Depending on how long you have worked in the nonprofit field, you either know or will discover that most grant applications have the same sections, requiring specific types of information. The most common sections that grant applications require you to complete are as follows:
1. A one-page cover letter that states who you are and the name of the organization(s) submitting the proposal, what you are submitting a proposal for, and who the funders should contact for additional information. Your cover letter should be on the organization's letterhead.
2. A one-page summary of the proposed project. The summary should include a brief overview of the project with major highlights, such as the organization's mission; who it serves; the overall intent of the proposal; the need or problem and how funding will address it; the number and types of staff members needed; how the organization will achieve its goals and evaluate its success; the time period for which you are requesting funding; and the full amount of funding requested. Your summary should give the funder a quick overview of what you are proposing to do and how you are going to do it should you receive funding. Developing a compelling summary is critical, as many funders won't read the rest of your proposal if the summary does not grab their attention.
3. The funder will most likely want to know general information about the organization, such as its history and how long it has been around; its vision statement, mission statement, and core values; who it serves; its programs and services; its funding history and financial stability; and its reputation with internal and external stakeholders. They are looking for information to determine if your organization is credible and stable, and worth their consideration.
4. There is always a section related to the problem or need that the organization sees and is trying to address. This could relate to unserved or underserved clients, areas in which clients are not being served due to a lack of funding, programs or services that would help clients to be more independent and self-sufficient, etc. There are a number of ways in which organizations identify problems or needs, but the two most common ways are through conducting a needs assessment or using statistics that the organization has been gathering and tracking.
A needs assessment is generally distributed to clients and other stakeholders. It asks a variety of questions related to the needs of clients; whether or not these needs are being met and, if applicable, how or to what extent they are being met; and are there any gaps in services or programs that need to be addressed. All stakeholders are encouraged to be as honest as possible, and share any ideas they may have for new services or programs, or how to improve existing ones.
Organizations may also identify problems and needs through the statistics it gathers and tracks via client feedback, pre and post assessments/tests, and focus groups. For example, if you provide job placement services to individuals with low income and they secure a job, are they making sufficient income to pay their bills and live independently, and how long are they retaining their jobs? Statistics such as these can help the organization see which of its efforts and activities are helping or hindering its clients, where the gaps are, and what they need to do to improve services to meet the employment related needs of their clients.
Once you state the problem or need, you will need to inform the funder why it is a problem or need and what will happen if your proposal is not funded. Using the example above, if you are trying to help individuals find jobs but they don't know how to complete a job application or develop a resume, or they don't know how to respond to questions in interviews, this may hinder their ability to secure a job. Complete applications, well-developed resumes, and being able to interview well make a good first impression. If the first impression employers have of potential candidates is poor or negative, they will not hire them. With this in mind, let's say that you provide job seeking skills training to half of your clients, where they learn how to complete applications, develop resumes, and act appropriately in job interviews. When you look at your placement rates, individuals who received the job seeking skills training were able to secure and retain jobs 80% more often than clients who didn't receive this training. This is valuable information; without your clients receiving this type of training, they are more likely to be unemployed, becoming tax users instead of tax payers. Funders will clearly see that there could be an adverse economic impact if individuals don't receive job seeking skills training.
5. Funders will want to know what your intended outcome(s) are; what will be accomplished if you receive funding and achieve the goals and objectives outlined in your proposal? With what you propose to do, how will that affect your clients? What changes will your proposed programs or services make in their lives? How will you determine success; what indicators will demonstrate success? Your proposal should have outcomes that positively impact a person's life, such as increased independence, decreased economic dependency, an increase in skill level or functioning, etc. To use our example regarding job placement for low income individuals, an outcome might be "80% of clients who secure jobs will still be employed after 120 days."
To achieve your outcome(s), you will need to identify goals and objectives. Goals are very broad in scope. Objectives are narrow; they are the action steps you will take to meet your goals. Objectives should be clear and specific, measurable, realistic, and time limited. To use our example of placing people in jobs, an overall goal might be "To secure jobs for 50 clients." One objective to meet this goal might be to "Provide job seeking skills training on developing individualized resumes to all 50 clients by December 1, 2010." This objective is clear, measurable, and time limited. It is one step the organization can take in preparing people to secure jobs.
6. Your proposal should contain a "method of operation" or a plan as to how you are going to do what you said you would do. Your goals and objectives are an integral part of your method of operation. In addition, you will want to identify the number of key staff members and/or volunteers assigned to the project, their titles, what their expertise or experience is and how it will benefit the project, and who will be responsible for each objective; how services will be delivered (e.g., on-site or off-site; individually or via a group; via the phone, Internet, face-to-face, or a combination of these modalities); who will oversee and monitor the project to keep it on track; what type of evaluation tool will be used, who will develop it, and how it will be administered; and any other strategies you will employ to ensure successful implementation of the grant. You could use a flowchart to paint a visual picture of how services will be delivered, from the client completing an application to a designated staff member following up with the client 120 days post employment.
7. Grant applications always require an overall budget, with a breakdown of direct and indirect expenses, and a budget narrative, providing rationale for certain expenditures. Direct expenses relate to salaries, benefits, and program expenses, such as program brochures and other materials. Indirect expenses relate to overhead, such as office rent, utilities, and equipment and supplies. A breakdown of expenses is required so funders can see how you are going to spend their dollars and if your figures are justified and realistic. There are times when the grant application won't fund indirect costs. As such, you will need to demonstrate how you plan on covering these costs. Also, if you are partnering with another organization to develop and implement the proposed project, what will their financial contributions be? Finally, grantors are always interested in how you will sustain the project after their funding ceases. You will need to demonstrate that you have an action plan in place for continuation funding, whether that involves soliciting support from your major donors, developing and implementing a fee-for-service program, or exploring more permanent funding sources. You will also want to note in-kind contributions, such as volunteers.
8. All grant applications require some type of evaluation tool. How are you going to evaluate whether or not your project has been successful? Which types of evaluation criteria will you use? What types of outcomes are you looking for and how will you track them? In the example used above, one of your goals is to secure jobs for 50 people. To track this, you simply need to document the date a client secures a job. Regarding the outcome of "80% of clients who secure jobs will still be employed after 120 days", you could maintain data regarding each client's starting date and the date when their 120 day period ends. If clients are still employed at the end of the 120 day period, you have met one of your outcomes. You may want to track other goals and outcomes as well, such as the client's satisfaction with their new job and/or the employer's satisfaction with the new employee. You can gather this type of information through phone conversations, face-to-face meetings, or e-mail surveys.
9. Grantors are always interested in funding proposals where two or more organizations are working together to develop or strengthen services and programs for mutual clients. As resources are limited, collaborative relationships and partnerships are valued and given preference. However, funders will want to see that each organization is clear about its project responsibilities and what resources (e.g., staff, office space) it will bring to the table.
10. Grant applications always request letters of recommendation. You will want to solicit letters of recommendation from individuals and organizations who understand and support your organization's mission and your proposed project, and with whom you have worked in the past. Funders want to know that you have established strong relationships in the community and that the community supports your proposal.
Some of the information you gather to address the areas above can be used when applying for other grants, but some information will be specific to the grant for which you are applying. The important thing to note is that you will most likely have to address each of the sections outlined above in every grant application. The more familiar you are with each section, the more prepared you will be to develop strong and compelling grant proposals.
Copyright 2010 © Sharon L. Mikrut, All rights reserved.
Summary: Depending on how long you have worked in the nonprofit field, you either know or will discover that most grant applications have the same sections, requiring specific types of information. There are 10 sections that most grant applications require you to complete. This article provides a description of each of these sections.
If you want to make positive changes in your professional life, and create the job or career you desire and deserve, then working with Executive & Life Coach, Sharon L. Mikrut, is the solution. Although her specialty is in partnering with nonprofit executive directors and managers to maximize their resources in a competitive environment, she is passionate about working with all individuals committed to personal and/or professional growth. Visit her website (http://www.createitcoaching.org) or Nonprofit Professionals blog (http://www.createitcoaching.com) and sign up for her free monthly nonprofit and/or life coaching newsletters.