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Four Key Elements of Your Next Successful Grant Proposal



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When you’re writing a grant proposal, it may sometimes feel as though every funder is seeking different information. Narratives ask you to “define the statement of need” or “provide a rationale for funding” or “tell us what problem you are trying to solve.”  

The truth is they are all asking for the same thing!

While it does feel like you’re starting from scratch with each new proposal, in truth, most funders are seeking the same information. Knowing what the common elements are will help you prepare to write a strong case for funding. You’ll be ready to adapt your information to any grant submission you’re writing and be on your way to scoring a successful grant.

There are many components that are common to most grant proposals, but let’s focus on the four that include information that every future funder will want to read.

First element: organization overview.

Every funder will want to know about you -- a summary of who your organization is, what you do, how you got started, and highlights of your key programs and significant accomplishments.

This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the funder and demonstrate your ability to manage potential funding. The funder may know your organization or they may have never heard of you; regardless, this is your opportunity for them to get to know you.

Don’t assume the funder knows anything about you and don’t leave out key history or basic information.

Having a clear, strong response to who you are will let the funder know you are a trusted organization serving the community and worthy of support.

Second element: project description.

Every proposal will want you to talk about the main components of the program you are seeking funding to support. This is your opportunity to include all the relevant information – the objectives you will meet, the major activities, the timeline, the location, the audience to be served.

You want to include enough pertinent details to give an understanding of what you will do. Just be careful not to overwhelm the funder with too many irrelevant details.

And don’t forget to address here specifically how the funder’s money will be spent. The funder will want to know how their support will be used to make the project successful.

Answering all the basic questions in advance will prepare you for a solid program description that tells the funder all they need to know to make a “yes” decision.

Third element: project need or problem.

Whether this is called a “need statement” or a “problem statement,” every grant proposal should address why you are doing the project. For example, are you providing more assistance to those in need, healthcare for seniors, protection for the environment, positive alternatives for youth for after school?

Whatever the need in the community is that you are trying to solve, this is your opportunity to tell your funder why your project is important. This is also a great opportunity to link your need to the interests of your funder and why they should care about your project.

Here’s where you should also include any key facts or statistics that you have gathered through surveys or anecdotes to support why the need is so important.

If you’re not trying to solve or meet a need, you don’t have a strong grant proposal.

Fourth element: project outcome.

Every funder cares about impact. They want to know what will change as a result of your project. Your grant proposal needs to address impact. And this is not always easy!

This is your opportunity to talk about how many people will be served by or participate in your project, and what will be different as a result of solving the need or problem that you proposed. You should also talk about how you will know when you are successful.

Think about measurable outcomes here as well as anecdotes. Numbers are great, but also articulate what effects your program will have on participants, such as what new skills will be learned or what different behaviors will happen. Think beyond the surface and try to dig deep for what impact your program will have for your community.

In reality, most funders will also want you to include budget or financial information, other funding sources, even additional documentation to make your case in your grant proposal.

However, having clear, engaging, well-developed answers to these four key elements will move you in the “yes” pile for further consideration.

Remember that while you may have only one grant proposal to write at a time, those reviewing the grant proposals may be reading dozens, even hundreds. They have to quickly narrow the submissions to those worthy of funding.

Think through all the common elements and questions, develop a plan, and then write. Your time spent will be worth it when your project is fully funded!

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