Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Writing successful grant proposals is an art and a science. A seasoned grant writer will tell you that it was not a skill that was learned overnight or even a light-bulb moment after taking an online course or reading a book. Like most things, it takes practice, but there are some tips to help you avoid staring at a blank computer screen.
My most-often-suggested tip to new grant writers is to draft content based on the 5 Ws and 1 H. It answers a significant portion of the questions that most grant-funders look for, particularly if they don't have an application form or template for you to follow.
Start with a description of your organization. Who are you? Why do you exist? What prompted your founder to start the organization?
What does your organization do? What is your mission? What programs or services do you provide for your clients? What could you do if you if you were able to secure more funding?
Where are you located? Is there a specific reason why you are located there that is tied to the services your nonprofit provides? If you are a more community-based organization, how do you fit within the larger picture on a state level, regional level, national level (if applicable)?
Do you provide services during a particular time of year? Or when will your new program for which you are seeking funds launch? What's your timeline for implementation? Explain why.
Why do you do what you do? Why is it important to your clients that you provide the services that you do? What would happen if your organization no longer existed or didn't have the funds to continue to serve your clients? Why does the issue that you address exist? In this section, focus on data and not opinion. It's easy to inject your passion here, and while that's valuable, grant-makers want to see the facts.
How do you provide your services/programs? Explain them in detail as if you're speaking to someone completely unfamiliar with your organization. How do you make an impact? How are your clients' lives changed after they engage with your organization? How will you/do you measure success?
I don't necessarily suggest that you follow this list exactly in this order, however it's a great place to start your first draft. Once you have these answers written, go back and make them flow throughout your entire proposal, moving things around as necessary. If it makes more sense for you to include your "How?" before your "Why?," do it. If you draft your grant proposal narrative with these questions in mind when writing about your organizational as well as the program or service for which you are seeking funds, you will be able to paint a detailed and engaging picture of why your organization is worthy of consideration and a valuable investment on the part of any grant-maker.
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