As a grant seeker, you may write proposals. A proposal communicates your plan to grantmakers and asks for their support. Grantmakers want to support good projects. Use the tips and outline in this article to create winning proposals.
PURPOSE OF PROPOSALS
The purpose of proposals is persuasion. Your proposal must communicate your project in a way that persuades grantmakers to invest in it.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before writing a proposal, study the problem, the people who will benefit and the methods you will use. You do not need to be an expert. Aim for relevant knowledge and thoughtful answers to questions.
Get the grantmaker’s guidelines and follow them. Each grantmaker has preferences and special requirements.
Organize your proposal so it flows logically and everything is easy to find. Follow the guidelines; they may require items in a particular order.
I. Executive Summary
The executive summary is your proposal compressed into a page. It should contain:
– Brief needs statement.
– Brief project description and goals.
– Funding request.
– Brief description of your organization.
Though it appears first in the proposal, write it last. You cannot summarize what you have not written.
II. Needs Statement
Describe the problem. Do not simply convey that people have unmet needs. Call for action.
Lack of a program is not a problem. It is not a problem that a community lacks after-school programs. However, childhood crime, drug abuse, violence and poor academic performance are problems an after-school program might alleviate.
Describe your target population. Many grant programs aim at particular populations.
Use statistics judiciously. A few relevant statistics with meaningful interpretations can be powerful. Too many numbers can overwhelm, confuse and bore readers.
III. Project Description
Describe what you will achieve, how you will do it and how you will know you have succeeded. Use the sections that follow.
Describe the results you will achieve as goals and objectives. Goals are general statements of how things will be. Objectives are specific, measurable outcomes.
Have a goal for each major problem you identified. It is okay to have a single goal. Do not make goals grand and flowery. Simple, realistic, achievable goals are better.
For each goal, you need one or more objectives. Objectives usually fall into these categories: completion of specific activities or products, and changes in behavior or performance. An arts project might be an exhibit (activity) or a book documenting an artist’s works (product). A health program might reduce smoking among college students (behavior). An educational objective might be to improve math skills in middle school students (performance).
The methods section is the how-to part of you proposal. Describe the activities you will undertake to achieve your goals.
Different fields have different methods. For educational programs, you have curricula. A health program may involve treatment. Social service programs may use a process.
Graphical presentations can simplify process descriptions. I came to grant writing from engineering where CPM and PERT charts are common. Support you diagram with narrative. Diagrams can be confusing and indecipherable on their own.
Address the timetable. State when you plan to start, end and complete milestones.
Describe numbers and types of workers, not individuals. You may need five social workers, two teachers or twenty volunteers. A health program may have a full-time nurse and a part-time physician.
How do you know you have achieved your goals? You evaluate the completed project.
Evaluation plans generally flow from your objectives and methods. In some areas, like education, you may be able to draw on existing instruments. In others, you may have to come up with something new.
For ongoing programs, sustainability is very important. Grantmakers want programs to continue when their involvement ends. Show the resources that will replace the grant.
For projects, this may or may not be an issue. When an exhibit ends or a book is published, it is done. I am fond of infrastructure projects, and the completion of construction is beginning of achieving results. Financial assistance may pay for the construction of a water treatment plant, but someone must sustain its operation with staff, electricity and chemicals. The construction project ends, but sustainability is essential.
A budget describes the expenses and revenue needs for your project. It is the basis for your grant request.
Your budget is a projection. You cannot project exact costs, but be as specific as possible. Use your pay rates, supplier quotes, consultant estimates and other available information to improve your estimate.
Accompany the budget with a brief narrative. Explain anything that may raise questions.
Finally, you get to describe who you are. Focus on communicating your ability to implement the project. Some things to include are:
– Purpose, mission or vision statement.
– Brief history.
– Previous achievements.
– Leadership and key staff. Include brief biographies and qualifications.
– List of board members.
The conclusion is a final thought for the proposal evaluator to consider. Describe how the project will make things better. Review the results you will achieve.
You may have additional things to submit with a proposal, such as proof of nonprofit status. Only include what the grantmaker requests.
Your proposal is the means for persuading a grantmaker to fund your project. Keep your persuasive purpose in mind, prepare well and use the tips in this article to make your case.
Keenan Patterson is a manager at Infra Consulting LC in Jefferson City, Missouri (check the Yahoo or Google local listings for contact information). He assists his clients through grant writing and administration services with an emphasis on infrastructure and environmental projects.