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Grant Writing and Applying for Funding

Before beginning an application or grant proposal, programs seeking funding should consider the philanthropy's goals and values. Ensuring that the program's activities and goals fit within the philanthropy's overall vision is critical.

Philanthropies usually require a proposal. Each philanthropy will likely have different requirements for a proposal based on its mission, business practices, or decision-making processes. Because of these variations, it is important to review the requirements in detail with the program's grant writing team and the philanthropy's project officer, if possible. These requirements can include page limits, the preferred method to submit the proposal (electronic or hard copy), and information to include or exclude. It is important to follow the instructions closely.

Most philanthropies, because they are interested in making an impact with their funds, will want to see how successfully the project achieves its goals. A comprehensive grant proposal should include information about how the program plans to measure success, including the expected outcomes and the way(s) those outcomes will be measured. Guidance on developing an evaluation plan can be found in Module 5.

In addition to the proposal narrative, philanthropies will also ask for a project budget. This budget should be as realistic as possible. Some philanthropies may limit the amount of administrative costs their grant will cover, so it is important to understand the requirements. This information will be included in the request for proposals or on the philanthropy's website or can be requested directly from the philanthropy's project officer.

The most successful applications for funding are concise, organized, and easy to understand. Philanthropies must make difficult decisions about where to invest, so it is critical to demonstrate the grant's impact using a combination of both data and stories.

In rural organizations where resources are limited, there may not be staff available to prepare the application; the executive director may be writing the proposal. Rural organizations may also benefit from investing in training for an existing staff member who is already deeply familiar with the program's strengths and needs and can support a longer-term fundraising strategy. One rural community invested in a full-time Collective Impact Health Specialist who assists the community in developing partnerships and seeking funding opportunities (see Healthy Gorge Initiative).

Resources to Learn More

Don't Start Your Nonprofit Grant Writing Until You Read This
Website
Describes a few key issues to keep in mind when developing a fundraising strategy that includes philanthropic giving or grants. Sets some expectations for first-time grant applicants about choosing a grant opportunity and predicting success.
Author(s): Koenig, M.
Organization(s): Nonprofit Hub

Grant Writing Institute
Training/tutorial
These grant writing workshops sponsored by NOSORH, often in conjunction with state departments of health, are presented as a series of online sessions to help beginning grant writers learn skills to research and develop winning proposals. Included modules cover how to form a consortium of collaborators and how to implement evidence-based models in rural communities.
Organization(s): National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health

How to Write a Grant Proposal
Document
Detailed, step-by-step guide designed to support rural programs with limited previous experience in grant writing. Emphasizes building relationships and including all stakeholders in the project development and implementation process. Provides guidance on identifying and evaluating potential funding sources.
Organization(s): Appalachian Regional Commission

Introduction to Project Budgets
Tutorial/Training
Free, 60-90 minute training available as a recorded webinar, self-paced online module, or in-person session (dates and locations available on the website). Provides an overview of the basic elements of a project budget, estimating the cost of a project, and other financial documents that may be needed for a grant proposal. Also available in Spanish. It is recommended but not required that participants first complete Introduction to Proposal Writing.
Organization(s): GrantSpace

Introduction to Proposal Writing
Tutorial/Training
Free, 60-90 minute training available as a recorded webinar, self-paced online module, or in-person session (dates and locations available on the website). Provides an overview of the basic components of a project proposal to a foundation, as well as “dos” and “don'ts” and guidance on how to follow-up once the funding decision has been made. Also available in Spanish.
Organization(s): GrantSpace

Writing a Successful Grant Proposal
Document
This guide was written for a Minnesota-based audience, but has valuable information about structuring a grant proposal that can apply to nonprofits in all locations. Suggests key sections to include like Organization Information, Outcomes/Impact, Future Funding, and other supplementary materials that may be useful to include in a package for potential funders.
Author(s): Davis, B.
Organization(s): Minnesota Council on Foundations
Date: 2005