Understanding The Grant Application

You might have already had to answer the following question when you applied for non-profit status. However, instead of just copying the same answers into your grant application, take a second look and see if you can’t possibly tweak or update this information. Maybe your organization has grown considerably or maybe your board has new ideas for your group. In any case, consider that this time you’re answering these questions for a possible grant making organization or foundation.

Who are you?

Tell them a little about your group or organization: What do you do? Why do you do it? Who do you do it for, and how long have you been doing it? Do you have a mission statement, and a vision? How big is your group, and where is it currently located? If your organization is just one of several in your area dealing with the same problem or cause, explain how you are different, or how you work together with the other groups in your area to communally solve the problem.

What is the problem?

Here is where you paint a picture of the need for the grant founder. Keep things easy to understand and do not go too deep into details, unless requested. Try to position your group as experts in the particular problem posed, and keep your description of the problem scale to the solution you will propose (e.g. describing the problem as “the end of the world,” and proposing the solution of: a new library in town).

What are you going to do about the problem?

This is where you really need to shine if you expect to receive the grant. Give a good summary statement of how you and your organization will solve the problem posed, and then go on to give details. How will you ensure success for both project participants, and the goals of the project overall? If you have people already lined up for the project, it’s a good idea to name them and attach resumes if you have them. If you painted a picture of the problem for them above, you need to actually put them in the room on the day your project is taking place for this part of the application.

What is your goal?

The outcome of impact of a particular project or grant is often difficult to predict, but most foundations will want you to do so anyway. Use optimistic and detailed language, without making it sound too over the top. If you don’t achieve the desired outcome in society, it’s highly unlikely the foundation will come back and ask you why not—there are too many possible causes.

How will you judge if you solved the problem?

Also known as “evaluation,” you should include the criteria for evaluation in your initial grant request. Be sure to also include funding for it in the budget, if it will cost money.

No grant proposal is complete without a budget.

Creating a budget shouldn’t be taken lightly and, if your group has little or no experience in this field, could be a good reason to hire a grant writer, or sign up for a grant writing workshop. A basic budget has “expenses” and “income” columns. The expenses column can be further subdivided into “personnel” (all salaries and wages paid), “direct project” (which will be incurred only if you do the project), and “overhead” (which you will have to pay whether or not you do the project—things like rent, electricity, and so on).

Sometimes you may have to submit additional information, such as a copy of the letter certifying your 501(c)(3) status for example. Be sure to supply all information and the supplementary documentation requested in order to give your group the best chance at qualifying for that grant!


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