Grant Writing 101: The Basics
Greg Buckner on June 11, 2020
No matter what kind of organization you’re a part of, finding the funding you need for certain initiatives can sometimes be difficult.
When it comes to securing technology like video recording systems for vehicles or body-worn cameras, organizations can sometimes lack the full funding they need to get such technology implemented and a program off the ground.
But where can these organizations turn to find additional funding for these initiatives? Grants.
Whether you’re with a school district, police department or another organization, there are grant opportunities out there. But how do you win a grant and secure funding once you find an opportunity?
That all starts with submitting a grant proposal. While it may be daunting to someone who doesn’t consider themselves a “writer” to write a grant proposal, let’s take a look at the basic sections of a grant proposal to provide you with a blueprint for success:
Everything has to start somewhere, right? Here you will introduce the overall scope of your project and set the table for your entire proposal.
According to the University of Wisconsin’s Writing Center, you should be able to answer these questions as concisely as possible:
- What is the purpose of your project?
- What is the need or problem you’re addressing?
- What are your expected outcomes and how will you achieve them?
- How will you determine the success of your project?
- Why is your project important?
- Who are you?
Some larger proposals will allow you to use a full page to explain these things. But many times, you will be required to explain this all in just a single paragraph.
Now, that might seem like a lot to get to in a short amount of space. But remember that you have the rest of the proposal to dig into the deeper details, so approach writing the abstract as putting only the absolutely need to know info as its related to the questions above.
One last thing; the staff at U-W also recommends writing the abstract last after finishing the rest of the proposal. Why? Because it will allow you to better explain the full scope of the project once you fully flesh it out on paper.
Statement of Need
After you’ve given a brief abstract of your project, now it’s time to start getting into what The Balance calls “the meat” of your proposal: the need statement.
For example, let’s say you’re a transportation director at a small school looking to get funding for stop-arm camera systems for school buses because you have frequent incidents of illegal passes. In the statement of need, you would need to give a background of how much of a problem this is. For this, it would be beneficial to come to the table with definitive stats you’ve captured for just how many instances of this crime you’ve recorded to illustrate why it’s such a problem for your organization and why you need this technology to help solve this issue.
One tip The Balance has to help you write your Statement of Need is to never assume your reader is fully knowledgeable of the issue you’re trying to address.
Now that you’ve set the table for why you need funding, the focus moves into the all the details of your project and the goals you hope to fulfil.
This section will likely require several subsections, but the Writing Center at University of North Carolina says this is what you need to cover in the project narrative:
- Detailed Statement of Problem: You know the problem you defined in the last section? Here you will really drill into a detailed explanation of the problem that leaves no doubt why this issue is important and why it needs to be solved now.
- Objective/Goals: This is where you lay down the specific goals you need to meet to make this project successful. For example, if you’re asking for funding for body-worn cameras to improve police and citizen relations at a police department, you need to clearly define how you’re going to measure the success of the initiative. Do you simply want to see the number of use-of-force complaints go down r are there other goals you hope to accomplish that are measurable and can be realistically achieved in the scope of your project?
- Methodology: Here is where you explain exactly how you’re going to meet your goals and objectives. Going back to the example in the previous point, a department looking to start a body-worn camera program would need to explain how they would implement a body-worn camera program, what policies are going to be put in place to ensure its success, what statistical benchmarks do they want to hit and when – among other questions. You’ve answered the “Who?” and they “Why?,” now you need to answer the “How?”
- Timeline: After defining the problem, how you’re going to measure success and how you’re going to address it, you need to address how long the project is going to take to be successful. Take the time to fully research how much time a project like the one you’re proposing would take. You need to be realistic with your timeline to ensure you’re giving your project the best chance to succeed and look more attractive to those who are reading your proposal.
You’ve established what your problem is and explained how you’re going to address the problem. Now it’s time to establish the budget and resources you’ll need to make this project a success.
This is where you need to fully detail your budget down to every penny. If you’re looking for funding for something like video recording systems, the obvious cost of the systems would need to be fully detailed, but here are other areas you need to think about when putting your budget together:
- What are the personnel costs?
- What are the direct project costs?
- What are the future costs? (warranty, maintenance, etc.)
- What other services will you need to pay for to accomplish your goal?
Whatever you need to make your initiative a successful one, be sure to provide an exhaustive line-by-line budget and staffing plan to ensure you get approved for the full funding you need. The last thing you need is to be approved for a certain amount of funding, only to find out you actually need double the budget because you didn’t provide a realistic budget for the scope of your project.
While we’ve covered the areas that are expected to be included in most grant proposals, it’s important to fully understand the proposal requirements from funding providers because some ask for more supporting sections to be included than others.
Make sure you fully read and understand the proposal requirements, but here are a few other supporting sections that funding providers may ask you to include as part
of your proposal:
- Cover Letter: Sometimes you will be asked to include a cover letter. You may ask yourself “How is that different from my abstract?” Think of it like writing a cover letter for a job application and the abstract as your “thesis statement.” This is your first impression for the funding provider to show why you’re the choice to receive funding without getting too far into the weeds on the proposed project.
- Qualifications: Some funding providers will ask you to explain how you and your organization is qualified to carry out your proposed project. Here you would provide an overview of the organization and detail why you’re qualified to implement such an initiative (staff qualifications, training, education, etc.)
- Supporting Documentation: If you really did your job well and backed up your proposal with solid statistics and research, you’re going to need to supply those supporting documents with your proposal to back up your claims. Pay attention to the requests from the funding provider for what supporting documentation they are going to ask for to support your proposal.
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