How to write a winning grant proposal
Writing a proposal for a project grant can feel like a daunting task, but with the right guidance, it doesn’t need to be a bewildering endeavor. Like climbing a mountain, it helps to have a path to follow to reach its summit, or in this case, a map of sorts to guide you to your desired destination—a compelling proposal that unlocks funding to advance your mission-driven work.
In this blog, we will share the key elements of a typical project proposal and best practices for how to approach drafting each section to help you secure the grant you seek.
Key elements of a project proposal
Often, your executive summary will be the first spot funders look to decide if they want to continue reading the entire proposal. Although an executive summary is typically included at the beginning of your final grant proposal, it’s best to tackle writing this section last given its importance. Your executive summary provides a snapshot of your overall proposal and often includes:
- The problem or need you’re seeking to address, or your proposal’s need statement.
- A brief description of the project, including your goals and objectives.
- Information about your organization and its experience addressing your proposal’s key need or problem.
- How much money that you are asking the funder to consider granting you.
Your need statement is where you’ll convince your prospective funder of the urgency of addressing your proposed problem or need in one page or less. In this section, do your best to succinctly peak the prospective funder’s interest in your specific project by incorporating data-driven insights and human stories that bring your need to life. Once completed, it should seek to answer these questions: If your project is funded, how will it be better and for whom, and why should this particular funder care?
Given you are competing with other applicants, don’t forget to align your need statement with your funder’s objectives. After all, the best way to get a funder to care about your solution is to explain how it overlaps with the focus areas of their foundation.
Your project description should delve deep into the specific activities of your project and how they will benefit your target demographic. This section should include a detailed outline that explains exactly how, when, and by whom the project will be executed and completed. An additional tip for success: Consider emphasizing any collaborations and partnerships with other organizations on similar efforts to boost your credibility.
Project goals and objectives
When it comes to grant proposals, it is important to understand the difference between goals and objectives. Goals are typically broad, general statements of need, while objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound (S.M.A.R.T.). It is also important to discuss whether the issue is currently being addressed, and how your solution or organization will be better than the status quo.
In your grant proposal, you should provide more information about your organization. This is where you can showcase your mission, organizational history, as well as the impacts of your other programs and/or services. In this section, you can highlight your nonprofit’s accomplishments, staff’s expertise, and track record of success in your community. When approaching writing this section of your proposal, aim to include details that help the funder see why your organization is best suited to solve the problem or need at hand, if awarded the grant.
If you are wondering how to get started, consider showcasing the information in your Candid nonprofit profile.
Here you’ll get down to the dollars and cents required to address your need or problem. Your project budget will ideally mirror the associated direct and indirect costs of the items outlined in your project description, such as staffing, rent, supplies, promotion, and the like. In this section, you will also want to detail the revenue sources you are planning to use to fund the project. Another tip for success: Be sure to explain how you will continue to support and sustain the project—beyond the specific grant you are seeking.
For a more in-depth understanding of how to create a project budget, be sure to check out this free training on the topic.
With this roadmap to guide your efforts, you’re ready to begin writing a successful grant proposal. If you’re interested in some additional tips and pointers, be sure to also consider the following best practices:
- Start with an outline to help you better prepare, organize your thoughts, and guide your efforts.
- Do your research to understand who you are approaching and what their priorities are by exploring the information on their website, the types of nonprofits and issue areas they fund using Foundation Directory, and the like.
- Focus on the funder’s objectives and use your powers of persuasion to make them understand that your approach is in their best interest.
- Always follow the funder’s guidelines and keep your language clear and concise.
- Tap into the power of your colleagues’ feedback, and don’t forget to revise and edit your proposal before submitting it.
To learn even more, visit learning.candid.org where you can find free resources and sample documents or join us for our three-week, in-depth Proposal Writing Bootcamp to help you craft a winning grant proposal.