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Seven Tips for Writing Strong Grant Proposals

Sep 24, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 2 Comments

Writing a grant proposal is no easy endeavor. Funding agencies want to fund projects that are likely to do the most good—and that are in keeping with their goals. So you’ll have to demonstrate why the problem you address is urgent in a compelling way, as well as why you’re the absolute best agency to address it—and that you can measure your results objectively. Writing a grant proposal is mainly about proving to the funding organization that you’re the right agency for the job, and that your goals are in line with theirs. Here are the sections of most grant proposals—and some tips for writing them effectively.

The Cover Letter

The cover letter has to make a strong impression—as it’s the funding agency’s introduction to your organization. You’ll need to clearly state your group’s mission and exactly what you’re asking for—and how you plan to use it. Be sure that your proposal is in line with the funder’s goals—and demonstrate clearly, succinctly and compellingly that you are a clear fit for their funding objectives. When writing a cover letter, address it to a specific person—research and be sure you know which person in the agency is the most appropriate. Include a statement of support from your board of directors, and keep the whole letter to approximately 3-4 paragraphs.


Writing a grant isn’t easy. But it’s doable—if your organization truly is the right one to
conduct the project, and if the project
is in line
with the funder’s goals.

The Executive Summary

The executive summary presents your case as a summary introduction to the grant proposal itself. If you don’t grab the reader’s attention from the first paragraph, the rest of your proposal may not get read.

As in the cover letter, the executive summary should state clearly how much money you’re asking for—and how you plan to use it. It’s important to introduce your organization and include your mission statement, highlight the critical points of your proposal, detail the need for your project, and estimate the time spent and results expected.

The Statement of Need

A statement of need is sometimes referred to as a problem statement, and that’s exactly what you’re doing—stating the problem that your program hopes to solve. In your statement of need, you’ll need to demonstrate why your organization is the right one to address the problem—including data and background research as well as anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the issue. The more quantitative data you can use, the better—but make sure it supports your statement in a reader-friendly way.

The Objective Statement

The section outlining your goals and objectives should be especially compelling for you to have a chance at recieving anytype of grant funding. Outline clearly the results you hope to see—and be sure they’re measurable. Use clear language and quantifiable terms. And be sure to demonstrate exactly how your program’s objectives will help your target population. Be sure all your objectives relate to your statement of need.

The Program Design

This section of your proposal will tell readers exactly how you plan to accomplish the goals you set forth in the previous statement. This is the program you are trying to fund—so you’ll need to demonstrate that your organization has a clear plan with a strong chance of success. You’ll need to address any possible objections the reader might have by clearly demonstrating why your methodology is the best way to achieve your stated goals. You’ll also need to include all the resources you’ll need—including equipment, supplies, and people.

The Evaluation Section

When a funder chooses to subsidize your project, they want to know how they—and you—will discern whether the project succeeded. The evaluation section is where you show how you’ll determine whether the project achieved its goals. It’s important to demonstrate that your project’s results can be measured objectively—so that, in turn, the funding agency will know what impact its contribution has made. Explain your record-keeping process, your plan for data collection, and other methods for assessing your project’s effects.


Funders want to fund projects that are sustainable—and can continue without their help. You’ll have to show how you plan to raise money to keep the project going after the funder’s grant money has been used. You’ll need to show a specific plan for raising money that’s doable for your organization.


You’ll need to include exactly what you plan to spend the money on—including people, equipment, and any other resources. You’ll need to be detailed to prove your competence. Be sure to include any materials asked for by the funder, including financial statements.

Writing a grant isn’t easy. But it’s doable—if your organization truly is the right one to conduct the project, and if the project is in line with the funder’s goals. If these things are true, you’re very likely to be awarded the money you need to conduct your project.

Top 10 Technology Grant Writing Tips -




LFoster Over a year ago

I agree with the seven points. While it isn't really in line with the seven points, I would add that there are many, many grant programs available. Individuals should not be "turned off" by smaller grant programs and often those grant programs are stepping stones to larger ones. Although it may seem like more work for a smaller award, the value of getting those "little" grants cannot be underestimated.

Kylie Carlson Over a year ago

I think the Sustainability point cannot be stressed enough- grant money should be looked at as seed money not general budget money. If you are working for a college or other organization to start a program it's the start-up costs that are usually the problem. Talk to the organization before starting the grant process to see if they can absorb the running costs or if you need to formulate a fund-raising program into the project.

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