How do you transform your nonprofit’s project ideas into concrete plans that address specific needs in your community? Learning to create a strong grant proposal will help increase your funding success and enable your nonprofit to implement impactful projects.
There are essential steps to creating a grant proposal—each building upon the previous one. Following these steps will help your nonprofit organization find excellent-fit grant applications versus going down a rabbit hole of mission drifting. These steps will also help keep your grant application on track and make it more competitive in securing funding.
7 Steps to Creating a Grant Proposal
- Pre-Work Research
- Identify Your Target Demographic
- Identify Your Needs Statement
- Identify the Main Goal for the Grant Project
- Identify the Objectives for the Grant Project
- Create a Task Work Plan
- Develop a Budget
1. Pre-Work Research
Do your research.
Run a survey, host a focus group, or research the need behind your project concept.
Identify the specific gap the project will bridge, then confirm if it is indeed a gap. Many times, nonprofit leaders will have great ideas for what they think their beneficiaries need but don’t do the research to prove that there is, in fact, a need.
Conducting research provides the information you need for grants (i.e., data, testimonials, studies, etc.). It can also tweak your concept.
For example, I was working with a nonprofit that wanted to create a program to provide more recovery services for its beneficiaries.
At face value, that sounded good.
However, when we did a focus group with beneficiaries of the current services, we learned that the number of recovery services was not the issue. Getting to the services was the main challenge.
Thus, the program idea changed. Instead of creating more recovery services, they decided to provide transportation to the services. The nonprofit also had concrete data (via testimonials from the focus group) substantiating the need to fund a minivan, hire a driver, and provide more wrap-around services for individuals in recovery.
If the nonprofit had implemented its first project concept without doing the research, adding more recovery services would not have met the actual need. Even if they received funding to deliver additional recovery services, they wouldn’t have successfully gotten more individuals to those services without providing transportation.
After you have done your research, you can move to Step 2…
2. Identify Your Target Demographic
In Step 1, you clarify the needs in your community or cause area. Now you need to identify your target demographic.
Remember, for each project, you will reach a particular population. It is never, “We will serve all people.”
Now that you have a clear target demographic, you can move to the next step…
3. Identify Your Needs Statement
Once you complete Step 1, you have data, surveys, reports, etc., to draw from in your Needs Statement (also known as your “case statement”). Use this data and citations to support your needs.
After finishing Step 2, you should also have identified your target demographic, so include this in your Needs Statement, as well.
Needs Statement Example: In a focus group with 10 individuals in recovery currently enrolled in Project A, 100% stated that they would attend more recovery services if they had transportation (Survey NAME, 2023). In City X, the public transportation system does not serve most of the neighborhoods where these individuals live, making the services inaccessible. Furthermore, even if they walk to areas where the bus system runs, the rising cost of bus passes (from $3.95 in 2022 to $5.95 in 2023) has made this financially unviable. Therefore, individuals in recovery in City X need access to recovery services.
Your Needs Statement should be the anchor for all your research to understand the main problem. The statement is integral to your Executive Summary and provides a basis for the goal…
4. Identify the Main Goal for the Grant Project
The goal is what the program will achieve.
Because you have identified a Needs Statement, you can now ask yourself, “If I flipped this around, would it fill the gap?”
5. Identify the Objectives for the Grant Project
Objectives are the main actions required to reach your goal. The number of objectives primarily depends upon a couple of factors:
- The size of your goal
- The size of your budget
Objectives need to be SMART:
Objective Example: Project Name will provide 10 individuals in recovery with daily transportation to recovery services in City X by the end of year one.”
Specific: It is specific because it includes the target demographic and states that transportation will be provided to recovery services.
Measurable: It is measurable because it lists the goal of serving 10 individuals in recovery daily.
Achievable: The services to be offered and the number of individuals are reasonable and realistic.
Relevant: It is relevant to the goal.
Now that you have your objectives(s), you can identify a Task Work Plan to ensure you meet your objectives.
6. Create a Task Work Plan
Your Task Work Plan outlines how you will accomplish your objectives.
Include the task description, role responsible, start date, completion date, and evaluation.
You can include as many tasks as needed to reach your objective.
Task Work Plan Example
Objective Example: “Project Name will provide 10 individuals in recovery with daily transportation to recovery services in City X by the end of year one.”
|Transport 10 individuals in recovery to recovery services
|Daily log submitted
7. Develop a Budget
Look at your Task Work Plan to develop a realistic budget. In the Task Work Plan example, we see the following are needed at a minimum:
- Project manager salary
- Driver salary
- Minivan purchase (including registration, title, and tax)
- Vehicle maintenance and gas
- Recovery services facilitators
You will need to get quotes for the price of minivans, talk to Human Resources about salaries, etc.
Other items you will want to consider in your final budget include any fringe benefits, indirect costs, and costs from other objectives.
Draft Budget Example
|Project manager salary
|$40/hour at 2,080 hours
|$30/hour at 1,040 hours
|Recovery services facilitators
|$35/hour at 520 hours x 2 people
|Minivan (including registration, title, and tax)
|1 minivan, includes registration, tags, insurance
|Vehicle maintenance and gas
|$0.28 per mile x 1,000 miles per month x 9 months
Now you have a budget based on a concrete project, which is more realistic than pulling a figure out of the sky. Your budget narrative provides funders with necessary details about how you calculated your costs, preventing them from making incorrect guesses or assumptions.
Grant Template Summary
Following these seven steps will enable you to move from a project idea to a concrete plan. Now you can confidently look for grants and other funding sources that support your program.
Grant Proposal Example at a Glance:
- Target Demographic: Individuals in Recovery in City X
- Needs Statement: Individuals in recovery in City X do not have access to recovery services
- Goal: Individuals in recovery in City X will have access to recovery services
- Objective: “Project Name will provide 10 individuals in recovery with daily transportation to recovery services in City X by the end of year one.”
Task Work Plan
|Transport 10 individuals in recovery to recovery services
|Daily log submitted
Print blank grant proposal template for your own use.
Establishing a standard grant proposal writing process helps to unite your nonprofit organization's team and establish a clear vision of the projects that will make a significant impact. In the process, you will create a template for future proposals that can be modified as you follow the same steps, helping to streamline the process and create efficiencies.
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