Soliciting sponsors and fundraising go by the names marketing and public relations in the business, for-profit world. However, non-profit agencies can, and do, use similar strategies and concepts for grant writing success. Grants are government allocated funds specifically for organizations and groups that will contribute to the welfare of society in some way. This can include anything from social workers seeking funding for programs, public schools setting up increased educational opportunities, and shelters looking for increasing funding for a renovation. Grant writing is a skill; it requires extensive knowledge of a project, the goals, outlining a proposal, drafting a format that is easily understandable, and providing room for flexibility. The grant writing, proposal, presentation, and acceptance process can be lengthy, and is often delegated to key contributors of an organization or project.
Grant writing involves project management; it does follow a series of guidelines to ensure that all areas are covered, and all necessary questions answered in a relevant and thorough format. Not only are the project goals and objectives the main component of a grant, the methods, evaluation criteria, any processes, and the budget are also presented for review. Since the grant proposal is a presentation, it must be clear, direct, and compelling enough to engage the reviewer into choosing your project for funding!
Here are some guidelines and key points to remember to construct your outline:
1. Begin with a cover or proposal letter. This should be limited to one page, and will state your organization’s name, possibly the mission statement, and your contact information.
2. Include a ‘pre-proposal’, or proposal summary. This will summarize your overall plan, and indicate your mission. It will include what the organization hopes to achieve, the essential project purpose (mission statement), how you plan to implement your strategy, the results expected from the plan, and the total budget. Consider this a brief, at-a-glance page for the grant.
3. Introduction. This will include the history of your organization in greater detail, including the general goals, objectives, and purpose/mission. It would be wise to include accomplishments and past history, especially those related to the project up for review. Identifying your target market is also a good idea, as it outlines who you will be providing the project specifically for.
4. Identify the Core Need or Problem. This is your opportunity to ‘set the scene,’ and relate how the problem or current conditions have created a need for your project. You are essentially providing the reasoning process you used to solve the problem, so highlighting the conditions, outlining the resources available, and then identifying your solution are the key areas to cover at this stage. Another tip is to identify the key problems that are same in size as your solution(s).
5. Emphasize Objectives and Goals. This is the area to outline what specifically you are looking to achieve, and how you will measure your progress. You’ll also be defining a suitable communication style with the investor/funder to report on progress.
6. Methods and Timeline. This will extensively detail your steps, outline specifically what you will do to achieve your goals, and how this project will make it possible. You’ll also describe a tentative timeline to carry out, measure goals, and follow up through the process.
7. Evaluation Process and Criteria. Here you will answer the questions regarding self-evaluation and tracking; how will you know if you are achieving what you set out to do? You’ll indicate what measurement tool you will use for evaluation, as well as types of records or data to be used. A sample chart or table may be helpful here.
8. Budget. The all-important financial aspect can be saved until the end! Here, you can produce a tentative financial statement or forecast that breaks down the core components of your project. You can include projected expenses, as well as past history or other records that may be relevant. This will also include allocations of bids, volunteer time, projected donations, and estimates. Be as detailed as possible, and include all relevant history for backup.
Other essentials to keep in mind, are that the reviewer may not necessarily know your organization very well; don’t assume. Instead, be sure to pitch your organization just as you would an ordinary business, by highlighting successes, accomplishments, and the organization, and project’s mission. Also remember to keep things brief, but detailed; avoid too many repetitive statements, and use as much detail to ensure that accurate information is relayed to the potential funder.
Always use supplementary materials as much as possible; this can include summaries of past/similar projects, successful initial stages of the project, and summaries of outcomes. These are helpful to give the funder a detailed account of how actions and implementations have correlated to success in the past. Overall, just remember that you are presenting a proposal of an idea, and need to support this idea with as much resourcefulness, tact, and research as a full-fledged business plan. Keep your appraoch detailed, organized, and direct, and you will be on your way to grant writing success!