Self-Guided Lecture

Grant Writing and Grant Getting

Text Only Instruction Data,
a companion to related slide lecture
and work-sheet packets

Introcuction: There is a sense of collective euphoria, optimism and energy generated when a group of public service-minded individuals reach a joint conclusion that a specific project is within the guidelines of their mission, and that action should commence in the near future to make it happen. Typically, an individual or small committee is appointed and assigned the responsibility to give form, substance and direction to the whole idea. The process which follows frequently involves a search for funding. This outline is designed to lead an individual or a committee through a series of steps essential to the development and documentation of an effective plan to complete a given project, including the fund-raising process critical to the project’s success.

Planning and Documentation: Project planning and development is a complex process, filled with variable influences. The future of any project, big or small, will be enhanced by careful planning, forethought and documentation from the time of its inception. The major steps, in logical order, are the:
  • Project Proposal
  • Fund-Raising Plan and Justification Outline
    • Detailed Project Outline (needs) Statement
    • Project-Proposal Summary Cover Letter relating to the grant request
  • Project Plan

The Project Proposal: The first task is to define the specifics of your project and a plan of action to ensure internal understanding and agreement within the organization regarding the form, substance, personnel and financial committments involved in initiating and carrying out the project. Elements from the following format should be considered and documented in the preliminary planning and selling stages of your efforts:

  • Project title: What simple title should be used to identify this project?
  • Project proposed: Brief statement in one sentence.
  • Type of project: Permanent or temporary? If temporary, for how long?
  • Location: Is there one or more possible location(s) for the project? Is there a best location?
  • Description: Give a brief description of the project. Include a “needs” statement.
  • Objectives: List the objectives of the project.
  • Audience: Describe target audience.
  • Supporting resources: Briefly describe known resources which justify and/or will support implementation of this project. Include a statement relating to personnel impact.
  • Facility requirements: List the various kinds of facilities which will be required to support this project.
  • Service requirements for implementation: Describe work to be accomplished in-house and types of outside hired staff or contract services required for initial development and ongoing operation, management and maintenance..
  • Equipment: List special equipment needs which are not currently on hand.
  • Funding Requirements: Give brief estimate of budget breakdown for initial effort and longterm operational needs.
  • Funding Sources: Identify potential funding sources.
  • Problems: Identify any known problem areas.

Grant Writing Research: The quality and quantity of information you need to gather, organize and present to a prospective grantor will vary, depending upon the size of the project, the amount of funding requested, the familiarity of the grantor with your mission, and the operating rules of the granting agency. Naturally, if you work with a local individual, business or fraternal organization, the need for formality and detail will be less strict. When dealing with a major foundation, you may wish to consider writing them first, asking for their published rules and limitations for grant giving.

What a foundation or other formal granting agency will look for in a proposal is often a dilemma for individuals and organizations seeking grants. Research indicates that the form of an application is much less important than the content. It is reasonable that all grant applications should start with a cover letter describing the purpose, back-ground, amount of funds requested and the time line for the project. Additional details may be included in attachments.

As you develop the concept and requirements for your project, it is appropriate that you review questions which may be on the mind(s) of your potential benefactor(s) and prepare your documentation to deal with these issues. Here is a check list to help you with the review process. You may not need answers to all of the questions; but, your proposal will be stronger if you have given each one some consideration:

Purpose and Definition of the Project:

  • What is the basic purpose of the project?
  • How long will the project last?
  • Is this a new activity? Has the field been researched to find similar projects?
  • Has a similar project failed? Succeeded? What has been learned from previous projects of this nature?
  • Is this a continuation of a program or project? How well has it succeeded? Is it a modification? Why?
  • What provision has been made for client participation, if applicable?

Priority of the Project:

  • How serious is the need for immediate action?
  • Why does this project deserve aid more than others competing for funds in the same field?
  • Is this request competing with other requests from the same organization? If so, what priorities would your organization establish regarding requests?
  • What is the target population? How large is it? How and to what extent will the program benefit the target population?
  • What immediate and long-range results are expected? Will these results help other organizations?

Financial Information:

  • What is the current operating budget of your organization? Itemize income and expenses.
  • What is the anticipated budget for this project? Is the budget large enough? Is it too large for the results anticipated? Give a complete budget break- down. What provisions have been made for an independent audit of budget expenditures?
  • What is the estimated value of in-house contributions to this project? How much is paid staff time? Donated public-service time?
  • Will the project continue beyond the funding period? If so, who will provide the funding? How firm a commitment for this future funding has been made? Will this ensure ongoing funding?
  • Have requests for financial support of this project been submitted to other foundations, government agencies or other funding sources? If so, for how much and from which source(s)?
  • Are requests by this organization for other projects currently pending before other funding organizations? Are they related to this proposal? How are they related?

Background of Request:

  • How long has the requesting organization or agency been in existence? What has been the performance to date of the requesting organization? List previous foundation-supported projects.
  • Is the organization tax exempt [501] (c) (3)? Attach exemption form, if it is a new organization.
  • What other organizations are active in the same or similar activities? What are the cooperating organizations, if any?
  • Has the project been approved by the proper personnel in the requesting organization? Does it have their full support? Is there professional support for, or other evidence of, the validity of this project? What is the relationship of this project to the overall goals and services of the requesting organization?


  • Who are the trustees and officers of the requesting organization? What financial support do the trustees give to the organization? What part do they take in policy formation and program direction? How, and to what extent, do the trustees participate in the programs of the organization?
  • Who are the staff personnel? What are their qualifications for doing the proposed work?
  • Will additional staff be required for this project? Are these persons readily available? To whom will they be responsible?
  • Have you identified outside agencies to provide assistance with guidance and services, where required? Have their service charges, if applicable, been identified? Are these charges included in your budget proposal?


  • How will you measure the success or failure of the project?
  • Has adequate provision been made for the preparation of a final report? What type of progress reports are planned? How often will they be prepared? Who will get them?
  • What provision has been made for objective evaluation of the results, short and long range? What techniques will be used in making evaluations? Who will do the evaluating?

Targeting Funding Sources: If the result of your initial survey indicates that full funding may be accomplished within your parent organization, you can consider use of the Project Plan procedures outlined on pages 7. If you find yourself short of all or part of the funds needed, and have the authority to seek outside funding, you may wish to pursue one or more grant requests.The amount and kind of funding required will have an important influence on which organization, and at what level, you target the proposal. Your search for a prospective grantor(s) may well begin by asking yourself some questions. These could include:

  • Is there a major business or individual benefactor within range who may wish to help make this project happen?
  • Is the amount of funding needed within the scope of a potential gift from a local fraternal/public service-oriented organization?
  • Does your state authorize charitable gambling?
  • Is charitable gambling active in your community?
  • Which organizations participate?
  • Does the nature of the project relate to the mission of your State Historical Society, State Humanities Commission, or possibly a Foundation.

Note: Most states have a central committee or council which keeps track of the listings and activities of foundations and lawful non-profit gambling sponsors. In Minnesota, that organization is called the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, located at 2314 University Avenue West, Suite 20, St. Paul, MN 55114, (651) 642-1904 or 800-289-1904. These organizations usually have publications available which give detailed data relating to contact information, grant/gift history, etc. If your search for funds reaches out beyond your local area, reference materials of this type would prove to be a valuable resource.

Preparing the Grant Proposal: When you have finished developing the responses to the project examination checklist, you are ready to create your grant application cover letter(s), the Proposal Summary. Data accumulated in the proposal examination check-list will be used as a basis for developing the summary statement, as well as the related, more detailed, documentation you may choose to include as attachments to the summary. Consider documenting your grant application along the following lines:


I. Introduction — Background of the Organization

II. Problem Statement (Need)

III. Program Objectives

IV. Methods — include staffing and time line

V. Evaluation

VI. Budget — include discussion of future funding

When your funding objectives have been met, you are ready to convert your original project proposal into a project plan. The plan will serve as a set of guidelines for you and/or your committee to work within your organization and to provide instruc-tions to outside supporting services.

The Project Plan:

  • Project title:
  • Project Description: Briefly describe the goals and desired outcome of the project.
  • Facility location, acquisition and development plan: A comprehensive statement.
  • Work Plan: Outline the general plan and sequential procedures which will be used to carry through the project plan. Describe work to be accomplished in- house, jobs which will be contracted out, and the forecast time line for completion.
  • Facility and resource utilization plan: Describe projected space allocation and resource application during implementation and long-term operational phases of the project.
  • Personnel utilization plan: Define projected uses of hired staff, contract workers and volunteer personnel during implementation and long-term operational phases of the project.
  • Budget Forecast: Outline refined budget estimates documenting costs for facility development, modification and maintenance, administration, personnel support, and other operational costs. Identify the purchasing, contracting and management processes which will be used to support these efforts.
  • Evaluation and reporting: Describe the evaluation plan and to whom reports will be submitted.

Grant/Gift Seeking Priorities: Fund raising strategies, designed to support large projects through grants and gifts from multiple sources, must focus on targeting funding sources in a sequence which will help ensure success in achieving the final goal.

This means:

  • Accurate and realistic development of financial needs, both current and long range.
  • Full documentation of organizational goals relating to, and the parameters of, the project.
  • Careful selection and sequential listing of targeted funding sources.
  • Development and publication of a detailed, well-organized, core-data package which presents an accurate picture of all elements relating to the project.
  • Preparation of a custom-designed proposal summary which speaks in meaningful ways to each prospective grant or gift source.
  • Identification of the most effective means and method to make both initial and follow-on contacts with each potential funding source.
  • Persistent and careful work by the grant-seeking team.

Grant/Gift Source Selection and Contact Sequence Assignment:

Priority # 1 — Large foundations, organizations and businesses which have special interests in your areas of endeavor. Reviewing the grant/gift approval history of each organization will help in the potential funding-source selection process.

Priority # 2 — Smaller foundations, organizations and businesses which have a track record of smaller grants and gifts as outlined in priority # 1, above.

Priority # 3 — Fraternal/public-service-oriented organizations, including those with and without charitable gambling funding sources. Activities which have common interests with the fund-raising organization. This could relate to location, business interests or prospects, history, etc.

Priority # 4 — All other potential sources of small gifts.

As a person working at a craft
would pick and choose the tools
required to get the job done, so you may
pick and choose from these ideas for
grant writing and grant getting.

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