4 steps to a stellar grant proposal

Writing grants for a foundation's consideration can seem daunting, but it's not as hard as you might think.  These four steps break down the grant writing process into manageable chunks.

1. Know what the foundation needs from your nonprofit.
Many foundations provide specific proposal instructions and guidelines, either on their website or on their 990 tax form. For those that don't, you can either try contacting the foundation to ask what they'd like to see, or assume that a 2-3 page letter will suffice as a first step.

2. Follow a foundation's instructions to the letter.
Some funders will tell you how many pages a proposal should be, the sections to include, and which attachments to enclose. Don't overlook any directions provided. I often find that printing out the guidelines and checking off each element as I go helps tremendously. Give the foundation everything it asks for in the format it prefers.

3. Express yourself clearly and concisely.

As you're writing the grant, continually ask yourself, "How can I simplify this?" Don't worry about including flowery language or jargon. Don't assume that they'll understand acronyms or terms common to your field. Foundations want to know the upshot in plain language: What does your organization do, why is funding needed specifically, and how exactly would a grant help? Many funders receive high volumes of proposals. Do them a favor and make your ask as simple and clear as possible. 

4. Submit your proposal early if at all possible.
Sometimes--honestly, most of the time--proposals get submitted at the last possible minute for a variety of very real and unavoidable reasons. But on those rare occasions when time is on your side, take advantage and submit your proposal early. This will not only give you peace of mind that everything is in on time, but it will also provide wiggle room in the event that the foundation asks you to tweak part of your application, revise your budget, or send additional attachments.

For more tips on submitting grant proposals, check out my previous posts on commonly requested attachments  and proposal fodder.

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