Posted by: Robin A. Edgar | April 28, 2010

Grant Writing Pointers

Grants are an important part of any non-profit budget. Unfortunately, they are often viewed as more trouble than they are worth. Taking it one step at a time helps you to approach the task with confidence. Adding some planning and teamwork gets you closer to the desired results. The following pointers divide the grant-writing process into key components that will help you feel more comfortable with the process:

 Point #1: The Personal Relationship

You do not get a second chance at a first impression. Communication and networking are key elements to grant writing. Learn how to keep your ear to the ground and ask the right questions in order to get your foot in the door. Funders have program directors that want you to succeed because it is their job to give out grants. They want you to ask them questions before you submit your grant to help you be a success. If the grant maker’s policy is “no unsolicited inquiries or proposals,” you need to do some research to find out who is on their board to invite to your facility or organization. Developing a relationship through this kind of exposure might get them to recommend you. 

Point #2: The Program

 Funders do not fund problems; they invest in programs to address concerns that fit the criteria of what their organization is all about. For instance, a community foundation wants to increase the quality of life of individuals in the community, so it is more likely to fund an after-school tutoring program to bring up the literacy rate than it would support a program to save the whales. Both programs have merit, but you have to match the outcomes of your program with the goals and objectives of the organization doling out the money.

 Point #3: The Proposal

A program proposal details how your program will improve or increase services to individuals the funding source wants to reach. There are several components to a program proposal that requires the input of everyone involved. Once you develop the proposal, you will be able to write a clear and concise summary of your request:

  • Introduction: Here is where you brag about yourself. Include information about your organization and the clients it serves. Mention successful past programs and accomplishments of the staff that will be part of the proposed program.
  • Problem Statement: Using pertinent statistics and quotes from authorities, demonstrate that the problem to be solved by your program actually exists. Be sure that the problem or need to be addressed relate to your goals and to those of the funding organization.
  • Objectives: List the outcomes of the program and how they relate to the problem and the population the program will serve. Specify a timeline how the objectives will be met.
  • Methods:  Describe in detail the program activities, listing them in sequential order. Explain how the activities will be staffed and how they will bring about the desired objectives. Be sure to indicate how the clients will be made aware of and selected for the program.
  • Evaluation: Generally, you will need a plan that gauges the success of your program. Describe your evaluation criteria and how you propose to gather and analyze the data. Include copies of questionnaires and reports.
  • Continued Funding: Since your program is so wonderful, you will want it to continue. Present a plan to continue to fund the program.
  • Budget: Yes folks, the “B” word. Every grant has one, so be prepared. This takes teamwork, so enlist every department to delineate the expenses and income of the program. Be very specific and delineate which expenses are to be met by the funding organization and which will your organization or other sources fund. Do not forget to include income from other sources and in-kind donations wherever possible.

 Point #4: The Package

You do not get a second chance at a first impression. Once you have gathered your information, be sure to put it in clear, concise terms. Eliminate jargon and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use your letterhead whenever appropriate. Give yourself plenty of lead-time to acquire letters of recommendation and support so you have originals and not faxed copies by the deadline. Make a checklist from the instructions for required number of copies, materials and signatures. Place the information in binders with dividers or pocket folders in order to make your presentation the best that it can be.

 You cannot write your best grant until you write your first one. Assembling the above information and acquiring key documentation, such as your organization’s mission statement, annual operating budget, letters of support, etc. will make future grant-writing even easier. Remember, there is nothing to it but to do it!

 Robin Edgar is a freelance grant writer and consultant. A graduate of the week-long grant-writing workshop offered by The Grantsmanship Center of Los Angeles, CA, she has been writing successful grants for over ten years.


Resources for Grant Opportunities:

Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County – located at 301 North Tryon Street, Charlotte; 704-336-2725;  PLCMC Foundation Center Cooperating Collection of nonprofit resources is on the second floor. The reference department has a section devoted to nonprofit management (fundraising, grant writing, volunteer/board development, etc.)

National Endowment for the Humanities – – An independent grant-making agency of the United States government.

Grants Alert – –database and e-mail alert to access education and youth-related funding opportunities.


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