Office of Research

Erika Zynda, Contracts & Grants Coordinator
Administration 248A
(574) 520-4181 | FAX: (574) 520-5549

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Grant Writing Workshop

The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli

Accentuate the positive.

The successful grantee must stand out from the competition. A little time spent developing a list of your organization's special qualities or uniqueness will go a long way toward convincing a grantor that yours is the right organization to fund.

Consider you staff, location, buildings, and special areas of interest. Use your case statement to support your proposal, showing that the project supports your organization's stated purpose and mission.

Elements of a case statement:

  1. How and why your organization got started
  2. What your organization is doing today
  3. Where your organization is going in the future

Call First, Last, and Always

The importance of pre-proposal contact with your agency can not be overemphasized. Questions to ask a funding source:
  1. Do you agree that the need addressed by our project is important?
  2. Your average award in this area last year to an organization like ours was $_____. Do you expect that to change?
  3. Will last year's grantees compete with new grantees, or have their funds been set aside? If their funds have been set aside, how must is left for new awards?
  4. Are the any unannounced program or unsolicited proposal funds in your agency to support an important project like ours.
  5. The required matching portion is ____ percent. Would it improve our chances for funding if we provided a greater portion that this?
  6. If no match is required, would it help our proposal if we volunteered to cost share?
  7. What is the most common mistake or flaw in the proposals you receive?
  8. Are there any areas you would like to see addressed in a proposal that may have been overlooked by other grantees or applicants?
  9. Would you review or critique our proposal if we got it to you early?
  10. Would you recommend a previously funded proposal for us to read for format and style?
  11. Is it OK to use tabs or dividers in my proposal?

Elements of Successful Proposals

  1. Cover:

  2. If the grantor does not provide a cover form or format, create a simple cover. Include grantor's name, applicant organization, submittal date, project title, proposed project period, amount requested, project director's name and signature, and name and signature of the organization's authorized representative.
  3. Table of Contents:

  4. Even if the guidelines don't specifically mention a table of contents it is a good idea of proposals over 5 pages long.
  5. Abstract (also called Project or Executive Summary):

  6. Briefly state the problem, significance, objectives, method, and anticipated outcome. The typical length is 150-250 words. This may be the first or only thing a reviewer reads.
  7. Statement of Need:

  8. Why is this project necessary!!
  9. Project Description (also called Narrative or Research Plan)
    • Introduction--introduce applicant; establish credibility particularly in the area of funding is being sought
    • Significance (also called Problem Statement)--discuss the condition the applicant wishes to change; give evidence of the problem; explain why solving the problem is important to the grantor, the applicant, and others.
    • Objective (also called Specific Aims)--state in measurable terms the project's specific desired outcomes; relate the objectives directly to the stated problem.
    • Methodology (also called Procedure, Plan of Work, or Experimental Design)--describe activities to be performed to meet the stated objectives; defend choice of activities; discuss who will perform activities; include a timetable
    • Personnel and Facilities (also called Qualification of Applicant Organization)--describe in detail the qualifications of key project personnel and describe the facilities already available or promised for performance of project.
    • Evaluation--state plans to evaluate the project; indicate who will conduct the evaluation (project personnel or a consultant?) and what will be done with the results.
    • Long-term Project Plan--describe plans for the project after the requested funding period; if it will continue, what has been done or will be done to ensure support.
  10. Budget - sample 1 year budget
  11. Budget Explanation (also called Budget Justification):

  12. sample 2year budget with justification
    Arrange by budget categories. Briefly explain how budget items were estimated. Details of personnel salary and benefit rates, travel rates, equipment needs, supplies, computer rates, and indirect cost rates are among the items usually included.
  13. Vitae (also called Resume or Biographical Sketch):

  14. Include vitae for the project director and key personnel. Some grantors have a specific format for vitae and may specify a page limitation or that recent publications should be included. In no guidelines are mentioned, keep the vitae short--two to five pages is adequate.
  15. Other Support (also called Current and Pending Support):

  16. Indicate key personnel's current and pending funding for this and other work. Include granting agency, project title, amount awarded or requested, project period, percent of effort committed by the individual, and project location. Some grantors also require a brief description of the project.
  17. Appendices (also called Attachments):

  18. Depending on the format for the main part of the proposal, some of the components described here separately may be included as appendices. Possible appendices are: vitae, facilities description, letters of support, illustrations, or anything that is not included in the body of the proposal but should be accessible to reviewers. Some grantors do not allow appendices.

Elements of a Letter Proposal

Occasionally foundations or corporations will request a simple letter proposal. The main components of a letter proposal are:

  • an introductory paragraph stating the reason for writing
  • a paragraph explaining why this grantor was selected
  • a needs paragraph
  • a solution paragraph
  • a uniqueness paragraph
  • a request for funds paragraph
  • a closing paragraph
  • signatures
  • attachments, if allowed

Based in part on The "How To" Grants Manual, by David G. Bauer. American Council on Education/Oryx Press

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Last updated: 11/03/2005
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