Fundraising: A Look the Ins and Outs of Nonprofit Grant Writing

One of the best ways for nonprofit organizations to acquire funding is to solicit for grants that come from foundations, trusts, or government departments. Nonprofit grants, government grants, and federal grants generally are given to organizations from the local, state or federal government agencies or private organizations. Many nonprofit organizations are great at fundraising and soliciting for donations, but it is no small task if you are unfamiliar with the grant writing process, or have never done it before.

Flickr Creative Commons via Gracie Cannell.

Flickr Creative Commons via Gracie Cannell.

When soliciting for a nonprofit, federal or government grant from either a government agency or private organization, it is required that you create a grant proposal. The grant proposal will introduce the organization to the targeted funding source, give them a clear understanding of the organizational purpose and provide a clear description of the planned programs and specific objectives. It will also provide a clear description of the organization’s purposed budget, specific qualifications, and a conclusion summarizing all of the information. If this is an option you are considering pursuing for funding, take a look at the ins and outs of nonprofit grant writing to learn the ropes and avoid the common pitfalls. Keep in mind that formats will vary greatly from donor to donor—the following represents a general outline to help you get started.

The Format

The cover letter is generally one page that provides a clear, concise overview of the organization, purpose and reason for and amount of the funding request.

The cover sheet, also called an executive summary, is a case statement and proposal summary. It is the most important component of your nonprofit grant proposal. Summarize all of the key information and convince the funder to consider your proposal for funding.

The narrative is usually a substantial portion of the grant including:

  • A needs assessment, also known as the problem statement, including objective content addressing the specific situation, opportunity, problem, issue, need, and the community your proposal addresses.
  • The program goals and objectives that describe the outcome of the grant in measurable terms; in a succinct description of the proposed project outcome and accomplishments, including your overall goal.
  • The methodology is a portion that describes the process to be used to achieve the outcome and accomplishments.
  • The evaluation which details the plan for meeting performance and producing the program/project and justifies how the organization will measure the effectiveness of activities.

The budget clearly delineates costs to be met by the funder and all other funding sources, including an outline of both administrative and program costs. For specific projects, including separate budgets for the general operating and the special project may be necessary. According to general accounting and bookkeeping principles, organizations are to show income and expenses in columnar form within the budget.

The qualifications portion is a section that describes the applicant, qualifications for funding and established credibility.

The conclusion is a synopsis that presents a brief, concise summary of the proposal stating the case, problem, solution and sources (uses of project and program funds).

Details are Essential

Detailing the outline of a government, nonprofit, or federal grant will allow your organization to effectively evaluate and hopefully add new funding sources to the organizations’ fundraising, donations, and soliciting efforts. Be sure that the grant proposal clearly introduces the organization to the targeted funding source, gives them a clear understanding of the organizational purpose, and provides a description of the planned programs and specific objectives. It should also provide a clear description of the organization’s proposed budget, specific qualifications, and a solid conclusion.

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Remember Who your Audience Is

While considering which details to include, remember to tailor to each donor’s particular criteria and area of interest, much like you would a job application. You’ll need to do extensive research beforehand to find the right donor for your specific project—depending on the nature of your grant, it might come from a trust or foundation, or from a department of government. It is also best to spend time developing effective projects before you start applying for grants, so that donors can see that you are a good match for them. However, whatever you promise to your audience, be sure you can deliver—you’ll eventually be doing what you stated in these nitty-gritty details of the grant.

Consider Enlisting Help from a Pro

As all of these points may seem overwhelming – especially for organizations who are trying to figure things out on their own. If you don’t feel equipped with the proper knowledge or resources, you and your organization may want to consider hiring a professional grant writer. A grant writer can expedite the proposal development process since they are well trained on writing nonprofit grants. Additionally, a nonprofit grant writer will know what to look for in a grant application, the requirements as it pertains to your organization, and making sure you have the best chances possible for receiving funding. Train and prepare the proposal yourself, or hire a professional grant writer—but do not stray from the option due to a lack of knowledge. If you are looking for a place to start, Terravivagrants.org is a useful spring-board to help you find what you are looking for.

Whether you are interested in capital funding, or you need to step up your current grant writing skills,

be sure to do your research beforehand. By taking a little extra time to get the format right, include all of the necessary details, and even enlisting help from a professional, you’ll increase your chances of funding success.

Fundraising as a career

As you can see, a lot of work goes into obtaining funds—especially for a nonprofit endeavor. If you have a passion or talent for fundraising, your skills will be in high demand. Not only can you get paid relatively well, but you’ll find a great sense of reward in the projects you help fund. If you’re interested, you might consider pursuing a career as a fundraiser.

Head Shot B&WAbout the Author: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer who loves to write for business, careers, education, and environmental issues. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.

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