Grants are a mainstay for nonprofits and other organizations seeking to fund programs, from small-scale community programs to millions of dollars in university research. A grant proposal is considered on how well it meets the proposal requirements as well as how it compares to the often hundreds of competing proposals the granting organization receives.
Anyone who has worked on a grant proposal, in particular one issued from a federal or state agency, has a grasp of the complexity involved. “The process for writing grant proposals is messy and cumbersome and confusing,” according to The National Environmental Education Foundation, a nonprofit chartered by Congress in 1990. “That each proposal must be specifically tailored to the foundation or other institutional grant-maker is an added challenge.”
Boost Midwest knows that when applying for grants — no matter their complexity— the same best practices hold true. So, keep these five important tips in the forefront when crafting your grant proposal so it will stand out.
1. Develop a boilerplate. While each grant application has unique requirements, there are identical elements requested for every proposal. The most obvious ones are a description of your organization and how it is funded. Have a thoroughly edited and vetted description prepared and ready to insert into your narrative. And prepare more than one, as word limits vary among grant applications anywhere from 100 to 1,200 characters. A longer description allows for more nuance, but take time to show the uniqueness of your organization in short descriptions, too. The same holds true for a statement or narrative on how your organization is funded and other standard requests.
2. Dedicate one person for the grant project. While you may rely on many people within your organization to provide the information required, appointing one person to be in charge of the grant, if possible, is best. The grants field is extremely competitive, and your proposal will be weighed against those submitted by grant writing professionals, often who have an entire team behind them. If your nonprofit does not have the resources available, consider hiring a grant writer or consultant to manage and write your proposal. This person will:
Maintain a calendar for deadlines, including reporting requirements if the grant is awarded.
Coordinate timelines and required deliverables.
Track rounds of revisions, along with required attachments and financial documents.
Maintain communication with all stakeholders.
Be responsible for meeting all deadlines.
Create and/or update boilerplate language for the proposal and future proposals.
3. Submit a Letter of Intent/Interest/Inquiry. While not always required, many granting organizations will provide a deadline for submitting a letter of intent, interest or inquiry. This is a way to get your organization in front of the grant reviewer or reviewing team. At the same time, you will usually receive feedback that will advise on the grant writing process. Also, many grant funders hold an informational session through video-streaming platforms that provides more information and allow for questions from potential grantees. This is a great opportunity to find out more information and, perhaps as important, to get a feel for the granting organization and a sense of what approach will best appeal to them.
4. Don’t rush the process. Once you decide to apply for a specific grant, create a list with the following information:
Each document that must be submitted with the application.
All tasks that need to be completed.
Persons responsible for each task and its deadline.
Which stakeholders should review the application to suggest revisions.
5. Highlight your strengths over your needs. Your proposal should emphasize why your organization is worthy of receiving the grant. The best way to show this is by including what your organization has accomplished in the past, with and without the help of grant funds. This should include its impact on the arena your organization serves — community, education, research and entrepreneurship are a few examples — and the solution(s) your organization has offered and will continue to in the future. This carries more weight than only a list of needs. Your proposal should show that your organization is effective at creating positive change in whatever field it serves.
6. Show the cost-effectiveness of your proposal. When completing the budget narrative piece, be sure to outline how your organization has used other funding sources to support your proposed project, implemented cost-saving measures and utilized all other available resources. This shows the granting organization that its investment will be used to its greatest capacity.
7. View the grant agreement as a legal document:
Understand all restrictions in the grant: time limits, accounting practices, and the like.
Note all terms and conditions: ownership of work produced, use of the granting agency’s or foundation’s name, distribution of final reports, etc.
Consider a review by an outside party or legal counsel.
Ask the funder for clarification of any issues identified in the agreement.
Boost Midwest’s grants management team has experience and skill in consulting on and crafting proposals using these best practices and more throughout the entire grant cycle. Keep in mind that a successful grant proposal not only includes all the information and documentation required in a clear and concise way but also tells a story — the story of how the grantor’s funds will effect positive change.
Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.