How to Craft Winning Grant Proposals
So, you’ve developed a fantastic project, done your grant research and sourced some grants you think you’re a great match with to apply to. You might be forgiven for thinking the battle is almost won. After all, now it’s just a matter of submitting some great applications and then receiving your Public Funding.
Well, the bad news is that now you’ve reached one of the trickiest parts of the process – grant writing. The good news? With the right support and processes in place, you can craft a grant proposal that is powerful, effective and gets you noticed.
Let the team here at Mount Bonnell Advisors show you how…
On This Page
- Grant Writing – Why it Matters
- Do You Have the Skills You Need to Write an Effective Application?
- Grant Writing – The Basics
- The Basics – Summary
- Advanced Grant Writing Processes
- Why Research Remains a Core Part of the Writing Process
- Knowing how to Connect to Grant Funders
- Extra Elements
- Get Support to Write Your Grant Applications
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about taxes, company formaition, and residency in the U.S.
- Get advice on taxation, company formation, and residency in the U.S.
Your grant application is the culmination of your preparation and research into finding grants. It’s your chance to show funders that your business is the best possible fit for the funding they have on offer.
If you’re not familiar with the Public Funding processes in the US, you might fall into the trap of underestimating the amount of work it takes to write a successful grant application. It’s also common for inexperienced grant applicants to misunderstand the level of skill required to write a proposal that covers all the elements needed to beat out the other competitors for the grant. Many grant seekers wrongly believe that all it takes to write a grant application is a good cover letter and accurate details of their project. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’ve not already realized by now – let’s just underscore that getting Public Funding is an extremely competitive process. You are likely to be up against 100’s, if not 1000’s of other applicants, many of whom are experienced at writing proposals and have previously successful Public Funding applications under their belt.
This doesn’t mean that you have no chance of succeeding of course. But it’s vital that you understand the work it takes to write a great grant application before you begin the process, or you risk wasting weeks or months of hard work.
To succeed you need to be positive, tenacious and realistic. You can start by asking yourself if you have the sort of skills needed to write a great application…
The American Grant Writers’ Association asks these ten questions to prospective grant writers to see whether they are suited to the basics of writing grant proposals:
- Willing to read instructions completely and thoroughly?
- Willing to follow directions explicitly?
- Are you extremely detail-oriented?
- Are you thorough, methodical, and persistent?
- Do you have strong math skills? Budgeting skills?
- Are you able to meet deadlines?
- Do you have the emotional stability to withstand repeated rejection by multiple funders?
- Do you have strong professional ethics?
- Do you have strong writing skills including grammar, punctuation, and spelling?
- Are you Proficient with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe Reader software?
This might sound like a wide range of diverse skills – because it is. Grant writing encompasses many elements, and each element needs to be covered effectively to make it onto the shortlist. In addition to the basics mentioned above, you’ll also need to craft a proposal that’s attractive and reads well enough to make your project stand out.
To understand more about why grant writing needs so many skills, let’s take a look at what makes for a winning grant application.
Each grant you apply for will ask you to cover a few basic elements, which will vary depending on what you’re applying for and the kind of information the awarding body wants to see.
Failure to cover any part of these basics will see your grant application rejected so they must be covered to the letter. Generally speaking, you will need to submit administrative details of your business such as your legal company name & address, your DUNS numbers, annual sales and number of employees and so on.
Then the application will ask for more details about your project. This is normally broken up into the following sections:
An Abstract & Project Summary
The summary is your synopsis of the application and is the most important part as it acts as an introduction to your project and sets the tone for the rest of your application. Summaries usually have tight word limits which require skill to meet while also conveying high-quality information.
Your summary is often used for press releases so it needs to contain clear and attractive information about the aims of your project and how you are going to achieve them. Your summary also shows the funder from the outset that your proposal is within their guidelines, so it must be a stand-out, effective “mini-proposal.”
In this space, you’ll be expected to introduce your company and explain more about its history and your current activities. This section can be used to describe your company mission, goals, achievements and background of key employees. To make this section stand out, organizations often use succinct narrative storytelling to generate more interest in the application.
Your purpose statement gives specific information about your project aims and objectives. You need to be able to show how your project will change things for the area or people who will engage with it once it’s completed. You also need to show how your company will evolve with the successful completion of the project.
Statement of Need
You will have to show the funding body why you need the money for the project and what need is being met by the project you intend to develop.
Project Methods / Procedures
In this section, you should present a clear and detailed project plan that will set out how you plan to achieve the outcomes you’ve identified. It must show the processes you will use and give a timeline for completion.
You will have to show funders how you plan to continue the project once your grant has been used. Funders want to see that your project will have a long-term impact that can continue after the end of the funding period. If you are new to grant funding this section is especially important because without successful past projects you can be viewed as more of a risk for funding.
An Evaluation Plan
An effective evaluation plan will show that you have considered the strengths and weaknesses of your project and how you are going to measure how the project does. It will show how you plan to stay on target for your deliverables and how you plan to deal with challenges.
You might need to show a formative and a summative plan. The formative evaluation plan shows how you will measure the process of your project, while the summative plan will show how you will analyze outcomes.
Qualifications & Personnel
Grant funders want to see evidence that you have the right skills and the right people to get the project completed. You will need to give information about employees and an organizational chart as well as evidence you can access the relevant skills and competencies for the project. Showing this helps funders develop confidence in your ability to deliver on what you’re proposing.
Your budget is a vital part of your application. This is where you break down what things will cost and how you will use the money granted. You should never overestimate the money you need to try and get extra funds as application reviewers will be able to spot this and will reject your application. On the other side of the coin, deliberately (or accidentally via not costing properly) underestimating how much money you need will also be viewed negatively.
To create an accurate budget you’ll need to show quotes for areas such as equipment or training costs. This is an important step as underestimating the amount you need could lead to failure of your project and it is very difficult to get extra funds mid-project from the awarding body. So, you must be realistic and honest and show clearly how much things will cost. The funding body WILL check your sums to see if they check out.
Attachments / Additional Information
You might be asked to add attachments to your application to show evidence. This might take the form of qualifications of employees or relevant certifications. All attachments must adhere to the guidelines set out by the funding request. Failure to include relevant information usually results in your application being rejected.
As you can see, each grant application contains multiple elements that require different skill-sets to accurately complete. Depending on the individual application you might have to give a wide variety of evidence and information. Or you might be more limited and need to give a huge amount of information in a very short space.
A successful application depends on all these elements being covered in full, with no errors. But, these are just the basics of a winning proposal.
A winning grant proposal is about more than simply getting an accurate application in on time (though this part of the process is complicated enough!). To really stand out with your application you need a proposal that’s written with the funders in mind in a tone and style that is going to be as appealing as possible to them.
Think about it like a job application. Just like with job applications, reviewers have to sift through 100’s (or 1000’s) of applicants to start to build a shortlist. It’s a labor-intensive and often tedious task so the reviewers will begin by weeding out all applications that don’t meet the minimum standard.
For a job, this might mean anyone who doesn’t have the relevant qualifications or experience, as well as those with mistakes or poor quality resumes and application forms. For a grant application, it means not delivering/making mistakes on the basics described above.
In other words – covering the basic elements of a grant application is the bare minimum you need to do to not go into the initial rejection pile. To make it onto a shortlist and then to win the proposal requires the crafting of an application that adds extra elements to wow the review team.
To get these elements in place requires a skilled and experienced grant writer who knows how to research each grant and tailor an application so it’s pitch-perfect for that opportunity.
Research doesn’t stop the moment that suitable grants are found to apply for. Each grant will have its own requirements based on the objectives the funding agency has. Each agency will have its own tone, style and unique “must haves” when it comes to the applications they receive.
A fantastic grant writer is aware of these factors and will conduct extensive research into the awarding body to try and discover what kind of applications they are ideally looking to receive – then tailor your application to suit those needs.
So for example, some awarding bodies might look for a very formal and concise tone, others might want persuasive storytelling to play a role. It’s important to match the tone and style of the application to these needs and discovering them takes time and effort.
Learning the language of the funder in terms of their tone and branding via media feeds, press releases, annual reports and so on can be an extremely helpful way to ensure the right tone is used and the application fits the funder on more than just the basics.
Grant applications ask for a lot of procedural and budgetary information. It’s no wonder then that many applications are incredibly dull to read. That’s why it’s important to write a grant application that is compelling and draws the funders reviewing it in by connecting with them.
One of the key ways to create a successful grant application is to continually put yourself in the shoes of the funders. You need to ask what they are looking for and what is motivating them. Bear in mind their wants might well be based on factors that are different to yours.
Each grant application must be written with your audience in mind, and written in a way that helps them to connect to your project. Grant reviewers want proposals they can get excited about in addition to knowing they meet the general criteria for acceptance.
To catch and keep the attention of grant reviewers you should use skillful copy to engage and connect with great storytelling and easy-to-digest information.
A skilled and experienced grant writer should be able to help you achieve the magic balance between great storytelling and professional, up to date and correct information.
A grant application can stand out by adding great visuals to each section. If there is space and the application allows, adding strong visuals to break up the text will help the funders to visualize your project.
You can also use charts, graphs, and other visual media to help you explain your processes and how your project is going to work. Short paragraphs that are easy to read are a must, as well as language that’s concise while also allowing for some individuality to shine through where appropriate.
A skilled grant writer will make sure that your grant application is fully completed, accurate and well-proofed. They’ll have experience in matching language and tone to each application and ensuring that the language they use strikes the right note for each funding organization.
We work with grant writers who have these abilities in spades –and can help transform your grant application from mundane to high-impact.
Our grant writers understand that you are new to the American market and the Public Funding process. Together with them, we can make sure that your application is written in a way that makes the most of your European background, while still speaking to US funders in a way that works for them.
We can help at every stage of the grant application process – from project development to research and scouting for great grant opportunities. We can even take you on a grants roadshow to meet potential funders in-person, as well as giving you the expert support you need to write outstanding applications.
To find out more, get in touch with our team to book a consultation for our grant writing services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Taxes, Company Formation, and Residency in the U.S.
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