As we discussed in a recent post, before applying for a grant, you need to apply to apply for a grant.
But then. Then! After you’ve written the Letter of Intent and received an invitation and RFP to apply, it’s time to actually write the grant.
Surprisingly, the grant writing at this stage is easier and more straightforward (though because it’s longer and more detailed it’s also more work): Not only have you received instructions in the form of the RFP, but you’ve already written your template in the form of the LOI.
In some ways, the grant proposal is the LOI, but more. Whereas the LOI is about 2 pages, the grant proposal is more like 8 to 12 pages. Whereas the LOI provides a snapshot of your organization and its program objectives, the proposal spells out in more (and repetitive) detail your organization’s background, needs, program model, goals and objectives, methods, evaluation and tracking, timeline and work to date, and organizational information.
To write the right proposal:

  • Follow formatting specs regarding font, spacing, and margins
  • Respond to each element of the RFP clearly, directly, and fully
  • Ensure goals are clearly stated (and differ from objectives)
    • Goals are desired big-picture results
    • Objectives are S.M.A.R.T—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-sensitive
  • Cite reputable data and secondary research to support goals and objectives
  • Source letters of support early by identifying program partners or beneficiaries and asking if they’d be willing to write a letter of backing (or more typically sign-off on a letter you’ve already drafted)
  • Break down the grant budget in a specific and believable way

Proposals can be onerous and overwhelming. Many organizations want to break the project down, assigning various elements to various staff members. Resist this urge! Instead, assign the proposal to your organization’s strongest writer (who, ideally, practices extreme attention to detail), and provide that writer with vigorous support.
And if this is your organization’s first effort, consider spending the money on training your writer in grant writing or on hiring a grant writer. The outlay might hurt your organization’s wallet in the short-term, but the final proposal will pay long-term dividends (even if it doesn’t win the grant) because it will be the basis for future—winning!—proposals.