How to Write a Grant Proposal

Grant proposals are in-depth formal requests asking an individual, private, or federal organization for money to fund an existing program or a program that will be implemented in the future. Non-profit programs, freelance artists, writers, educational and scientific projects often cannot continue to function in their intended capacity without this funding. Most times, the grants do not have to be repaid; however, the progress of a project usually must be tracked in order to continue to receive monies. Tracking is easier when a grant proposal is detailed and concise. Proposals need to be on the table before funding is needed or the project may well be shelved for lack of monies.


Developing Ideas for the Proposal

Every grant proposal has specific criteria for submission. There may be specific forms to fill out; multiple deadlines, and processes exclusive to the funding entity that must be adhered to in order to successfully apply for a grant. The process usually begins internally with a Request for Proposal or RFP. Once the RFP has been approved, then the details of the project must be developed with all its unique points that set it apart from other organizations competing for the same funds. Often it is a slow process with boards or committee members having to approve each step. 

Community Support

Liken community support to letters of recommendation. Get positive documentation from as many resources as possible, including lay, political, academic, and professional organizations. The more positive recommendations that sanction a project, the more the grant committee may look favorably on it. Meet with the local community and obtain grass roots support.

Identification of a Funding Resource

A Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number must be provided if seeking Federal funds, whereas funds from a private source does not need such a number. Hone in on like-minded funding resources. Know your audience and research the grant organization thoroughly before applying. Ascertain who will be reviewing the grant proposal at the funding organization--will it be scholars or lay persons?

Getting Organized to Write the Proposal

Gather all necessary documentation before beginning to write the proposal. If a committee is involved, brainstorm, keep detailed notes, and do not discard any notes as ideas tend to evolve throughout the grant writing process.


Review and edit the proposal after it is written. Look for concise wording, flow of ideas, uniform formatting, and concrete data. Rid the proposal of assumptive wording and refrain from jargon and padding.

Signature/Neatness/ Format

This may seem mundane, but the mechanics of the grant proposal must adhere to the requirements listed for the proposal. Neatness counts! Be concise and make sure that all formatting is properly completed. Do not forget to sign the proposal with signature, title, and date--or in the format specific to the proposal requirements. If the necessary signatures are not included, it is likely the proposal will not be considered.


Cover letters accompany most proposals. Mail proposals according to requirements of the funding institution, usually by regular mail.


Summary: Outlining Project Goals

Approach the proposal summary the way an abstract would be approached: after the proposal is written so that key elements can be included. The two or three paragraph summary influences the reader much like headlines do in a newspaper. Good summaries prompt further reading and may make the difference in further project deliberation.

Introduction: Presenting a Credible Applicant or Organization

Most proposals require a detailed description of the organization asking for funding. Most information can be found in the annual report. Include biographical, current, and historical data in the introduction as well as contact data. Establishing the organization as a credible, viable resource will present a favorable return on investment for the granter.

 Stating the Problem/Purpose

This is the needs assessment, stating the specifics of why grant monies are needed for a project or prospective project. Need assessments take time and resources. Interview those who can project and justify the needs of the project in detail. Remember that not only is this a grant proposal, it is specialized marketing. Use both quantitative and qualitative data to illustrate the problem and the objectives to set the proposal above the other applicants.

 Project Objectives: Goals and Desired Outcomes

Keep in mind that general goals and specific objectives are two different ways to obtain an attainable project outcome. Under each goal, list specific objectives in meeting that goal unless another format is requested. Remember to keep objectives measurable.

Program Methods and Program Design: A Plan of Action

Goals and objectives lead to methodology and plan to reach the desired outcome for a project. Break down the plan into manageable, measurable, and specific steps that are easily evaluated.

 Evaluation: Product and Process Analysis

This step is necessary to assess whether project objectives have been reached. Criteria must be in place or developed in order evaluate the project.

 Future Funding: Long Term Project Planning

This is simply a long term forecast for the project. Once original funding runs out, how will the project be funded?

The Proposal Budget: Planning the Budget

Define the approach to the budget. This can vary dependent on the project. Being accurate is essential to getting enough funding to complete one or more project phases. Consider all direct and indirect costs, what is allowed by the granting agency and what is not, and triple-check all the math.

 Additional Resources

Grant proposals are like any development proposal. Granters must believe in the project, see its vision, its specific needs and data, design, implementation and evaluation. There is an abundance of grant writing and funding information on the Web ready to be adapted to any project need.