A very special fun(d)raising fan asked me to write about the grant proposal toolkit. What type of content is commonly requested by funders?
I'm happy to oblige!
Keep in mind that the page limits and sections mentioned below are guidelines only; every foundation is different and, as such, will require any combination of details. But the following list should put you on solid footing for future submissions.
Organizational overview (two versions)
One pager: Include your mission statement, communities or populations served, numbers served, special awards or rankings your institution has received, and 1-2 unique attributes--what impressive goals have you achieved in your field? What sets your nonprofit apart from your "competition?"
One paragraph: Your mission statement, communities/populations served, and what sets you apart in your field.
Program or project overview (1-2 pages)
If you anticipate raising funds for a specific initiative or project within your nonprofit, it makes sense to get some essential facts on paper as soon as you can. What's its purpose? Its overarching goal? How does it enhance your mission? Who, and how many people, do you plan to serve in the next year? Why do you need money to do this?
Create an overview for each program or project that needs funding. It's an incredibly powerful exercise that helps you refine your vision and goals while determining the best way to articulate the importance of the each initiative you plan to undertake.
Major accomplishments to date (1 page)
Don't embellish. Simply describe, in narrative form or a timeline, the most significant contributions your nonprofit has had since its inception. Have you provided more than 10,000 hot meals in your town? Did your organization invent a widely used surgical method? Did you expose 1,000 inner-city youth to the arts? Have you sent more clothes and supplies to third-world countries last year than in your first 10 years of operations combined? Are you the only community health center in your state to have received a certain quality of care award? Whatever it is, explain it concisely and let the facts shine.
Future directions (1 page)
Describe your biggest plans for the next one, three, or five years. Which existing initiatives will you expand and what are some new programs will you invest in? How will you further your core mission? Will you reach more people in your community and, if so, how?
Evaluation (1/2 page)
Perhaps the most dreaded topic to write about, it's also one of the most important for you to consider and articulate. How is progress tracked and evaluated at your organization? Consider both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Foundations really, really want to understand what success looks like to you and those you serve.
Sustainability (1/2 page)
Possibly the second most dreaded topic. How is your organization planning to sustain and expand this program/project/itself as a whole over the long term? Consider new revenue streams you anticipate creating, specific grant proposals you plan to submit, mail appeals you'll send, and so forth. Funders often want to support "winners." They don't want to be the sole financial resource for your group. They want to know that you're committed to finding diverse ways to sustain your organization over the long term.
Stay tuned for a future post in which I break down some of the most commonly requested attachments!
Questions? Comments? Leave a post on this blog or connect with me!