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Successful Grant Writing Strategies

Basic Proposal Elements

The following sections typically are required in foundation proposals, often in about five or six pages:

a. Executive Summary/Abstract

A summary of your entire proposal

  • This is the most important section of the proposal. It must be well organized, concise and self-contained.
  • A reader must be able to understand the work you propose, your strategy for implementing the project, your passion for the project and your capabilities to make it successful.
  • You should write this section last.

b. Statement of Need

Why the project is needed.

  • This section describes the problem you want to address and should be illustrated with statistics/demographic information that support the need; narrative description of situation; and stories of individuals who will be affected by the program.
  • Write as if your project will serve as a model for others to follow.
  • Answer the following questions: 1) Why is this project unique?; 2) How does it fit into larger community goals and needs?, and 3) What other organizations support addressing the need?
  • Tie the need to a school, district, or community vision or mission for enhancing education.

c. Project Description

This section should explain, in detail, the purpose and importance of the project. Include detailed information about what the project will accomplish and how it will be implemented. A timeline, staffing chart and other graphical information are good ways to illustrate the project in a succinct and engaging way. Be sure to include:

  • Goal-the resulting change that this project will create (e.g. "I will be able to run 3 miles because I will have lost 20 pounds.")
  • Objectives - These are measurable, time-framed outcomes. They must be specific, tangible, measurable, and achievable within a specific time period. (e.g. "For the next month, I will eat healthy meals, walk 2 miles every day, run 2 miles on Tuesday and Saturday.")
  • Milestones-The short-term accomplishments that keep the project on track (e.g. "Every week, I will plan healthy meals on Sunday and eat them throughout the week to keep me on my diet.")
  • Administration - Describe the personnel involved in this project and their specific assignments. Be sure to submit a biographical statement or résumé for each individual. You should indicate which personnel will work full time or part time and which consultants and volunteers will be used.
  • Partner Roles-Incorporate information on the specific roles of partner organizations in achieving the objectives.

The goals, objectives and milestones should be defined in depth; staffing requirements should be mapped closely to each activity; and necessary resources and support should be included.
If you are attentive to mapping milestones and objectives to your goal, your proposal will be understandable to the reader, and a detailed budget that anticipates all possible costs should be very easy to prepare.

d. Evaluation

A detailed financial description of the project.

Granting organizations require more rigorous evaluation now than they did in the past. Therefore, you must have an evaluation plan as a tool to measure how well you have achieved your stated objectives. Most evaluations include (1) a process evaluation that describes the implemented program and determines the extent to which the program has been implemented as it was defined; and (2) an outcome evaluation that determines whether the program achieved its goals and objectives.

It is generally recommended that you partner with an outside organization for evaluation and include the cost in your proposal. Examples of an outside organization might be a college or university, a nonprofit or for-profit organization that evaluates education programs, or a state department of education or other agency.

e. Sustainability

Discuss how this project will continue after the funding period ends. You may cite additional funding sources, matching funds and external partnerships that will be developed to provide continued financial support.

f. Budget

Be sure to look closely at your project description and evaluation sections as you develop the budget. It will help you anticipate and include the funding you will need. Keep these points in mind as you develop your budget:

  • Your budget should be clear, concise, and easy to understand.
  • Include budget justification, in-kind contributions, matching funds from other groups (if any) and indirect costs, if applicable.
  • Adhere to all guidelines from the granting organization and double-check the figures.
  • Cover the follow categories: personnel; fringe benefits; equipment; supplies; travel; and other costs.

Remember that the funding organization may not be familiar with jargon or acronyms that seem self-evident to you. Use plain language and define any terms specific to your community, state, or the field of education.