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Document Checklist for Grant Proposals: Part 1

A Foundation Center South visitor was trying to organize paperwork related to grant proposals and asked if we knew of a checklist that listed every document that might have something to do with a grant proposals. We couldn’t find one, so we made our own, drawing heavily from The Foundation Center’s Guide to Proposal Writing, 6th ed. We’ve loosely organized this list by stages of the grant proposal process:

  • Prospect research
  • Letter of inquiry/proposal
  • After sending your proposal
  • If you get the grant
  • If you don’t get the grant
  • How to keep track of all of this info

Part 1 focuses on the prospect research stage. Future blog posts will focus on the remaining stages.

Prospect research

At minimum, you’ll want this info in your prospect dossier:

  • Foundation website URL(s), if one exists. Tip: Note what info you can find there.
  • Most recent Forms 990.
  • Profile from Foundation Directory Online or other database(s).
  • Content from other third-party sources, like news articles.
  • Notes from contacting the funder prior to sending a letter of inquiry or grant proposal:
    • Contact’s name, title, email, phone number, other contact details.
    • Preferred method of communication.
    • Date and time of conversation.
    • Content of conversation —
      • What did you say? What did the other person say?
      • Did you use a script or a list of talking points? Link/refer to them here. (Luck favors the prepared.)
      • What are next steps, if any?

Really? I should try to contact funders directly?

Yes. Many foundations prefer that you call before sending a letter or proposal, as long as your prospect hasn’t clearly stated “No phone calls” on its website or other materials for grantseekers. Before that first call, you still should learn as much as you can about the funder so you can ask better questions. Your conversation needs to make it clear that you have read the guidelines and want further clarification on whether your particular project would fit.

Also: Don’t be picky about whom you speak with. Regard anyone from the foundation as someone who might have some influence when they review grant proposals. Respect their time, don’t do all the talking, listen well, take good notes, and when the discussion ends, thank them for their time.

See Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog post series.


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  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    November 13, 2023 10:33 am

    Thanks for the question!

  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    November 3, 2023 11:55 am

    Please reach out to [email protected]. Thank you!

  • Cecelia L Garcia says:

    November 2, 2023 12:30 pm

    Your information is incredibly outdated. As an example I see you have Illeana Trevino as the President CEO of Memorial Hermann Foundation in 2014. Mrs. Trevino has been gone since 2016. I'm also finding a lot of other information that is not updated including the qualification lists for proposals. This is absolutely unacceptable. Who else do I talk to about your lack of updating?