The Grant Proposal: Doing It Right

Whether you work for a nonprofit organization, hospital, faith-based organization, government agency, or university, you and thousands of other organizations likely have to compete for grants as a key component in fundraising and supporting your organization financially. Drafting a successful grant proposal takes time and effort, but with careful planning, the task need not be difficult.

Although the whole process is not rocket science, careful considerations and planning are key. Alexis Carter-Black, whose previous employment and leadership as Oklahoma City Community College Director of Grants and Contracts garnered OCCC over $20.5 million USD in external funding over the span of seven years, shares her experience and sound advice about writing grant proposals in her book Getting Grants: The Complete Manual of Proposal Development and Administration.

Many organizations try to conceive a full grant proposal almost spontaneously at the last minute, but Carter-Black stresses that this is not the way to go. “Grant proposals often start out as “really neat ideas,” says Carter-Black. “But successful proposals are neat ideas that became well-developed, rational plans that matched the needs of the organization seeking funding with the requirements of the funding source.”

Such procedures obviously take time, but if you know where to look, what to expect, and what kind of information to research and provide in your proposal, the results will be well worth the effort.

Carter-Black suggests starting by researching grants for which you may potentially apply. Although not visibly apparent, there are many smaller grant programs that offer higher success rate than applying for grants offered by huge, national organizations whose monies are coveted by many. According to Carter-Black, two main sources of funding are foundations and federal grant programs, but there are other places to look such as municipal government grant programs.

Regardless of which grant you are applying for, be sure to take into consideration some key elements of your own organization as well as the one you are trying to receive funding from. “Only apply for grants that match the needs of your organization and the population it serves with the vision, mission, and goals of the funder,” Carter-Black states.

Once the research is done and development of the proposal is underway, write the proposal – but keep it tailored. Most applications for grants offered by the federal government are standardized, but many funding applications that exist outside of the federal program are not. Know the requirements, rules, and regulations for each grant that you apply for, and incorporate them into your proposal.

Be sure to clearly identify the need for funding, and provide a concrete, quantitative set of data to support your need while also maintaining an eye on your target population. Describe the program you plan to run with the proposed funding, and along with justifying the proposal budget, provide an evaluation plan that will assess your intended program’s impacts through either external, internal, or both internal and external indicators of evaluation, depending on the grant you are applying for.

Drafting a successful grant proposal goes beyond simply writing it; as with many things in life, the practice of writing grants can be both a science and an art.

“It is hard work, but gets easier with practice, good planning, and organization,” states Carter-Black.

Aboutgetting-grants-cover Alexis Carter-Black was previously Coordinator of Grants and Contracts at Oklahoma City Community College. She was responsible for proposal development and administration, including monitoring an average $1.7 million USD in annual grant funds. Alexis previously worked for the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Public Administration (both from the University of Oklahoma). Her book, Getting Grants, is available in our Web store.

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