We aren't even going to act like grant writing is easy. It takes time, effort, and a lot of attention to detail. Each proposal written and submitted should be as strong as possible to ensure the best chance of approval from a grantmaker. We put together this list detailing the most important elements of a strong proposal. Take a look then go forth and conquer!
A Compelling Project That Will Fill a Critical Need. Don't chase money!
Each strong grant proposal should include a full description of your proposed project and the need within the community that it fills, but how do you make that compelling? Your first step is to do research and ensure that the funder to which you are submitting is a good fit for your organization and project and that your request is reasonable. Review prospective funders on Foundation Directory Online (FDO), check out the funder's website, and review their most recent IRS 990s to make sure their priorities and level of funding aligns with your project and needs. The submission will not be compelling to them if it falls outside of their interests.
Once this research is complete and you are confident that the grantmaker is a good fit for your organization and project you can begin gathering your data and crafting your narrative. You will want to use concise and clear language to explain the current state of the problem that you hope to solve and how you propose to solve it. Support this need with plenty of verifiable data and statistics which you will weave in throughout your proposal.
Solid Community Data Justifying the Need
Speaking of data and statistics, a strong proposal presents the grantmaker with local data that shows the impact that your project will have. Strive to show a comparison between state and national data that will justify your case for support. Illustrate clearly, with data, any gaps in service that exist between the private and public sectors and any barriers that are currently keeping those in need from receiving services. This data may take a while to compile so for a winning proposal, give yourself plenty of time to gather the numbers needed.
Outcome Measures Showing Impact of Your Organization.
It is not enough just to state your accomplishments, you will want to show through data, that your organization is making a difference in the community. In your proposal, you will want to provide numbers to support how many community members you are helping each year and the broad impact that you are having on the problem that your mission seeks to solve. This may require you to provide data from before your organization or program existed as well as the data that shows your progress in solving the problem.
Evaluation Method to Measure Success of the Project
In your proposal, you will want to present grantmakers with a step by step breakdown in how your organization will judge the productivity of your project. Decide whether your evaluation should be goal-based, process-based, or outcome-based and ensure that these measures you have selected to provide are realistic, measurable, and verifiable. Additionally, you will want to mention how they will be documented, who will be documenting, and how often documentation will be performed.
Match Commitment to Show you Have Skin in the Game
Most grantmakers will want to see that you are taking other steps to make your project or program a reality by considering other sources of funding. This shows that you have the support of your community and/or board behind you. Some sources of commitment could include money raised through crowdfunding, a gift from a large donor(s), or money/goods put forth by a corporate partner. Additional project funding shows that the project is sustainable and is likely to have support even after the grant funding has been spent. Ensure that any match commitment you present is verifiable or that you have a realistic plan in place to match the funds through donations from the community.
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