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Arkansas State University

Grants: Writing Grants

A short intro to finding and writing grants.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Once you find a grant that you want to apply for, make sure to thoroughly read the grant listing.  Some grants require you to make your case from scratch, but other grants want your proposal to answer a set list of questions or follow a specific format.  Some grants even require you to use certain font sizes in your application.  Before you begin writing, make note of any and all requirements.  Remember, there are potentially dozens, if not hundreds, of other people also applying.  All it takes is one mistake to keep you from getting the grant.

STEP ONE - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The first page of your proposal can be your make-it or break-it moment.  Some grant reviewers see hundreds of grants and many never read through to the end of a proposal.  You first page is your chance to make that critical first impression that will make you stand out.

Before you even begin writing, gather some background information about the project, the grant applicant and/or related organizations.  If you need help from others, don't be afraid to ask. 

Once you have all your info, you can begin writing your executive summary.  This is one paragraph to one page narrative where you introduce yourself and your project.  Generally, your summary needs to provide a clear idea of:

  • Who is applying (What is the researcher's qualifications? What are the organization's interests? Who will oversee the completion of the grant?)
     
  • What your project is (What makes it special? What are your project goals?)
     
  • How much your are asking for

STEP TWO - STATEMENT OF NEED

The Statement of Need should show why your proposal is important or, in other words, why your project/research is needed.  You need to show that there would be a real and direct benefit to the project being funded. When possible, use current statistics or research to show need.  For example, if you want to fund a project preventing teenage pregnancy, using statistics that show your community has a high teen pregnancy rate would help your case.  The Statement of Need is also your chance to show how you will address a problem in a way that has not been done before.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it straightforward - Grant reviewers are not always experts in the field of your project.  You need to make sure that you write your proposal so that anyone can understand it, without "dumbing it down" to the point of being insulting.
     
  • Be nice - If other organizations have tried to address the same need as you, show how you're different without belittling or criticizing the other organizations.  Any negativity towards other groups will hurt your application.

STEP THREE - PROJECT DESCRIPTION

This will be the longest part of your proposal.  You need to explain in detail what your project is, how you are going to make is successful, who is involved, how you will monitor results and evaluate the project at the close of the grant.  The Project Description should also provide the objectives of your program.  Objectives are specific, measurable outcomes that can be completed in a specific time frame.  Your objectives should be specific, not vague. For example:

Bad objective: Help farmers improve quantity of soybeans

Why it's bad: This objective has no time frame and there's no measurable improvement

Better objective: Our agricultural assistance program will assist farmers in improving their soybeans yield by 10% during the 2012 season.

Why it's better:  This objective gives a goal for improvement (10%) and a time frame (the 2012 season)

STEP FOUR - BUDGET

Most funders want to know upfront how much money you need and how you are going to spend it.  Nearly all grants will expect at least a draft budget.  The length and detail of your budget will depend on what you are trying to fund.  For small or more straightforward projects, you can usually describe your budget in a page or less.  Larger and more complicated projects will likely require more. 

When applicable, your budget should include:

  • Personnel costs -- This could include honorariums or new personnel costs.  Make sure to include costs for people already in your organization who will work on the grant.  For example if someone will spend 25% of their time on the project away from their regular duties, you will need to factor in 25% of their salary into the budget.  Make sure that you also include money to cover benefits.
     
  • Space costs -- If your organization is supplying space to make the project work, make sure to add these costs in your budget.
     
  • Supplies -- The actual physical items you need to make the project work.  In most cases, it is better to err on the side of too much than too little.  Some grants will not let you move money around to cover costs if you run out of supplies.
     
  • Services -- Make sure to include any costs for services, like printing or consultation, that you may need.
     
  • Travel -- If you must travel to make the project successful, make sure to include all travel costs in your budget.
     
  • Overhead -- Overhead costs are the indirect costs of doing business.  They include rent, utility, phone bills, etc.   Make sure to check with the funder and your organization on their rules for figuring out overhead.

STEP FIVE - ORGANIZATION INFORMATION

The Organization Information section is basically your organization's resume.  Make sure to provide a brief history of your organization, include the organization's mission statement and any personnel information that might be relevant to the grant.  Also emphasis the services you offer and the people you serve.  Overall, you want to show why your organization is a good fit for the project.

STEP SIX - CONCLUSION

Just like writing a research paper, your grant proposal should end with a paragraph or two summarizing the proposal.  Use the Conclusion to make one final plea.  Reinstate why the project is needed, why your or your organization is the best fit, and/or how your organization might be able to continue the project/research once grant funding runs out.