10 Components of Successful Grant Writing

Posted by Kira Bushman on June 13, 2018

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As exciting as a prospective grant award can be, the task of compiling the data and writing a grant that has better chances of earning funding can be a daunting one. It’s important to remember that a grant letter is no different than any other proposal in the sense that it can be broken down into general segments that make up the whole pitch. Below, we’re covering grant writing examples for nonprofits so you can put together a winning grant letter without going crazy. Treat it like a checklist and you’re on your way to securing your grant.

1. Cover Letter

Yes, the meat of your grant proposal is what’s going to be doing the most heavy lifting in terms of convincing your reader to provide funding for your organization – but that doesn’t mean you can skimp on your cover letter. It’s the first interaction the reader will have with your overall mission, and it’s important to make a great impression so they want to continue reading and award your organization with the grant in question. Make your point clear at the beginning of your letter, and don’t be afraid of a little flattery; exhibiting a clear understanding of how your organization’s needs meet the requirements of the grant will show the reader that you value the time they are taking to consider your organization. Remember to keep it short – one page or under is ideal.

2. Executive Summary

Just what it sounds like, an Executive Summary is like the Cliff’s Notes version of your full grant proposal. This is your opportunity to give an overview of what it is you’ll be asking for and how you plan to support your request throughout the entirety of the proposal. You must be convincing about your organization’s needs, but be careful to avoid hyperbole! Identify your organization and its mission, then a general overview of the proposed program and what it will accomplish, before you thank the reader for considering your request. Like your Cover Letter, the Executive Summary should be under one page long.

3.Need Statement

Now that you’ve gotten your birds’ eye components out of the way, it’s time to do a deep dive into the details. Why are you proposing your organization for grant consideration? What critical societal need is your project going to meet? This is where you turn the focus around from your organization and shed light on the individuals who directly benefit from the services you provide and why you are the best organization to procure a solution with the awarded funding. Data, statistics, and expert quotes are your friend here. The more factual information you can use to support your argument, the better your chances at securing funding. Don’t ignore the importance of giving your plea a human quality. Make it urgent, keep it simple, and keep it sweet.

4. Goals & Objectives

Your Goals & Objectives are the nuts and bolts of the program you’re proposing funding for. This is where you’re going to state your biggest claims (goals) and back them up with a plan of action (objectives). Think big! As crazy as it may sound, your goals can have a reach-for-the-stars potential so long as you support it with clear-cut objectives. The trick is to keep them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. If you’re not able to easily quantify or detail the objectives required to reach a goal, you need to reevaluate your approach to ensure an airtight and fact-driven argument on behalf of your organization.

5. Methods/Strategies

Think of your entire grant proposal as a Russian nesting doll of sorts: the deeper you get, the more granular your messaging becomes. Your Cover Letter served as the broad strokes of your mission, so once you get to your Methods and Strategies, you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of what exactly your organization plans to do in order to bring adequate support to the needs exposed by your data. Methods and Strategies carefully break down, in great detail, just how your organization will use the awarded funds in tangible, quantifiable steps. Timelines, research-backed outcomes from similar programs, and breakdowns of additional equipment or staffing needed can greatly help bolster your overall message. Gather those ahead of time to make your writing process a breeze!

6. Evaluation

Reporting the effectiveness of your proposed program is an important process that you will need to detail in your grant proposal. Funders want to know that their dollars are making a difference, and the best way for you to determine that is through proper and objective evaluation. Consider the pros and cons of both keeping your evaluations internal or outsourcing them to a third party, along with how your evaluation methods will best support the goals your organization plans to work toward. Once you’ve determined your basic approach, hone in on exactly how you plan to measure the successes and failures, and don’t be afraid of those failures. They are extremely important when deciding how to move forward once your grant’s lifecycle has ended.

7. Other Funding

Just as it’s imperative to let your prospective funders in on the major and minor details of your proposed program, it’s equally important to provide them with details of any related funding or donations you expect to utilize over the course of that program. Your organization may already have secured donations for the project, or you may have solicited additional agencies. It’s basically an opportunity for you to provide reassurance to the funder reading your proposal that they won’t be your organization’s only lifeline, and that your overall project mission is sustainable in the long-term.

8. Information About Your Organization

This section of your proposal is going to give an overview of your organization’s highlights, providing the funder with a clear picture of credibility and commitment to a major cause. In addition to covering the basics (legal name, headquarter locations, history), you’ll need to make sure you provide the reader with peace of mind that your organization is the perfect recipient for the funding in question. Ask yourself what the funder might need to fully understand the scope of impact, and make sure you can answer all those questions while shining light on the strengths of your nonprofit. While it’s easy to get excited about the good your organization is doing, keep your information section under three pages.

9. Project Budget

It might seem like you’ve already included a budget somewhere in all that comes before this, but your grant proposal needs a formal Project Budget section that provides a clear snapshot of all the foreseeable expenses and income related to the project. In this section, you’ll provide direct and indirect costs including personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, in-kind contributions, and other overhead. Before you check it off your list, double-check your figures and make sure you’ve included headings and notes where applicable for ease of reader navigation.

10. Additional Materials

Before you wrap up your formal proposal, make sure to take the time to include any additional materials that could help convince a funder who might need a little extra push to award your organization with the funding you’re requesting. This can include an IRS letter proving the tax-exemption of your organization, a list of your board of directors and their affiliations, a budget for your current fiscal year, and/or the budget for your next fiscal year if you are nearing the end of the current year.

This list will help you keep your grant writing organized, but don't forget to organize and manage all of the information about your grants as well! Good writing will only get you so far — use a Grant Management module to track all of your grants. 

Topics: Grant Management

Written by Kira Bushman

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At Arreva, we're here to make our customers a success! Our blog provides you with useful organizational documents, "how to" articles, and other resources. 

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