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Top 5 Tips for Successful Grant Proposals

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Crowd-sourced from Foundation Center trainers, here are our top five tips for developing successful grant proposals:

Do your homework! Research, research, research.

Conducting targeted research helps you find the right funders to partner with and support your organization’s work. Sending the right proposal to the right funder is key to finding the match. Your interests must align!

Present a logical solution to a problem.

Think of your proposal as a story with a beginning (the problem or opportunity is the need statement), middle (the solution is your program), and end (the results are your outcomes). Time and time again, we hear funders say they get lost when reading proposals. The solution to the presented problem needs to make sense. Tell the reader right up front what you are going to do, who is going to benefit, and why they should care.

Convince the funder you know what you’re doing.

The proposal should demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the need in your community and a strong programmatic response. After reading your proposal, the funder should feel confident that your organization would be a responsible steward of their funds. Present a solid plan and highlight the skills and experience of your leaders.

Tell the same story in the budget and narrative in your grant proposals.

Too many times proposal writers pour their blood, sweat, and tears into a beautifully crafted narrative, and the budget is an afterthought. Big mistake! The project budget is another opportunity to tell your story and demonstrate your credibility. Many funders tell us that the budget is often the first thing they look at. Everything in your budget should be reflected in the narrative. The last thing you want is a budget that raises more questions than it answers.

Remember that funders are people.

Pick up the phone and call (when appropriate) instead of relying solely on email. Foundation fundraising (like all fundraising) is about relationships. A real person will read your proposal, and foundation staff are often receptive to phone calls if they can help you submit a better proposal. It makes their job easier too!

We share more successful strategies in Foundation Center proposal writing training that are offered both in person and online. Some of our offerings:

Creating a Sound Proposal Budget (self-paced learning)

Online Proposal Writing Course (self-paced learning)

3-day Proposal Writing Boot Camp (classroom) You can get even further in this three-day intensive. Start writing your proposal and submit it to our mock grantmaker review panel, the highlight of the Boot Camp. You’ll also learn about research and the budget (see tips 1 and 4).  


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