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Grant Writing Basics

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Grant writing and winning grants is complex and highly competitive. There are many professionals that have spent years learning the process. Larger organizations have teams of people developing, writing and tracking grant proposals. Still small organizations and individuals can write and be awarded grants with a compelling proposal and learning the basics.

This page outlines a summary of best practices for basic grant writing based on the detailed paper is listed under the resources section below by author Carol Geisbauer.


[edit] Basic Grant Writing

  • Determine if your organization is eligible to receive grants.
    • Based on the type of grant and grant source - nonprofits, religious organizations, individuals, tax-supported organizations and quasi public/private organizations are eligible
  • Learn the similarities and differences between grant making entities
    • Grant making entities: foundations, corporations, corporate foundations and government organizations
    • Categories of differences: basis, motivation, interest, reason, goals, areas of focus, end product, availability impacted
  • Establish a System that Supports You to Write and Win Grants
    • Physical environment of office and equipment
    • Appealing letterhead
    • Filing system for grant applications and grant reporting
    • Time, resources and organizational support to complete all the steps and generate all the materials in a timely fashion to meet grant requirements

[edit] Grant Information Collection

  • Gather key information on a tracking document
    • Agency Name _______________________________________(as it appears on your 990 Form)
    • 501(C)(3) – federal AND state nonprofit identification_________
      1. on Articles of Incorporation _______________________
    • Date on Articles of Incorporation ____________________
    • Federal EIN Number ________________________________
    • Federal Tax Exemption Date _________________________
    • State Tax Exemption Date ___________________________
    • State Employer ID Number __________________________
  • Have necessary documents on file for easy retrieval and attachment
    • Federal Tax Exemption Letter
    • Staate Tax Exemption Letter
    • Articles of Incorporation
    • By-Laws
    • Audit
    • 990 Form
    • Roster of Board of Directors
    • Organization Budget
    • Staff Roster
  • Have other possible information requirements on file for easy retrieval and attachment
    • Financial statements
    • Record of previous grants
    • Leadership bios
    • Letters of support
    • Media coverage of the organization
  • Be prepared to do online application and upload required support documents such as budgets, audits, 990 form etc.
  • Become an expert on your service interest
  • Start collecting demographic information on your geographic area
  • Learn the lingo of grant writing
  • Learn and adapt to the fact that Grant Proposals, Request for Proposals and Applications "come in all shapes and sizes" depending on the wide variation in requirements by the grant making entity

[edit] Type of Funding Needed

In the funding guidelines of Foundations/Corporations/Government, the funder will specify the “type (or types) of funding” they are interested in funding. When you do funding research, you look closely at what the funder’s funding interest is, and then apply for the types of funding they indicate.

  • Program Development – To a funder, “program development” means program delivery, providing the services of the program to your client population. Most grant funding is directed to “program development”.
  • General Operating (also called Core Operating Support) – General Operating Support is funding used to keep the agency’s doors open, to provide funding for overhead costs and program support.
  • Capacity-Building/Management Development – Capacity-building funds are used to expand the capacity of the agency to serve more people or to serve them better. Examples are: fund development staff and grantwriters, developing a Strategic Plan, implementing an Evaluation system, renovating your space to function more efficiently; buying an important piece of equipment.
  • Seed Money, Start-Up Funding – Funding is used for a new agency OR a new program within an existing agency.
  • Equipment/Technology – Funding is used for equipment or to establish a web page.
  • Technical Assistance – Funding is used to hire a consultant to write proposals, prepare a Fund Development Plan, prepare an Evaluation Plan, set up an Accounting System.
  • Capital Campaigns – Funding is used to buy a building, build a building.
  • Building Renovation – Funding is used to renovate existing space to make it more usable to accomplish the agency’s mission.
  • Endowment Fund – Funding is permanently set aside in an Endowment Fund, not intending to be spent for current use. Rather, as the Fund grows, the proceeds may be used for the agency’s general operating expense or program costs.

[edit] Resources

Grantwriting: Basics for Beginners, by Carol Geisbauer expands the summary on this page and is downloadable here: Downloadable file - Grantwriting: Basics for Beginners

[edit] Author

The author of this article is Carol Geisbauer.

Carol is a grant writing consultant located in California.

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