The Components of a Grant Proposal


Most of the items listed below are part of every application for foundation, corporation or government funding. Sometimes they will be listed as several items, sometimes they will be asked as questions, and sometimes you will need to cover them in a written narrative—but these are the standard building blocks you’ll use.


Here you outline the current situation that your project will address. If you’re trying to solve a problem or build on an opportunity, you have to define it first. Be as specific as you can. Don’t assume that the reader knows anything about your community or the situation. But don’t dwell on the negative; don’t portray the problem as one that’s too overwhelming to solve. When you define a problem, define it in a way that it’s clear that your group can actually address the problem. Finally, it’s best if this section is brief — just quickly, yet concretely, describe the situation that you’ll be addressing.


This section outlines what you hope to achieve with your project. Goals refer to the general things that you want to accomplish — for example, “We will start an after-school program for children from our community,” or “We will try to help people earn more income through the creation of a cooperative business.” Objectives are outcomes, more specific things that can be easily measured — for example, “Reading ability for 65 children will be improved; we will show this improvement by comparing before and after scores on a short reading test,” or “People who participate in this cooperative will show an increase in their income after one year .”
For both goals and objectives, be as specific as possible. This is key.


Once you have defined what you’re going to do (in the goals and objectives section), you need to define how you’re going to do it. These are the project activities, where you explain in the nuts-and-bolts of how you’re going to carry out your project. This section should be as specific and detailed as possible too; it should also include a timeline that shows when the activities will be carried out.
For example, the project activities for an after-school program might include: “We will have 65 children between the ages of 7 and 10 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3 to 5 pm. Children will work with a volunteer, who will read stories with them and ask questions that test their comprehension. Sept - Dec, 2000.”


An evaluation plan outlines a plan for showing that you met the goals that you set for your project. Evaluation does not have to be complicated — getting people to tell stories about how the project has benefited them can be one of the best ways to evaluate your work. More information on evaluation can be found in CPC’s brochure entitled, “Self-Evaluation for Grassroots Groups.”


Somewhere in the proposal, you will need to outline your organization — its history, accomplishments so far, structure, qualifications of key people, and so on. Use this section to explain why you are the right group to do this project.


In most proposals, you will be asked to attach several things, including a budget (anticipated income and expenses both for your project and your organization as a whole), a copy of the letter from the IRS about receiving your tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status (if applicable), and a list of your board of directors with professional and community affiliations.

The Grantwriting Process

There are several steps that you need to do before you can sit down and write the six parts of a proposal as outlined here. These steps are:

  1. PLANNING. Begin by planning broadly what sorts of projects your organization will do — set general goals for your group.
  2. MORE PLANNING. Next assess the key issues in your community, prioritize one issue, discuss potential projects that would address the issue, then select a project that you want to carry out.
  3. STILL MORE PLANNING. Plan out the project in detail — the goals, objectives, and activities of the project, how you’ll evaluate it, and the budget (income and expenses).
  4. FUNDRAISING RESEARCH. Now begin to search for foundations or corporations that may be interested in funding your project. The local library and the internet can both be great resources.
  5. APPLY FOR A GRANT. Write to foundations asking for their application for a grant, then fill it out according to the recommendations in this brochure.


All too often, community organizations start by identifying a grant possibility, and only then make decisions and plans about their project.  This practice can lead to a group running programs that they think will get funding, rather than the programs that their community actually needs. Trust your knowledge and understanding of your own community, and find money to fit your vision, rather than the other way around.

When writing is hard…
…talk it out.

Sometimes it’s hard to just sit down and write a particular section of a proposal. So instead, talk it out. Have one or two people talk through the section while somebody else writes down their exact words. Then, see if you can use that as a start for your written answer—make whole sentences, move things around, make it flow together. Finally, when you’re done with the writing, read it out loud again to see how it sounds.