How to Write a Grant Proposal for a Non-Profit Organization

by Rocco Pendola

Securing grant monies for a non-profit organization is a highly competitive process. To successfully obtain private foundation, corporate or government grants, a non-profit must be able to clearly outline its target population, scope of services, near- and long-term sustainability and overall organizational capacity and effectiveness. And this is only the beginning. Applying for grants is also a numbers game, and your organization's mission must be in line with current funding priorities. A well-researched and constructed grant proposal is imperative. The process can be grueling, but it is a way of life for new non-profits as well as long-standing organizations.

Complete an introductory section (one to three paragraphs) for the grant application with your organizational information. This includes your non-profit's history, mission, goals and objectives. This information must be well thought out. For instance, your mission must be clear and concise, reflecting your passion and what your group actually does.

Write a section (two to four paragraphs) generally outlining the programs and services offered by your non-profit. Use a list with bullet points for this. Include your organization's most recent and notable accomplishments. Explain how your programs and services benefit your target population. Describe that population in detail. Complete this section by summarizing in one to three sentences how much money you are requesting and what it will be used for (such as program support or general operating expenses).

Detail in no more than one to two pages your funding request. This might include full details on a program that was summarized earlier, how securing funds will help increase organizational capacity or how general operating support will be used.

Include sections, if your organization has this information compiled, on program evaluation as well as sustainability (one to two pages total). In other words, explain how your organization will assess the effectiveness of its programs. For sustainability, discuss other sources of funding and how your non-profit plans to sustain itself over the near- or long-term with or without funding from the group you are applying to.

Include a complete budget and other financial statements, following the guidelines of each particular funder.

Include any other documents required by the funder. These almost always include your organization's Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt determination letter, short staff biographies, and a list of board members and their affiliations.

Tips

  • Many foundations accept this kind of template as is. For other private and corporate funders, this template will need to be tweaked to meet their respective guidelines. For government grants, the information contained in this template will be used, but as part of each government agency's specific format, which will be far more extensive in comparison to private and corporate applications.
  • Prior to organizing an initial grant template, conduct research to find opportunities that are relevant to your non-profit's purpose. Review what different funders expect in an application. This will not only arm you with key information as you begin to write, but it will save time.
  • Consider a subscription to the Foundation Directory Online to search for grant opportunities from private and corporate funders.
  • Consult the Federal Government's grant database (Grants.gov) for grant opportunities from government agencies.

Items you will need

  • Organizational information
  • Computer

About the Author

As a writer since 2002, Rocco Pendola has published numerous academic and popular articles in addition to working as a freelance grant writer and researcher. His work has appeared on SFGate and Planetizen and in the journals "Environment & Behavior" and "Health and Place." Pendola has a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies from San Francisco State University.

Photo Credits

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