HOW TO WRITE
A GRANT PROPOSAL
DEVELOPING A GRANT PROPOSAL
successful grant proposal is one that is well-prepared,
thoughtfully planned, and concisely packaged.
The potential applicant should become familiar
with all of the pertinent program criteria related
to the Catalog program from which assistance is sought. Refer to the information contact person listed in the Catalog program
description before developing a proposal to obtain
information such as whether funding is available,
when applicable deadlines occur, and the process used
by the grantor agency for accepting applications.
Applicants should remember that the basic requirements,
application forms, information and procedures vary
with the Federal agency making the grant award.
Individuals without prior grant proposal
writing experience may find it useful to attend a
grantsmanship workshop. A workshop can amplify the
basic information presented here.
Applicants interested in additional readings
on grantsmanship and proposal development should consult
the references listed at the end of this section and
explore other library resources.
Developing Ideas for the Proposal
When developing an idea for a proposal
it is important to determine if the idea has been
considered in the applicant's locality or State. A
careful check should be made with legislators and
area government agencies and related public and private
agencies which may currently have grant awards or
contracts to do similar work.
If a similar program already exists, the applicant
may need to reconsider submitting the proposed project,
particularly if duplication of effort is perceived.
If significant differences or improvements in the
proposed project's goals can be clearly established,
it may be worthwhile to pursue Federal assistance.
Community support for most proposals
is essential. Once proposal summary is developed,
look for individuals or groups representing academic,
political, professional, and lay organizations which
may be willing to support the proposal in writing.
The type and caliber of community support is
critical in the initial and subsequent review phases.
Numerous letters of support can be persuasive
to a grantor agency.
Do not overlook support from local government
agencies and public officials.
Letters of endorsement detailing exact areas
of project sanction and commitment are often requested
as part of a proposal to a Federal agency.
Several months may be required to develop letters
of endorsement since something of value (e.g., buildings,
staff, services) is sometimes negotiated between the
Many agencies require, in writing,
affiliation agreements (a mutual agreement to share
services between agencies) and building space commitments
prior to either grant approval or award. A useful method of generating community support may be to hold meetings
with the top decision makers in the community who
would be concerned with the subject matter of the
forum for discussion may include a query into the
merits of the proposal, development of a contract
of support for the proposal, to generate data in support
of the proposal, or development of a strategy to create
proposal support from a large number of community
Identification of a Funding Resource
review of the Objectives and Uses and Use Restrictions
sections of the Catalog program description can point
out which programs might provide funding for an idea.
Do not overlook the related programs as potential
the applicant and the grantor agency should have the
same interests, intentions, and needs if a proposal
is to be considered an acceptable candidate for funding.
Once a potential grantor agency is
identified, call the contact telephone number identified
in Information Contacts and ask for a grant application
get to know some of the grantor agency personnel.
Ask for suggestions, criticisms, and advice
about the proposed project.
In many cases, the more agency personnel know
about the proposal, the better the chance of support
and of an eventual favorable decision.
Sometimes it is useful to send the proposal
summary to a specific agency official in a separate
cover letter, and ask for review and comment at the
earliest possible convenience. Always check with the
Federal agency to determine its preference if this
approach is under consideration.
If the review is unfavorable and differences
cannot be resolved, ask the examining agency (official)
to suggest another department or agency which may
be interested in the proposal. A personal visit to
the agency's regional office or headquarters is also
important. A visit not only establishes face-to-face
contact, but also may bring out some essential details
about the proposal or help secure literature and references
from the agency's library.
Federal agencies are required to
report funding information as funds are approved,
increased or decreased among projects within a given
State depending on the type of required reporting. Also, consider reviewing the Federal Budget for the current and
budget fiscal years to determine proposed dollar amounts
for particular budget functions.
The applicant should carefully study
the eligibility requirements for each Federal program
under consideration (see the Applicant Eligibility
section of the Catalog program description). The applicant may learn that he or she is required
to provide services otherwise unintended such as a
service to particular client groups, or involvement
of specific institutions. It may necessitate the modification of the
original concept in order for the project to be eligible
for funding. Questions about eligibility should be
discussed with the appropriate program officer.
Deadlines for submitting applications
are often not negotiable. They are usually associated
with strict timetables for agency review. Some programs
have more than one application deadline during the
fiscal year. Applicants
should plan proposal development around the established
Getting Organized to Write the Proposal
Throughout the proposal writing stage
keep a notebook handy to write down ideas.
Periodically, try to connect ideas by reviewing
the notebook. Never
throw away written ideas during the grant writing
stage. Maintain a file labeled "Ideas" or
by some other convenient title and review the ideas
from time to time. The file should be easily accessible. The gathering of documents such as articles
of incorporation, tax exemption certificates, and
bylaws should be completed, if possible, before the
At some point, perhaps after the
first or second draft is completed, seek out a neutral
third party to review the proposal working draft for
continuity, clarity and reasoning.
Ask for constructive criticism at this point,
rather than wait for the Federal grantor agency to
volunteer this information during the review cycle.
For example, has the writer made unsupported assumptions
or used jargon or excessive language in the proposal?
Most proposals are made to institutions
rather than individuals. Often signatures of chief
administrative officials are required. Check to make sure they are included in the
proposal where appropriate.
Proposals should be typed, collated,
copied, and packaged correctly and neatly (according
to agency instructions, if any). Each package should be inspected to ensure
uniformity from cover to cover.
Binding may require either clamps or hard covers.
Check with the Federal agency to determine
its preference. A neat, organized, and attractive proposal
package can leave a positive impression with the reader
about the proposal contents.
A cover letter should always accompany
a proposal. Standard U.S. Postal Service requirements apply
unless otherwise indicated by the Federal agency. Make sure there is enough time for the proposals
to reach their destinations.
Otherwise, special arrangements may be necessary. Always coordinate such arrangements with the
Federal grantor agency project office (the agency
which will ultimately have the responsibility for
the project), the grant office (the agency which will
coordinate the grant review), and the contract office
(the agency responsible for disbursement and grant
award notices), if necessary.