and collate that data.
Once you have clarity on the above questions, begin your search to find prospective grants. And don’t let the hard work deter you from getting the grant for your Non-Profit! Working to get answers to all of the above questions will help you to write a winning grant proposal.
A standard grant application process is as follows:
1. Submit the letter of inquiry to the prospect grant maker.
2.Upon receiving a formal request from the grant maker, prepare the grant proposal as per the specific guidelines and format.
3. Send the proposal before the due date.
4. The grant maker, or the funding agency or institution will review your proposal.
5. You will receive a letter of acceptance/rejection for the funds
Before we get into the basic elements of a grant proposal, here are some tips to keep in mind. To make a persuasive grant proposal, you must be mindful of the three different modes of persuasion:
Ethos: The Gut. Ethos is an appeal to ethics. Share details of your past programs and the impact it has created. A summary of your impact adds credence to your Non-Profit.
Logos: The Head. Logos is an appeal to logic. Use data to show the reader the credibility of your claims. Highlight the problem statement and back it up with quantitative data. This will clearly show what issues your organization is addressing and how much it will cost to address those needs.
Pathos: The Heart. Pathos is an appeal to emotion. This is where you can kick in your storytelling skills. One great way to get real stories is by asking the people your non-profit has served. When you share real-life stories, there is authenticity. This is your opportunity to strike an emotional chord with the reader, their beliefs, and values.
The Eight Elements of a Grant Proposal:
1. Cover Letter: Do thorough research on the donor. You can send out an informal email or set up a phone call to introduce yourself and your organization. This would be like a discovery call to understand the donor’s current funding priorities and restrictions. Once you have clarity on that, tailor your cover letter specifically to that funder. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. So, writing a generic cover letter will not work. Keep the cover letter short and address the reader directly. Your initial research will come in handy here. Simply share the main details of your project, the problem you are addressing within the community, how much fund you will need, and try to establish a connection from their mission and funds to your proposed project.
2. Executive Summary: The executive summary is a synopsis of your proposal. This is generally 2-4 pages. Do check the guidelines that may be provided by the funder on the format. Here you will need to share details of your organization, your mission, and its objectives. Write down details of the problem you are trying to address, the funds you will need and how you will utilize those funds. You may also want to throw some light on the sustainability of the project. This gives a sense of confidence to the grant-making organization that you are in for the long haul.
3. Introduction: Provide an overview of your Non-Profit organization. You could address the history of when your organization was established, why it came into existence, a brief on the key members of the team, and so forth. Be objective and express how your organization is capable of meeting the proposed deliverables. You could highlight the success of your past project to show the effectiveness of the work you are doing.
4. Problem Statement: Present the problems in your community and include a sense of urgency to resolve those issues. If you can support the problems faced with data, it will help the reader to better understand the severity of the problems and why they should fund your project or initiative.
5. Goals And Objectives: Now that there is a clear understanding of the problem you are working to resolve, you must lay out the goals and objectives. For example, your goal may be to provide a safe shelter for the homeless. Your objectives should be specific. State who will benefit from your program, what are the metrics you will measure to find out the success of your program, and what is the timeframe you estimate to achieve these objectives.
6. Methods And Strategies: Share the steps and approach you will adopt to achieve the above objectives. Explain the resources that will be allocated to execute the different activities. If you have executed the same strategies in the past and they have worked in your favour, mention those. Show that you have done thorough research to chalk out these methods and strategies. This said, if you foresee any hiccups along the way, do not hesitate to share that as well. But support that with resolutions to showcase that you are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to address those challenges when the time comes. The idea is to show you are prepared and thorough to accomplish success from the allocated funds.
7. Evaluation: This is one of the most critical elements of the grant proposal. Funders are interested in the measurable impact your Non-Profit will bring about. The outcome should be tied to the objectives you have defined earlier. Provide quantifiable metrics to your donors so they know what good can be achieved from the funds to be granted. Quantifiable metrics could include survey feedback, client testimonials, social media interactions, and so on.
8. Budget: Get as detailed as you can when sharing the budget. Share a neat table of expenses across all the operational activities that will go into delivering the project. This could include software, training, salaries, marketing, equipment, travel, rental expenses, and so on. Overcharging and undercharging are both dangerous. So always share actual estimates. It would be great if you could specify which expense(s) will be supported through the foundation’s grant.
You may also find it useful to check out this video by Amber Melanie Smith, a Non-Profit Founder, Executive Director, and Public Speaker on social impact. Here she addresses the 5 common grant proposal questions.
A grant proposal must not only inform but also inspire. Keep a positive tone in your messaging, do your research on the funding organization, and customize your approach and your proposal for every funding organization you pursue. Most importantly remember, the best grant proposals are those that evoke emotion and instill a need to take action through a compelling narrative.
Through Givelife365, a constituent relationship management for non-profits, we seek to empower Non-Profit organizations by connecting all their functions and delivering exceptional digital experiences with a CRM specially designed to help them advance their missions. Powered by Microsoft’s Power BI, a data visualization and reporting tool, you can draw meaningful insights such as showing your program’s impact to funders or running targeted campaigns to improve your fundraising goals.