Key Steps in the Grant Application Process
Step 1: Planning your Project
- Good proposals are the result of thorough project planning. Before seeking funding, your plan for organizing and carrying out your program should be well detailed. Organizations should not create new programs or expand existing programs simply because there is funding available. Grant seeking should follow program planning, not vice versa.
- Your proposed project should clearly complement the long-term plan for your organization’s future, and fit with your mission. If the mission fit is not obvious, then it will be important to explain why you believe this project makes sense for your organization. For example, if your organization’s mission is to curb domestic violence, and you are proposing a project to provide afterschool activities for school age children, you will need to document how such a program would help you accomplish your mission.
- If your organization is seeking funds for a new program, you will need to demonstrate that sufficient research has taken place to determine the need and feasibility of the program. Essentially, your proposal should be a business plan that makes the case for the need being addressed and the likelihood that the chosen approach will be successful.
- It is important that your proposed project has a clear charitable purpose. Simply being a nonprofit entity does not fulfill this requirement.
Step 2: Researching the Grant Guidelines and Application Process
- Read all instructions, guidelines and eligibility/funding criteria before starting an application. Make sure that your organization meets the eligibility requirements, and that the project is a fit with the grant guidelines for that particular grant program. If it doesn’t fit, don't apply. If you are unsure, contact us.
- Look at previous grants awarded as a guide to the type of projects that INWCF funds.
- Review the entire application before starting, taking special note of any required attachments/documentation.
- Check the deadline. Deadline dates will vary from year to year.
Step 3: Filling Out the Application
- Allow sufficient time to complete and submit your application early whenever possible. This will ensure that any unanticipated challenges, such as technical difficulties with an online application, will not cause you to miss the application deadline.
- Make sure you have access to all the required financial information and other required attachments when you begin writing the application. If you wait until the deadline to request your organization’s profit and loss statement and find out your treasurer is on vacation, then your proposal will be incomplete and will not be reviewed.
- Make sure to fully explain the need/opportunity you seek to address. Explain how your approach will address the issue and why you chose that approach.
- Be concise. Avoid using a lot of adjectives that 'puff up' your organization or your proposal, but make sure you provide details necessary to understand your proposal. Avoid overstatement and overly emotional appeals.
- Be clear and avoid acronyms. If you must use acronyms, be sure to explain what they stand for.
- Do not assume the funder knows much about your subject area.
- Do not rely on previous conversations with funders’ staff. Staff cannot remember details from all conversations with potential applicants. Also, there are generally other staff and grants committee members reading the applications who were not privy to your conversation with the one staff member. All necessary information needs to be in the application.
- If you find yourself repeating responses, it probably means you are not answering the questions correctly.
- Describe the issue in as local a context as possible.
- Describe the situation in both factual and human interest terms.
- Describe how things will be different or improved when the project is complete.
- Be specific about outputs (things you can count) and outcomes (changes in status or behaviors).
- Keep in mind that most sound evaluation plans include both qualitative and quantitative data.
Step 4: Establishing the Budget
- Be sure to calculate your budget and show how you arrived at the requested amount.
- Take the time to get accurate estimates.
- For projects that require significant financial support, INWCF prefers to be part of an overall funding plan, not the sole funder. For these types of requests, be sure to show other sources of funding when applicable. This should include local community support, donations, in-kind services and board support.
- Double check your figures, and make sure the numbers are consistent. Sometimes you will be required to show the amount you are requesting in more than one section of the grant proposal. Your proposal needs to demonstrate in very specific terms the long-term financial viability of the project to be funded and of the organization itself.
- Be specific about current and projected funding streams, both earned income and fundraising, and about the base of financial support for your nonprofit.
Step 5: Following up
- If you project is not funded, you may call the Foundation to get specific feedback on why the proposal was not funded. This can provide valuable information in helping you create successful applications in the future.