Grant Writing 101 - A Beginner's Guide - Page 2 of 2
Finding Grant Funding Opportunities
The next step is to begin searching for funding opportunities that match your project or program, focusing on the grants that provide you with the best chances of obtaining funding. For federal level grants, search grants.gov for state level grants, visit your state's website. Here you may need to locate the state agency that is responsible for the type of grant you are looking for. For example, state departments of education are typically responsible for education grants.
Repeat the same process for county (search your county's website) and city (search your city's website) opportunities.
You can also search for funding from public and private foundations as well as public and private companies. Public and private foundations have usually been established to address a specific cause (curing cancer) and/or by a group of people (such as a family) or an individual. The same holds true for public and private company grants. There is no one central location where all opportunities are listed, however you can search The Foundation Center as a starting point. Foundations that offer grants will post this information on their website. Some of the more recognizable foundations that offer funding include: The Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Also, search locally owned and national/international company websites such as Target and Walmart.
Once you have retrieved possible sources of funding, read through the application guidelines, requirements, and actual application. Here you will find the dollar amount that the grant will support (e.g., awards between $5,000 and $50,000); exactly what the grant will and will not fund (e.g., funds after school programs in urban areas, does not fund online tutorials, etc.); geographic restrictions, if any (e.g., funds only schools in Kansas); as well as deadline dates for grant applications. Sometimes applications are accepted on a rolling basis, meaning that you may submit an application at any time.
Writing the Proposal
Select a grant to apply for and complete the application! Read all requirements and directions carefully as the slightest error will make your proposal ineligible for funding. If you have the time, ask an experienced writer to review the application before you submit it for funding. (Hiring a writer is another option, however remember that grant writers are paid upfront and not paid based on whether or not the proposal is successful.)
Each opportunity has different guidelines regarding how to format the proposal itself. Generally speaking, a proposal includes the following sections: a summary of your proposal of no more than 250 words; the introduction that explains who you and your organization are, the organization's mission, and who the organization serves. Next, the plan of work section is where you list the timeline of activities, the actual activities and/or key actions you will undertake including why you selected specific methods to use and references to those methods, staffing that is needed and a description of what each staff member will do, and how you will evaluate the levels of success. The last sentence or two of the plan of work should explain how you and your organization expect to continue the program/project once funding ends.
Using the afterschool program example above, here is a sample plan of work section: a timeline of activities that lists actions that will occur month-by-month including how teachers will be selected and hired, starting and ending dates of the project, how the project will be promoted throughout the school district, how students will be enrolled in the program, the roles and responsibilities of the teachers, the students, and the parents, and expected outcomes. Attendance records of students as well as comparing their chemistry test scores before and after afterschool instruction will measure the success of the project.
Reviewers will want to know how you will allocate monies as well as if your organization will be providing any kind of financial or in-kind support to the project. A detailed budget will list the amount of funding requested (e.g., $25,000 for hiring 3 teachers) and a listing of all in-kind support being provided. For example, the school might provide the following in-kind support at no cost: a project coordinator, classroom space, instructional materials, computers, and an online test practice program. Detailed line-item budgets are usually added to the end of the proposal in an appendix.
Proposals for external funding frequently include a list of staff involved in the project/program, their titles, and a brief explanation of their education and experiences in relation to the proposal's activities. Here is an example: John J. Smith, AP chemistry teacher at ABC High School for the past 10 years, holds a bachelor's degree from XYZ university, a master's degree from DEF university, and is certified to teach chemistry and AP chemistry in the state of X. Sometimes a proposal will need to include each staff member's resume. These are typically one page each and are attached at the end of the proposal in an appendix.
Appendices appear at the end of a proposal. Proposal guidelines will indicate what information to include in an appendix, what information not to include, and may limit the number of pages of the appendices. Common appendix information includes: detailed budget, resumes of staff, and letters of support from experts in the field or organizations familiar with your work. If a nonprofit organization is submitting the proposal, an appendix may provide a list of board members, their terms of service, and if they hold an office on the board (e.g., president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, etc.).
Submitting the Proposal
Once you submit your proposal, forget about it. The funders will contact you if they have any questions. They will also contact you by phone, email, or letter as to whether or not you have received the funding. If you are awarded the grant, the funders will indicate whether you have received full or partial funding. (If your project is partially funded, consider whether or not you will be able to implement your project. If you are unable to do this financially, it is ok to decline the award.)
Learning whether or not you have received the grant takes time. Once you submit your application, it needs to go through a vetting process that includes applications being reviewed, sometimes graded and ranked from yes - fully fund, yes - partially fund, or no - do not fund. Do not contact the granting organization. The process needs to run its course. This is important when planning your project, as you may not receive funding for many months.
If you do not receive the grant, do not be discouraged. Being turned down for an award happens all of the time. If possible, ask the funders why your request was denied. Sometimes they will provide you with information on how to improve your proposal and may even suggest that you revise it and re-submit again. Also remember that all the work that you put into developing the first application can be re-used again for the next one!