Each year, the U.S. government along with private foundations and public corporations offer billions of dollars in funding to individuals and organizations to be used for specific projects. This funding, which is called a grant, requires no repayment as long as it is used to fund the project for which it was allocated. Grants can be given to individuals, non-profit or not-for-profit companies, charitable organizations, or educational facilities. In order to receive a grant, however, the prospective recipient must submit a formal request to the organization. This request is called a grant proposal.
Grant proposals can be submitted in a variety of ways. Some organizations provide an application form, while others require the requestor to submit a written document, called a full proposal. The requirements for completing the proposal are normally spelled out in a Request for Proposal (RFP).
Preparing a successful grant proposal generally involves following a standard process. Once the interested parties, often referred to as stakeholders, have determined that the grant will suit the agency's or organization’s needs, the grant writer or administrator should review the RFP. Specific attention should be paid to formatting, page count, and all necessary components for qualification. The person responsible for writing the proposal should then prepare an outline or standard format sheet to be followed by everyone involved in the writing process.
Normally, a grant proposal consists of certain set components. A cover letter is almost always required, and while this must be concise, it also should properly summarize the document. The cover letter should include information on the applicant, how the money will be used, and salient information about why the applicant is a good fit for the funding.
Within the body of the grant proposal, the applicant must provide an assessment of the agency’s needs, and then address the specific goals that the agency hopes to achieve with that funding. A detailed outline of the proposed program must also be provided. This plan will detail how the money will be used, and include a timeline for achieving the stated goals. The document must also describe the means by which achievement of these goals will be measured.
A grant proposal usually offers specifics on the requestor’s qualifications, including bios of key staff, past performance summaries, and an overview of the financial status of the agency. Frequently, a preliminary budget is also required. Finally, a summary section should be submitted, encapsulating key points and providing a quick overview of the proposed program. If the RFP allows, an appendix can be used for supporting documentation, full bios, or other pertinent information that will help make the case for the award.
In recent years, it has become standard practice for funding agencies to request a short letter of inquiry from prospective applicants before a full grant proposal is submitted. This helps to weed out those applicants whose goals do not match the grantors’ mission. This process also prevents agencies from spending a lot of time and money on putting together full proposals for money for which they are either not qualified or not able to fully utilize.