Government grants are issued by federal and state agencies to benefit local communities or improve public services.
Funding is only available to eligible applicants and typically awarded to organizations rather than individuals. Applicants can search for relevant funding opportunities via grants.gov and apply online.
Submitting an application can be expensive and time consuming. The following five tips can help you navigate the grant-writing process and submit a proposal that truly reflects the needs of your organization.
1. Find the Right Grant
There are thousands of government grants available to eligible applicants. From agriculture and health to housing and transportation, there are grants for almost any project.
However, finding the right grant for your program may take time. Do not shoehorn your organization into a proposal that does not fit the mission of the grant.
Find one that truly reflects the goals of your organization and what you specifically need funding for. Proposals that do not fit with the grant’s basic purpose are less likely to be awarded funding.
It can take a large amount of time and money to write a grant, which would be unnecessary wasted if you apply for opportunities that do not align with your mission.
2. Read the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Carefully
Federal agencies release Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) for each grant. The FOA outlines what the grant is for, who is eligible and what tasks must be completed by awarded parties.
Reading the FOA thoroughly is an essential part of the application process. Before you apply, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you and your organization capable of fulfilling all the requirements outlined in the grant?
- Is the mission of the grant in line with your organization?
- Are the deadlines and dates of the grant achievable?
The FOA outlines what goals must be met and how the funding must be used.
Check with colleagues and your grant team and confirm that you have the resources and time to complete all financial reporting duties and other requirements outlined in the grant.
3. Confirm You Meet Requirements
Understanding all eligibility requirements is paramount. Typically, government grants are awarded to the following types of entities:
- Government organizations, such as state, county, city or township governments.
- Education organizations, such as independent school districts and higher education institutions.
- Public housing organizations, such as public and Indian housing authorities.
- Nonprofit organizations with or without 501(c)(3) status.
- For-profit organizations both large and small.
- Individuals who meet additional eligibility requirements. Individual applicants can only apply for specific grants.
- Foreign applicants who meet additional requirements set by the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. government.
Not only should you be aware of who can apply for government grants, but you should read the specific eligibility rules of each funding opportunity.
Within each FOA is a specific list of eligible applicants and organizations for that particular funding opportunity.
Read these rules carefully and make sure you are applying for a grant that can legally provide your organization with funding.
4. Create a Compelling Narrative
If you have the resources, it may be beneficial to hire a grant writer to complete your proposal.
Professional writers know how to craft a compelling narrative, while highlighting vital data.
If you cannot afford to hire an external writer, use or collaborate with inhouse personnel who have deep connections with the organization.
Awarding agencies may not be aware of your work. Your grant proposal may be the first time they get to read about your organization.
Therefore, you must take time to write a narrative that draws them in, shows them who you are and why your project should be awarded funding.
How to Structure a Proposal
Proposal writers must create a narrative that shows the reader how the organization can realistically satisfy the terms of the grant, and how the funding will be used if awarded to their program. The following narrative is an example of how a grant should be structured.
- Introduce Yourself – Set out clear and achievable goals and objectives. What is the purpose of your organization and why was it formed? Relying solely on esoteric ideals can appear vague. Lay out tangible actions, realistic targets and how your organization can actually impact the real world.
- Address the Grant – Explain why your project addresses the needs of the grant. Do not simply give reasons why you need funding, speak to the grant’s specific purpose. Government grants are created to fill a gap and help improve a specific part of society. Clarify how your work is part of this conversation.
- Describe Your Plan – Outline how you will achieve your goals and set realistic timelines. Give clear and straightforward examples of how your organization would use the funds to complete certain tasks and meet the terms of the grant.
- Highlight Your Capabilities – List your resources and show how your organization is capable of achieving its goals. If you are using the grant to boost your resources, explain how and why this is important. Agencies are mindful of who they award funding to, and if they have the resources to handle the administrative demands. Failing to show a solid infrastructure or the ability to manage the ongoing reporting requirements may negatively impact your proposal.
- Explain Your Budget – Match your budget with the funding of the grant. Justify your numbers with realistic targets. Agencies need to know if the money can be used effectively and efficiently within the time allotted.
Be Clear and Concise
There may be hundreds of similar proposals being submitted for the same grant. Keeping the information in your proposal readable, clear and concise can help it stand out.
Any data included in the proposal must be relevant and feed the narrative. Use visuals and data when applicable. Simple graphs and tables are also a great way to support your mission without using dense paragraphs of text to explain something.
5. Double Check Your Work
After you have written your proposal and completed all necessary documents, go back and double check your work.
Have colleagues confirm details and make sure that the proposal has all of the required attachments. Incompatible documents can halt uploads and may prevent your application from being submitted.
Any errors in the application can cause delays and may lead to disqualification. If you have any issues submitting an application via the grants.gov website, you can contact their support teams for assistance.