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Applying for Grants


The idea of your organization being awarded a grant seem too good to be true? Think again!
Although it is true that grants are not easy to come by, persistence often pays off. On this page we 1) provide tips for identifying grants 2) important questions to ask your group as you design your project 3) common mistakes to avoid.

Remember, all monetary gain aside, going through the grant-writing process is beneficial to members of your organization. Thorough analysis of your project will help you focus your mission. Analyzing its components will help you identify potential problems before they surface. Not to mention that composing a concise, aesthetic document to show donors will help your organization communicate its objectives more effectively.


Finding grants

Five steps for those that may be feeling overwhelmed by the whole grant process.


1. Brainstorm search criteria.

Your criteria can include key words, subject matter, geographic area, target audience, gender, race, and any other parameters that fit your interests. Write down these terms in advance for more efficient searching.

2. Use the subject index of each directory to narrow your search.

Think about the categories that your project might fall under and the type of support you want. Your strongest prospects will be those foundations and corporations that have an interest in one of your subject areas. Look for funders located in your geographic area since they will be especially ‘hot’ prospects for you.

3. Learn all as much as possible about a prospective grantor.

Once you have developed a list of likely funding sources, visit their websites to get to know them better. Look at their annual reports, success stories of previous grants, staff biographies, and anything else they are sharing with the public. Check out their current guidelines. Please not that these change frequently and often have not found their way into the online directories.

4. Use the information to craft a proposal that “speaks” to each individual funder

With all of this information, you should have a good idea of how to cater proposals to each funder. Yes, this will likely require your group to create more than one proposal. Don’t let trepidation or laziness prevent your group from doing this. Submitting a proposal that does not follow a grantor’s format is almost sure to be rejected.

5. Create a prospect grid.

A prospect grid lists every prospect you have identified; the program of your organization that most closely aligns with each prospect’s funding interests; your proposed request amount; deadline dates; and any other pertinent information. Use this prospect list to seek input from your organization. One of your members might even have a personal connection to some of the funders you’ve listed.


Questions to ask as you plan your project

1. Need for Project How do you know this project is needed? How will members of your chosen community benefit? How will they contribute? Providing hard data and thorough needs assessments could be very useful here.

2. Objectives What do you want to accomplish? Why has your group chosen these objectives over others?

3. Methods What will you actually do in order to meet the objectives? How do you know that your methods will be effective?

4. Credibility Why is your organization suited to take on this project? Have you had success with similar projects?

5. Evaluation How will you know whether objectives have been reached? For example, will you be surveying constituents, tracking numbers, collecting testimonies, etc.? Measurability is attractive to grant-givers because it allows them to quantify for others the impact that their dollars have had.

6. Budget What are all of the expenses related to the project, and what other potential funding sources exist? Will your organization be contributing funds toward the project?

7. Project Future When the money from this funder is used up, how will the project continue? Is it a project that will require a continuous influx of money, or will it somehow become self-sustaining?


Mistakes to Avoid


1. Talking more about problems than solutions.

A proposal is NOT a pamphlet that educates and mobilizes the public. Although your proposal should demonstrate knowledge of the issues your identified population faces, you need to focus a lot more on what your are going to do about the problem or need.

2. Addressing specific problems with general solutions.

You need to provide a clear picture of what your organization will do to address the issues at-hand. Don’t be too general, because this suggests that your group is unprepared to take appropriate action.

3. Using buzzwords and jargon.

Avoid vague claims, trendy language, and obscure terms – they won’t impress the funder and may actually cause him to dislike your proposal.

4. Budgets that don’t make sense.

Math errors in grant proposals undermine many organizations’ credibility. Budgets should not only add up, they also need to support the logic of the proposal.

5. Repeating exact phrases from the funder’s guidelines.

Copying and pasting phrases from the funder’s guidelines will not land your organization funding. Although you want to fit grantor guidelines, this is not the way. It only confirms that you have read criteria on a website.





Tips for Successful Grant-Writing Includes information about writing the proposal, what to ALWAYS do, and the top reasons why grant proposals get rejected.

Grant Writing Powerpoint Presentation PDF of a Powerpoint presentation created by a Ph.D on this subject.

Grant Writing: The Basics Another Powerpoint presentation, this time provided by staff of HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) on the basics of grant-writing.

Useful Links

Foundation Center A database of resources for nonprofits. A great place for your organization to start looking for grants!

Grant Proposal Info Galore Author Joanne Fritz provides a WEALTH of information regarding the grant-writing process. Here you'll also find additional links to articles that she has written about related topics.

Grant Space The Grant Space organization provides videos and grant proposal samples as well as links to additional resources.

Examples of Successful Grant Proposals Provides grant-writing tips as well as links to sites with sample grant proposals.

Guidestar Provides a few tips as well as lists of classes, books, and online resources useful to grant-writers.

OWL Writing Lab Purdue University provides a writing guide that includes information about grant-writing as well as tips as to how to ensure clarity in grant proposals.

Tips from Successful Grantwriters Ten tips from people with experience in this area.

Government Grant-Writing Resources Resources geared towards those seeking government grants, although general principles are applicable to groups seeking any type of grant.

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