Four common grant proposal documents (free samples included)
There are four major documents that you may need to create if your nonprofit is looking for funding. Each has a different purpose and elements you’ll need to make your case to funders.
In this blog, we share the major types of grant proposal documents, their components, and free sample resources to show you what a successful version of each one looks like.
Letters of inquiry (LOI)
If you’re new to fundraising and grant writing, you may have not heard the term letter of inquiry, or LOI. Honestly, when you do, it’s good news.
A letter of inquiry or LOI is something a funder may ask for in lieu of a full grant proposal. Instead of a giant stack of papers, you just need to write a few pages to create a LOI that will get the funder excited to support your cause or project.
Sometimes, this can be the first step in a funder’s broader grant proposal process. In this case, you may be asked to complete a LOI to show whether you meet the grant criteria, so time is not wasted on a full proposal. Other times, it serves as the entire proposal.
Here’s what a letter of inquiry should include:
- An introduction that summarizes the letter.
- A brief description of your organization and why this particular project is important.
- A statement of need that convinces the reader your project meets the specific needs of those you serve.
- A methodology that explains how you’ll do it.
- Other funding sources that are being approached.
- Finally, a summary of what was just said and a brief thank you to the funder for considering your organization.
The biggest challenge is you only get a couple pages to make your case. In our LOI sample documents, you will see examples of how you can summarize projects in a compelling and concise way.
This is the most important part of your grant proposal: the cover letter. Think of a cover letter as a compelling introduction to the contents of your full proposal. It’s your first chance to connect your project with the funder’s philanthropic mission.
At minimum, your cover letter should include:
- An introduction to your project.
- The dollar amount of funding you need.
- How your project and organization will further the foundation’s mission.
- A list that outlines the proposal’s contents.
- Contact details in case the funder wants additional information.
- A signature from your organization’s executive director.
Additionally, if your organization has branded letterhead, consider using it for added polish.
In our sample documents, you’ll find three different examples of cover letters that include these aspects.
Proposal budgets may seem a bit dull, but many funders say it’s the first part of a grant proposal that they read. Your budget should show your credibility and impact with numbers.
A proposal budget should include:
- Sources of income:
- Grants and other funding contributions.
- Earned income from events, products, and fees.
- Anticipated expenses:
- Direct costs, like staff time, consultants, supplies, equipment, and evaluation (such as conducting surveys or collecting feedback).
- Indirect costs—or the invisible costs, like rent, utilities, office supplies, marketing, and administrative staff.
Make sure your budget adds up (it’s a big red flag when it doesn’t). Not only should the math be correct, but it should also match the request for funding you’re making in the proposal.
To see this in practice, review our proposal budget sample documents.
Full grant proposals
Here’s the big one. Writing a full grant proposal can be a little intimidating.
Before you begin, make sure to read and re-read the instructions from the funder. You don’t want to miss some simple but important proposal requirements, like using a specific font.
Here are the key elements of a proposal:
- Executive summary. This is where you’ll give a snapshot of the problem, your solution for addressing it, why your organization can help, and the amount of funding you’ll need to do so.
- Needs statement. Next is a needs statement that shows why your project is needed and aligned with funders’ focus areas.
- Project description. In this section, you’ll share your project’s goals and objectives, detailed activities, and information about your organization.
- Proposal budget. Finally, a budget that shows in numbers how you’ll address the problem.