Third and Fourth Sectors

The People Pages: Proposal Writing Tips

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Before starting your proposal…

  1. Develop a relationship with the funder.  Call the foundation and pitch your idea before preparing a proposal.  You may get important feedback about their priorities and clarify any misunderstandings.
  2. Read the guidelines very carefully.  Follow the format they request.  If they have an application form, get a copy well ahead of time.  Make sure you have time to prepare and deliver your proposal before the deadline.
  3. Make sure your project fits in with the grantmaker’s goals.  Research grants that have been distributed in the past and compare those projects to yours.
  4. Determine the proper amount to ask for.  Match grant funds with other sources of income and make sure your asking amount is within the foundation’s normal range.
  5. Make sure you are not ‘reinventing the wheel’.  Investigate other programs in your community and be prepared to differentiate your program’s methodology, geographical area served, and/or population served.
  6. Demonstrate collaboration and/or efficiency.  Be prepared to discuss ways that your organization has partnered with other community organizations through joint efforts or by sharing information/replicating programs.  Show that your organization has taken steps to reduce costs and streamline activities.
  7. Have a backup plan if the grant money is not received.  This is one reason why it’s important to diversify your income.  Don’t depend on one grant to support a program.  Figure out alternative ways to implement the program with limited funds and/or identify and pursue additional sources of revenue.

After completing your grant proposal, make sure…

  1. The spelling and grammar are correct.  Have a second person proofread the proposal. 
  2. The envelope and cover letter are addressed to a particular person.
  3. The proposal is interesting to read and full of information, yet concise. Use simple language to tell a compelling story about your organization and programs.
  4. All attachments are included and in order.  Refer to the foundation’s guidelines for a list of required attachments.  Don’t send extra materials that aren’t specifically requested.
  5. The appropriate number of copies are enclosed.

After getting funded….

  1. Thank the grantor.  Immediately send an acknowledgement in writing.
  2. Spend funds according to your agreement.  You are ethically obligated to do what you spelled out in your grant proposal.  If something major changes, call the foundation and discuss the situation.
  3. Report the actual outcomes of the grant.  This helps foundations learn more about the needs of nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve.

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