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14. Applying for Grants

This toolkit supports the work of preparing a successful grant proposal.

In this Toolkit, you will find supports for applying for grants. Part I gives a step-by-step overview of the grantwriting process. Part II provides a general template for writing a grant application. Completing Part II will give you a solid proposal that can be adapted to meet specific grant opportunities and review criteria for specific funders.

Part I. OVERVIEW OF THE GRANTWRITING PROCESS

  1. Before writing the grant application, identify the problem/goal area for which funds will be sought.
     
    Related resources:
    Toolkit: Assessing Community Needs and Resources
    Toolkit: Analyzing Problems and Goals
    Strategies for Sustaining the Initiative
    Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
    Marketing the Initiative to Secure Financial Resources
     
  2. Develop relationships with grantmakers when possible. Communicate with grantmakers about your work periodically, even when you are not in the process of submitting an application. This may help you learn about future funding prospects, as well as increase your chances for a successful proposal.
     
    Related resources:
    Building and Sustaining Relationships
     
  3. Thoroughly search for relevant grant opportunities. See Additional Resources for a list of grantmakers or potential funders. Consider the following types of funders:
    1. Government agencies (e.g., federal, state/province, or local)
    2. Private foundations or donors
    3. Corporate foundations or businesses
       
      Related resources:
      Potential Funders (by Category)
       
  4. Consider the proposed project/goal’s fit with the identified funder(s).
    1. Learn the funder's grantmaking philosophy, program interests, and criteria.
    2. Does the funder make grants that meet your needs?
    3. Check the purpose of grants offered: Seed money (not ongoing operating expenses)? Direct Service? Other?
    4. Check the size of grants offered, including minimum and maximum awards. Determine whether you will need to apply for multiple grants and investigate whether this is allowable under the guidelines of each funder.
    5. Check out the timeline for submission, and the funding cycle.
    6. Check other restrictions (e.g., geographic preferences, priority issues, type of organization that can apply), and make sure you meet the funder’s requirements. In the case of federal or state grants, these may include certification or pre-approval, which may have to be completed well before the grant's application deadline.
    7. Look at the number and kind of past awards given by the funder and determine whether your odds of receiving funding warrant the effort it takes to prepare a competitive grant proposal.
    8. Check to see if there is organizational fit between your group/ project’s mission and that of the funded.
      1. How does your group’s work reflect the funder’s values and goals?
      2. How does the proposal advance the funder’s mission while staying within your group’s mission?
    9. Check to see if you meet the eligibility criteria.
    10. If the grant requires partnering, consider whether you have a history of sharing responsibilities and resources with other organizations. Is there a potential partner for this grant? Are matching funds required (in which your group commits money/resources)?
    11. Before beginning, determine if you have the needed time, energy, and other resources to prepare an effective grant application.
       
  5. Consider a meeting with the funding source.
    1. Learn the funder's preferred method of initial contact (e.g., e-mail, phone, face-to-face meeting).
    2. Check to see if the funder offers a conference call or web conference briefing session – if so, attending may be well worth your time.
    3. Check to see if the funder offers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on their website, and review these in detail. The FAQs may be updated periodically.
    4. If you see value in a pre-application meeting, and if the funders’ guidelines don’t tell you otherwise, consider requesting a meeting with the grantmaking agency.
    5. Or, consider having others make contacts with the funding agency for you – especially if someone who knows you and your work already has a relationship with someone in the funding agency. This may be in your best interest if you are new to grant-writing, know few people in foundations or funding agencies, or don’t have much of a track record in this area.
       
  6. If you decide to pursue the funding opportunity:
    1. Review the literature to find out what approaches might work in your situation.
    2. Learn about the problems and goals of the community, and work with partners to develop an intervention for addressing them with the proposed funding. Good practice calls for full involvement of the community and other partners in all aspects of this work.
  7. Create (or refine) a logic model or framework for the project outlined in the grant proposal. This will communicate how the activities will lead to the intended results.
    1. Outline the vision and mission of your project.
    2. State the objectives of your project or effort.
    3. State the context and conditions under which the problem or goal exists that may affect the intended outcomes (e.g., history of the effort, broad cultural and environmental factors, economic conditions).
    4. Identify inputs, resources and barriers – include both resources or supports available and constraints or barriers to meeting the initiative’s objectives
    5. State activities or interventions - what the initiative or program does to bring about change and improvement (e.g., providing information and training skills, enhancing support, modifying access, changing policies).
    6. State outputs - direct results or products of the group’s activities (e.g., number of people trained or activities conducted).
    7. State intended effects - more broadly measured outcomes or results (may include shorter-term, intermediate, and longer-term effects).
    8. Using the components listed above in items a-g, draft a picture or visual representation of the framework or model of change.
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Developing a Framework or Model of Change
      Developing a Logic Model or Theory of Change
       
  8. Create an evaluation plan for the project.
    1. Indicate what success will look like for the project or initiative. (e.g., how would the lives of individuals and communities be better?)
    2. Identify your criteria or indicators for judging success. How will success be measured?
    3. Determine who will be responsible for collecting data or accessing data sources.
    4. Indicate the role of documentation and evaluation in supporting program improvement and determining effectiveness, along with your plan for documentation/ monitoring your efforts.
    5. Describe the results you expect to achieve by the end of the funding period.
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Evaluating the Initiative
      Introduction to Evaluation
      Using Evaluation to Understand and Improve the Initiative
      Gathering and Using Community-Level Indicators
       
  9. Prepare a budget for the project.
    1. Clearly outline the amount of funding requested for each type of funding sought (e.g., amount for salaries, travel, and equipment).
      1. Create a budget justification (i.e., a description of why each type of expense is needed).
    2. Consider all forms of potential revenues (e.g., other grants and contracts, local funding, memberships, in-kind support), as well as all forms of expenses (e.g., staff salaries and benefits, consultants, travel, equipment, supplies, rent, insurance), for each year of the proposed project.
      1. Identify appropriate matching funds or resources if applicable.
          
        Related resources:
        Planning and Writing an Annual Budget
        Example budget report form
         
  10. Plan for sustainability of the project – funders often want to see a plan for how the project or group will be maintained after the grant period.
    1. Create a business plan to anticipate what resources will be necessary to sustain the organization or effort.
    2. Identify specific tactics to be used to sustain the effort (e.g., sharing positions and resources, becoming a line item in an existing budget).
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Sustaining the Work or Initiative
      Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
       
  11. Follow up with the funder.
    1. Follow up to be sure that the proposal arrived.
    2. Identify a contact person at the grantmaking agency.
    3. Prepare a thank you letter.
       
  12. Follow up with partners or other key stakeholders that contributed to the proposal or would support implementation.
     
  13. Keep at it.
    1. Securing one grant takes multiple applications. Don’t wait to hear about one application before sending out another.
    2. Once word has been received from the grantmaking agency about the funding (or lack of approved funding), debrief with the group to discuss lessons learned and next steps.
    3. Continue efforts to diversify the types of funding and types of funders that support your work. Be persistent.
       

Part II. WRITING THE GRANT APPLICATION

COVER LETTER

  1. Be sure to include important information (e.g., the RFA or grant name, proposal name, agency name).

PROPOSAL NARRATIVE (usually a total of 10-20 pages)

  1. After drafting the narrative, have someone with limited knowledge of the proposal give you feedback based on the review criteria.
  2. Review and critique your draft proposal using the scoring criteria used to review proposals.
  3. Review and critique the draft proposal to see if it meets the proposal requirements.
  4. Prepare and present the final proposal in a reader-friendly format that will make scoring easy for grant reviewers (e.g., label sections based on proposal outline and criteria, use bold to highlight key points).

ABSTRACT/ EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1. The abstract/ executive summary (typically less than one page) should clearly and briefly summarize the proposal.
  2. Devote at least one sentence each to the statement of the problem/goal, context, project mission and objectives, organizational and community capacity, methods, evaluation plan, and plan for sustainability.
  3. Keep it clear and simple. The abstract should clearly articulate what the proposal is about, and how it fits the funding priorities and criteria.
  4. Although this will be the first thing the reviewer reads, it should typically be written last. Prepare the abstract after the rest of the proposal is complete. That way, you won’t have to rewrite it as your proposal evolves.

I. PROBLEM/GOAL AND CONTEXT

  1. Statement of the Community Problem or Goal
    1. State the community problem or goal to be addressed. Describe the active involvement of the community in defining the problems and goals and planning the approach.
    2. Document evidence of the problem, including data on the scope or level of the problem. You may use public records of community-level indicators and/or community surveys to communicate the importance of the problem/goal.
    3. Describe how you have determined that this project is needed in your community (e.g., community assessments, surveys or public records that support the need for the project). Document evidence of community concern about the issue, including information from people affected by the problem, those responsible for addressing it, and reports from the media. (You may want to use public forums and focus groups). If available, attach media reports on the issue or problem in this community.
    4. State whom the problem or goal most affects and how they are affected by it.
    5. Describe how the problem or goal is linked to other related issues in the community.
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Analyzing Problems and Goals
      Analyzing Community Problems
      Analyzing Community Problems and Solutions
      Defining and Analyzing the Problem
      Analyzing Root Causes of Problems: The "But Why?" Technique
      Toolkit: Increasing Participation and Membership
      Developing a Plan for Identifying Local Needs and Resources
      Understanding and Describing the Community
      Collecting Information About the Problem
      Conducting Concerns Surveys
      Conducting Focus Groups
      Conducting Public Forums and Listening Sessions
      Identifying Targets and Agents of Change: Who Can Benefit and Who Can Help
        
  2. Description of the Community
    1. Describe the geographic area that defines the community (e.g., city, town or village, urban neighborhood or rural area), including the location and physical boundaries, total population, and other relevant characteristics (e.g., commercial/residential area, quality of physical environment, etc.).
    2. Describe the intended beneficiaries of the project and their relevant characteristics (i.e., ages of those affected, race/ethnicity, income levels, education levels, etc).
    3. State community assets, challenges, and needs.
    4. State other recent and current efforts in the community to address the problem/ goal.
       
      Related resources:
      Understanding and Describing the Community
      Identifying Targets and Agents of Change: Who Can Benefit and Who Can Help
      Understanding and Describing the Community
      Conducting Needs Assessment Surveys
      Identifying Community Assets and Resources
      Conducting Public Forums and Listening Sessions
       

II. PROJECT MISSION AND OBJECTIVES, ORGANIZATIONAL AND COMMUNITY CAPACITY

  1. Mission and Objectives of the Project
    1. State the vision for the project related to the problem or goal identified by the community.
    2. State the mission of the project or initiative.
    3. State the overall objective(s) for the community project or initiative
    4. State the key behavioral objectives for the community project or initiative (e.g., what are the measurable impacts that could be expected in 3 – 5 years
       
      Related resources:
      Proclaiming Your Dream: Developing Vision and Mission Statements
      Creating Objectives
       
  2. Describe the Organization's Capacity to Conduct the Project. Include:
    1. A brief overview of the organization, including its mission or purpose, and its clients or groups that benefit from its work.
      1. Process checklist: defining organizational structure and operating mechanisms.
    2. Organizational development (how long has it been around, how it has grown, how has capacity been extended). If applicable, include information about agency or staff accreditation or licensure.
    3. Resources and assets (e.g., people, financial, etc.). Include a summary of key personnel and partners, including their experience and skills, previous work in addressing the problem or goal to be addressed, and their anticipated roles in this initiative – including percentage of time dedicated to the program. Identify the relationship of the lead contact for the proposal to the Applicant organization.
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Improving Organizational Management and Development
       
  3. Describe the Community’s Capacity to Address this Problem/ Goal. Include:
    1. Community assets and resources.
    2. Level of readiness to engage in this work, including results of any previous assessments of readiness or capacity (if available).
    3. Describe support from and collaboration with other organizations. Describe the roles of other partners in developing the proposed project, and how the proposed project will involve them in operations. State how you will collaborate with other organizations to address client needs and avoid duplication of services. Attach letters from collaborating organizations. (Letters of support should be on the organization’s letterhead and include the name, title, telephone number and e-mail address of the appropriate contact person within the partner organization).
    4. Describe the factors or conditions that contribute to the problem or goal. Describe the personal factors (e.g., past history, knowledge, and skills) and environmental factors (e.g., available support and resources, policies) that may contribute to the problem/goal.
    5. Describe the lead agency’s previous work addressing the problem/goal.
    6. Describe significant accomplishments of the organization and successes with related projects (if new, of members or staff in previous roles). Attach media reports in Appendix A, if available.
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Assessing Community Needs and Resources
      Community Readiness
      Understanding Risk and Protective Factors: A Tool for Selecting Ingredients for Community Health and Development Initiatives
       

III. METHODS

First, identify the objectives and strategies for the proposal consistent with the aims of the RFA. Then, address the following:

  1. Intended Beneficiaries and How to Reach Them
    1. Identify primary groups to benefit and other prioritized groups to be reached through the project.
    2. Describe the universal approaches to be used to reach many or all of the people in the prioritized group.
    3. Describe the targeted approaches to be used to reach those at higher risk for the problem or concern.
  2. Mobilizing Resources and Overcoming Barriers
    1. Describe the people who could potentially help address the problem or goal, the assets they could contribute, and how they will be engaged in the project.
    2. Describe material resources (e.g., money, equipment) which could potentially help address the problem or goal, the assets that could be contributed, and how they will be used.
    3. Identify the key stakeholders (those who have something to gain or lose by the efforts to address the problem or goal) and how they will be involved in the project.
    4. Describe potential sources of resistance to the project, the forms it might take, and how resistance could be reduced.
      1. Troubleshooting Guide: We are facing opposition or conflict.
      2. Describe potential barriers to the project, the forms it might take, and how barriers could be removed or reduced.
      3. Troubleshooting Guide for Solving Problems: Common Problems, Reflection Questions, and Links to Support Tools
  3. Proposed Project Activities
  4. Logic Model
    1. Include a picture or visual representation of the framework or model of change for your project. Be sure to include:
      1. Intended effects - more broadly measured outcomes or results (may include immediate, intermediate, and longer-term effects)
      2. Outputs or products of the group’s activities
      3. Activities or interventions to bring about change andimprovement
      4. Inputs, resources and barriers for meeting the initiative’s objectives
      5. The context and conditions under which the problem or goal exists that may affect the intended outcomes
      6. The objectives of your project
      7. The vision and mission of your project
  5. Intervention and Action Plan – complete and include the following:
     

Proposed Intervention

Toolkit: Developing an Intervention

 

Components of the Intervention (for example)

Specific Elements of the Intervention

Providing Information and Enhancing Skills

(e.g., workshops to train skills on…)

Enhancing Services and Support

 

Modifying Access, Barriers, and Opportunities

 

Changing the Consequences (e.g., incentives)

 

Modifying Policies and Broader Systems

 

Other (be specific):

 

 

Action Plan for Implementation

Developing an Action Plan

Identifying Action Steps in Bringing About Community and System Change

 

 

Element of the Intervention (e.g., workshop)

 

What needs to be done:

 

Person responsible:

 

By when:

       
       
       
       

 

  1. It may be appropriate to include an implementation timeline (sometimes, this is appropriate to include in the appendix).
     
    Related resources:
    Identifying Targets and Agents of Change: Who Can Benefit and Who Can Help
    Understanding and Describing the Community
    Toolkit: Implementing a Social Marketing Effort
    Segmenting the Market to Reach the Targeted Population
    Toolkit: Increasing Participation and Membership
    Modifying Access, Barriers, and Opportunities
    Identifying Community Assets and Resources
    Toolkit: Evaluating the Initiative
    Developing an Action Plan
    Identifying Action Steps in Bringing About Community and System Change
    Toolkit: Developing a Framework or Model of Change
    Developing a Logic Model or Theory of Change
     

IV. EVALUATION PLAN

  1. Overall Evaluation
    1. Indicate the role of documentation/evaluation and feedback in supporting program improvement and determining effectiveness, along with your plan for documentation/ monitoring your efforts.
    2. Describe the results you expect to achieve by the end of the funding period.
    3. Indicate what "success" will look like for the project or initiative.
    4. Describe your criteria or indicators for judging success. How will success be measured?
       
      Related resources:
      Toolkit: Evaluating the Initiative
      Introduction to Evaluation
      Developing an Evaluation Plan
      A Framework for Program Evaluation
      Our Evaluation Model: Evaluating Comprehensive Community Initiatives
      Measuring Success: Evaluating Comprehensive Community Health Initiatives
      Understanding Community Leadership, Evaluation, and Funders: What are their interests
      Gathering and Using Community-Level Indicators
       
  2. Measurement
    1. Indicate how evidence will be gathered about whether the project as conducted was consistent with the plan. Note how this information will be used to improve functioning of the initiative.
    2. Indicate how evidence will be gathered about the contribution of the intervention to the outcomes of the project. Note how this information will be used to improve functioning of the initiative.
    3. Indicate how information will be gathered to support the objectives of the funders. Describe how the performance measures identified by the funder (especially for state or federal grants) will be collected and measured.
    4. Indicate how information about satisfaction of stakeholders and collaborators with the project will be gathered regularly. Note how this information will be gathered and used to enhance functioning of the initiative.
    5. Indicate how community-level indicators (e.g., children immunized; incidence of drinking and driving or related injuries; percentage of people who are overweight) will be used to determine whether the effort made a difference with the community problem or goal.
    6. Indicate how the behaviors (or products of behavior) of prioritized groups will be measured to determine whether the initiative had an effect on key behaviors (e.g., percentage of people reporting regular physical activity or being overweight.)
    7. Indicate how community and system change (e.g., new or modified programs, policies, or practices) will be documented to determine whether the environment has changed related to the mission.
    8. Indicate how other things occurring in the community during the initiative will be documented to determine how they may have contributed to the observed effects (or lack of effects).
       
      Related resources:
      Gathering Information: Monitoring Your Progress
      Providing Feedback to Improve the Initiative
      Communicating Information to Funders for Support and Accountability
      Rating Member Satisfaction
      Constituent Survey of Outcomes: Ratings of Importance
      Gathering and Using Community Level Indicators
      Behavioral Surveys
       

V. SUSTAINABILITY PLAN

  1. Create a business plan to anticipate what resources will be necessary to sustain the organization or effort. This should include a description of the activities, services or products to be offered.
  2. Generate an annual budget, including:
    1. All projected expenses (e.g., salaries, office expenses, rent, utilities, phone and computer expenses, equipment, travel, etc)
    2. All projected income - based on current sources of funding and other in-kind resources.
  3. Use the anticipated budget to:
    1. Evaluate the financial resources needed to sustain the programs and services of the initiative.
    2. Identify ways to generate resources other than money (e.g., time, materials) to meet some of the anticipated expenses.
  4. Indicate how you will use potential tactics for financial sustainability, including:
    1. Sharing positions and resources
    2. Becoming a line item in an existing budget of another organization
    3. Incorporating the initiative’s activities or services into another organization with a similar mission
    4. Applying for grants
  5. Outline a specific action plan for sustaining the organization or effort (i.e., who will do what, by when to implement chosen tactics for sustainability)
     
    Related resources:
    Toolkit: Sustaining the Work or Initiative
    Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
    Creating a Business Plan
    Planning and Writing and Annual Budget
    Sharing Positions and Other Resources
    Becoming a Line Item in an Existing Budget
    Incorporating Activities and Services in Organizations with a Similar Mission
    Applying for a Grant: The General Approach
     

VI. APPENDICES

  1. Include appropriate supplemental items in the Appendix. The appendix should not include any information essential for the review of the application since the review of the appendix is often optional for the reviewer.
  2. Include appropriate Letters of Support (LOS). Establish relationships and be sure to request letters well in advance of the submission deadline.
     

VII. REVIEW AND SUBMIT

  1. Review all prepared materials carefully prior to submission. Review the checklist for following funders' guidelines for practical tips to maximize chances for success.
     


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