What is a grant proposal?

Grant proposals are a type of business document that can be an important stepping stone for many organizations. In simple terms, a grant proposal is a request for grant money from another body, but the exact circumstances of each proposal will vary every time. Done properly, they can open up a world of possibility by allowing companies to access funds to help them carry out their mission, but if done incorrectly they can be a complete waste of time and effort.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons an organization might have a use for one and give some advice about how to make your grant proposals stand out from the crowd.

Who might need to write a grant proposal?

Many different kinds of organizations will at some point in their existence have a reason to apply for a grant. A common example would be charitable or non-profit organizations that struggle to raise funds through their general operations so try to take advantage of grants on offer. National governments, local governments and authorities, and various philanthropic organizations regularly offer grants in particular fields, such as towards certain community support causes.

Other types of grants would be those directed at for profit organizations. These may come from similar sources like government bodies and local councils but could be more focussed on things such as reducing local unemployment, accelerating small businesses in the area, encouraging innovation, and more.

The approach to writing an effective proposal will, of course, be different for every situation, but there are a number of key similarities that unite all grant proposals.

How to plan a grant proposal

The planning stage of writing a grant proposal is extremely important if you want to succeed in making an impact. Due to grants being largely charitable or at least not soliciting a direct profit, they are generally in short supply and hence there will be a lot of competition for every grant.

The main rule to remember when planning your proposal is to do sufficient research before starting the proposal writing process. You want to state your case in the most convincing way possible, so you’ll need to show that you’re both serious and realistic about what you will do with the money and what you aim to achieve.

This means reading the terms of the grant thoroughly, and possibly crafting your plan around it. This is something that may be uncomfortable to accept for organizations that value their freedom of operations.

However, the truth is that the funding agency can have an undeniable degree of leverage over the recipient of the grant, so you need to factor their wishes into your plan. It also means shopping around for grants that are aligned closely with your goals.

How to write a grant proposal

Although every grant proposal is obviously going to be different, here are some general guidelines about important sections you should include:

Give a summary

As we’ve discussed, grants are usually massively oversubscribed so the person reading your proposal may be looking at dozens of others and has to make a decision. For this reason, you need to avoid making yours too hard to get information.

Including a brief summary, either at the beginning as a cover letter or the end of your proposal, is an excellent way to get across the most important ideas behind your reasoning for the grant. In a paragraph or two, try to include things like a basic project description, the amount of money you’re requesting, the basics of what you’ll do with it, and why it’s necessary. Draw in the reader and if they’re interested then they can delve into the detail.

Include a breakdown of how you’ll spend the money

This important part of the proposal is likely to be the main thing the reader with be looking at, so it needs to be accurate and convincing. Set out a full section of the proposal to breakdown, as specifically as you can, where every penny will be spent.

The reader wants to know that you can be trusted with their money and that it will actually have a positive effect. If you can show that you’ve planned well enough to account for all the money and you know what to expect in return, you’re already a long way to convincing them you’re worthy to receive it.

Supply any relevant documentation

If possible, add any documentation that will boost your legitimacy in the eyes of the reader. This may be things like proof of your tax-exempt status, your accounts for the previous few years, proof of any relevant accomplishments you’ve had to date, and so on.

Tips to improve your success

To boost your chances of success, here are some tips that are applicable to any organization trying to gain a grant:

  • Structure your proposal clearly to ensure that the reader can understand the contents and skim through easily.
  • Research other grant application examples to get an idea of what other people’s approach to proposal writing and what works.
  • Ask questions about the grant to the granting body. This can really help you to look engaged with the project and give you valuable information that your competitors may have missed.
  • Link back to the goals of the grant whenever you have the opportunity. This shows that your approach is targeted and stops you straying from the topic at hand.

Apply to as many grants as you possibly can, although make sure they’re still relevant to you.

Create the perfect grant proposal

Writing a good grant application is often not an easy task if you don’t have the experience. There can be a lot riding on its success, so you need to understand what the granting body wants to see.

An excellent way to take the stress out of grant writing is to use specialized proposal software such as PandaDoc, which helps users create effective proposals and other business documents from scratch.

PandaDoc provides templates to guide your approach and allows you to embed videos, images, signature fields, and more by simply dragging and dropping. Once created, you can send your proposals to recipients in seconds, electronically sign them, and even track their status.