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Preparing the Proposal

Many of these items may not actually be sent to the Foundation as part of the final proposal. However, it is recommended that you have all of the information that these stages generate readily available in the event that the foundation requests additional information. There may not be enough time to gather the information at that point.

Additional Resources
Books to Buy
Proposal Checklist
Writing a Proposal Work Sheet
Note all of these parts will not be required by every proposal. But most of them are. Individual agencies will have different forms or requirements.

  1. Cover Letter

  2. This is done last, after the proposal summary. It's signed by the Chairman of the Board, Executive Director, or whoever is liable for authorizing the project. The letter should:  
  3. Title Page - If requested by the grantor
  4. Summary/Abstract

  5. This is done next to last after you have all your information gathered and organized. It is included near the beginning of the proposal when it is submitted. Summarize the one, two or three most important things that you say for each of the following elements of the proposal: This section can range in length from a paragraph to a page. It's possible to address each of the elements in one sentence each. The summary can also be used as a one to two page mini proposal or cover letter that a grantor would request and review before deciding whether to ask you to prepare a full proposal.
  6. Introduction

  7. This is the beginning of the proposal narrative - introducing your agency. It is a very important part of the proposal for the grantor because it's about your credibility. The grantor wants to know that you can pull off this project if it gives you the money. You should address, in no particular order, as much of the following as possible or feasible about your organization:  
  8. Problem/Need Statement

  9. This is the most important part of the proposal because everything revolves around it. It describes the circumstances or conditions that you want to change. Your concern should be external to your organization, not focused on your internal needs. You must have a baseline, which identifies the scope of the problem and your starting point in addressing it. Document everything that you can. Be specific and precise. Elements include: Only address what the grantor thinks can be changed.
  10. Goals and Objectives

  11. Goals and objectives are results or outcomes, not what you want to do. They describe a change that will occur in the circumstances and conditions that you laid out in the problem statement. A goal is general and summarizes more specific objectives or an overall desired outcome for a project. It is bigger in impact than an objective and has no specific time frame.
    Objectives, not goals, are what you really measure to determine the direction and success of a project. Objectives must be measurable and quantifiable. Each objective needs to contain four pieces of information:
    Don't confuse objectives with methods. Methods describe ways of obtaining objectives. Use verbs like "increase, decrease, maintain, reduce, eliminate … not "to train, to provide, etc. This section should be brief.
  12. Methods

  13. This describes your program design or program activities. It must explain the rationale for the program (relate it to the problem) and explain how the program will work. Elements include:  
  14. Evaluation

  15. This determines whether your program worked. Did you meet your objectives? This is a Summative, or Product, Evaluation. A Process, or Method, Evaluation examines whether the methods were carried out but does not say anything about the effectiveness of the program. Most grantors want you to do both kinds of evaluation. Elements: The evaluation will indicate whether you should continue the program, copy it, expand it, scale it back, drop it, or whatever. You can also determine what factors led to meeting or not meeting the objectives. It's helpful for the future to share this information with grantors, to show them what works and what doesn't work. Indicating to grantors what you will do to obtain better results is very powerful. A very effective way to keep in touch with actual and potential grantors is to share your project evaluations with them. Evaluations are also good to share with your board (to kill their bad ideas), staff (for morale) and clients (to help recruit others into your program). The point about doing evaluations is not about passing or failing, but about learning from them.
  16. Future Funding (if required by the project)

  17. This is the last part of the narrative. After the grant is spent, how do you keep the project going? Grantors want you to address this and have no obligation to fund you after the first time.
  18. Budget

  19. This is a plan - how much you'll pay to accomplish your objectives. Anything in your methods section needs to be in your budget, and vice versa. You don't want to raise any questions with grantors. Match methods section items with budget items in your mind. You'll ask for money in three different places in the proposal: the cover letter, the abstract or summary, and here.
  20. Appendix

  21. This is the last piece of the proposal. If you want the grantor to see something in the appendix, refer to it either in a table of contents or in the proposal narrative. The appendix should at least include the following four items:  
    In addition, you could also include:

An Example of a Cover Letter

Phone: ___-___-____
FAX: ___-___-___
Jane A. Doe

Dear Dr. Somebody
The School District of ___________ would like to request funding support for an important school district/community project titled the _________ and ______________ (See attached flier). As per your discussion with Someone, we are requesting a grant to be matched by the District and its community in the amount of $2,500.
Moneys raised will support the initiation of a school district based ________ interactive ________ designed to preserve the culture and history of the community as well as provide students with a sense of belonging and pride in their community. This Center will be housed at the ____________ Building located within the district. The cultural center represents a collaborative effort between the district and its community and provides a vehicle for educational activities that highlight the rich historical perspective of the __________ area.
A joint district/community task force spent last year developing plans, informing the community and soliciting support for this concept. The attached flier was distributed during the Memorial Day Parade and contains a logo specially designed by a ____________ student. This project is one of many initiatives underway designed to build a long lasting social contract between the district and its community.
An additional partner in this endeavor is ___________ University, a team of preserve educators, coordinated by Dr. ____________ is working at no cost to the District or its taxpayers to prepare exhibits, train youngsters K-12 in various skills (such as conducting oral histories), as well as raising funds, identifying additional sources of appropriate materials, and preparing the physical space.
As is evident from the content of this proposal, the aim of the District is to build a "community plan’” that highlights the accomplishments of its residents and encourages young people to look toward the past with an eye on their future. If we accomplish this goal there is no doubt that __________ will remain an active player in the health and vitality of the entire ______________ region.
Superintendent of Schools
cc: Dr. ___________

 Title Page - Points to cover:

  1. Your project title
  2. Project duration
  3. Amount requested
  4. Your organization name, address and phone number
  5. The author's name, position and phone number
  6. Date of application
The Summary
  1. (Write this 1/2 to 1 page summary of your grant Application after you complete your proposal.) Summarize your request; include a one figure cost estimate.
  2. Summarize the need as you see it (two sentences).
  3. Summarize your objectives (two or three sentences).
  4. Summarize your proposed methods (two or three sentences).
  5. Summarize your evaluation design (how you plan to prove you've succeeded).
  6. Briefly describe how your project relates to the granting agency's policies and interests.
  7. Summarize the benefits of your project to the funding agency (fulfillment of an announced funding program, satisfaction of helping solve a pressing local problem, etc.). Stress outcomes and outputs.
The Introduction
  1. Describe who you are and what you do: how, why, and, when did you get started?.
  2. Outline your organization's goals (1 or 2 sentences). What have been your significant accomplishments to date?
  3. Describe the relationship between this project and your organization's long-term goals.
  4. Describe the academic and professional background of your staff: present the background and accomplishment of your project head.
  5. Present your credentials: cite short commendations, quotes of well known persons who have worked with you.
  6. List your present sources of support and income: demonstration that you have local support (money, facilities, donated services).
  7. Present other credibility builders: Are you resource to others in the field? Is there an increasing need for your service? Is your service becoming, more popular – is there a waiting list?
  8. Describe your credentials as they relate to this project: What is your track record in this area? What facilities and staff do you have uniquely suited to this project?
More About The Introduction

1. Introduce your institution with reference to:

2. Always assume that the review team is not familiar with your Institution - offer statements and/or endorsements to support credibility.
3. Identify key features of your organization.
4. Relate your institution's strengths to the proposed problem.
5. Provide continuity between the institutional goals and the achievement of the proposed program.
6. Develop an apparent relationship between organizational purpose and the problem identified.
7. The identification of the problem should evolve from the statement of your organization's purpose.

Problem/Need Statement

1. Describe the need for this kind of project nationally or regionally.
2. Outline the portion of this larger problem you plan to deal with.
3. Supply statistical documentation of this specific or local problem (fewer statistics convincingly presented are better than many explained weakly).
4. State the need in terms of a single person ("Today the average income of a handicapped veteran is $4,500").
5. Statements of community leaders.
6. Expert opinions (including quotes).
7. Government studies.
8. Survey results.
9. Show this granting agency why it is the best source of support for this project (relate problem/need to their interests).

More About The Problem Statement

1. Document the significance of the problem with Data.
2. Do not editorialize - state facts. Too often proposals are submitted on emotional and political rather than on rational terms.
3. The problem identified must be achievable and creates a need for some type of planned action.
4. Does the problem statement convince the reviewers of the importance of the proposal?
5. The problem statement establishes the theme for the proposal and it must state with clarity of purpose.
6. The problem statement determines the major focus of the proposed project and stresses why this particular program should be undertaken.
7. The problem statement must provide entree to the other subsections of the proposal.

The Objectives

  1. State your goals (general statements of what you hope to accomplish).
  2. Outline your objectives )what specifically do you want to accomplish? By when?)
  3. How they are measurable. (Can they be evaluated?)
  4. Show that these objectives are realistic (you have time, resources, and community support to attain them).
More About The Objectives

1. Objectives should be stated with action oriented verbs such as demonstrate, test, develop, etc.
2. An objective must succeed in communicating its intent.
3. In writing objectives, use concreteness, clarity and preciseness, not ambiguity.
4. Objectives are considered precise outcomes that can be measured in some manner to determine actual accomplishments.
5. The objectives are the basis for determining the procedural aspects of the program, and therefore must be carefully planned.
6. Most frequent error made in writing objectives is to make them vague generalities.
7. Objectives must be briefly and succinctly stated: A sentence or two at most.
8. The quality of written objectives will largely determine the effectiveness of the evaluation design.
9. Objectives must be easily noted and not be imbedded in the narrative of the proposal.
10. Prioritized objectives indicate good planning by the principal investigator.
11. Major objectives followed by a series of sub objectives more precisely identify the program plans.

The Methods

1. Describe the methods you plan to use to accomplish each of your objectives:
2. Describe how you will implement these methods. Mention who will be responsible for implement each objective (give name, title, and background).

The Procedures

1. Describe the plan of action.
2. Introductory paragraph to the procedures section should provide a complete indication of your program objectives.
3. Describe the activities and/or processes for carrying out your program objectives, and the reasons for selecting the particular approach.
4. Present a reasonable scope of activities that can be accomplished within the time allotted for the program activities and within the resources of the applicant.
5. Describe the staffing expertise to be involved to provide greater assurance of achievement.
6. Usually the most carefully read section of the whole proposal.
7. Develop a sequential procedure required for program implementation.
8. Sequentializing your procedures provides a structure for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of each objective.
9. Program procedures must be in terms of their application to the effectiveness of each objective.

NOTE: The procedure section answers the questions of what, how, who, and where.

The Evaluation

1. Describe your specific measurable criteria for success.
2. Describe how you plan to collect data and monitor progress.
3. Tell how you will keep records.
4. Describe the evaluators:

Name and title
objectivity (Are they an impartial third party?)
5. Outline your reporting procedures (how often you will report progress; format and comment of evaluation reports) Give specific due dates.


1. Describe your proposed method of disseminating project information (papers, reports, conferences. etc.).
2. Describe groups who should get information on your project colleagues, general public, potential clients).
3. Explain why it is important to reach them (locate clients, raise money, help others start similar projects).
4. Identify person in charge of dissemination.
More About The Evaluation

1. A sound evaluation design will measure the extent to which your program was effective in achieving its objectives.
2. Evaluation design must be carefully aligned with the program objectives, and should include the following:

Covers product and process.
Defines evaluation criteria.
Describes data gathering methods.
Describes the process of data analysis.
3. The following questions need to be included in designing the evaluation system: Did the program accomplish its objectives?
Did the program operate as it was designed to operate?
What variables need to be considered in monitoring the program structure?
4. Identifies who will be performing the evaluation and their expertise in the area being evaluated.
5. Evaluation design must provide for a continuous monitoring system.
6. An appropriate analysis and reporting system must be incorporated in the evaluation design.
7. Develop a sequential procedure required for program implementation. NOTE: Evaluation is any systematic process that is designed to reduce uncertainty about the effectiveness of a particular program or program component. Evaluation should also include considerations for various alternatives to be concluded from the analysis for continuing, expanding, or terminating the program. Future Funding
This is a plan for the future. Indicate other resources and sources of income that you will use for the project for the future. These include "soft money" (grants) and "hard money" (everything else). The Budget
The budget will have two parts: the detail - line items with the actual numbers; and the summary or justification - an explanation or calculation showing how you came up with those numbers. The budget detail should have at least three columns: funds requested, funds from other sources (including your own), and total project funds. Line items are divided into personnel items, non personnel items, and indirect costs. The usual personnel line items are:  
The usual non personnel line items are the following. You should break items down in each category either in the budget detail or in the summary/explanation:  
The third category of budget items is: The Appendix

1. Appendix A. including: Endorsement letters, certifications, and other organizational back-up.
2. Appendix B: List of board members and officers with titles.
3. Appendix C: Vitae of key personnel.

4. Appendix D: Tables, graphs, statistics supporting need, success, and past performances.

Look for these books in a Public Library 
The Foundation Center 
79 Fifth Avenue/16th Street 
New York, NY 10003-3076 
Tel: (212) 620-4230 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (212) 620-4230      end_of_the_skype_highlighting 
or (800) 424-9836 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (800) 424-9836      end_of_the_skype_highlighting 
Fax: (212) 807-3677
National Directory of Corporate Giving  
Can be searched by: subject areas, geographic locations, key personnel, types of support preferred, types of business and names of corporations, their foundations, and their direct giving programs.
The Foundation Directory  
Paperbound: $185 Hard bound: $215  
The Foundation Directory Part 2 $185 
Grant Writing Tips - Evelyn Kelley
The Foundation Grants Index  
Provides most up to date information about the specific grants made by a foundation (compiled every two months). Lists all grants over $5,000 to nonprofit organizations that are reported to the Foundation Center. Lists foundations alphabetically, by organizations receiving grants, by subject category and by broad subject areas by recipients' state location. Provides date of grant authorization description of the grant and a grant ID number.
For a free copy of The Grantsmanship Center's Whole Nonprofit Catalog, that includes a reprint price list and order form, as well as a current schedule of Grantsmanship Center training programs, write to: 
The Grantsmanship Center 
Dept. DD, P.O. Box 6210 
Los Angeles, CA 90014
The Grantsmanship Training Center:     
Check out this site for various types of grants information, including access to that day's Federal Register with summaries of grants notices and other potential opportunities for grants. It also has links with foundations.
US Department of Education: 
This has announcements of recent and past grant opportunities, press releases, lots of information and guides to departmental programs, and access to other useful web sites for grants. It also has access to the Federal Register, that has daily announcements of all kinds, including grants notices. National statistics on education can also be found here.
PA Department of Education:     
Click on various things on this page for information about the latest initiatives, statistics, grants information, and links to other web sites for information on grants and educational resources. If you click on "Teacher Pages", then "gopher access", you'll hook up with PennLINK, which provides daily announcements, press releases, statistics, grants information, and so forth. This page also has links to the intermediate units and the AIU home page.
The Foundation Center at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh:     
You'll find the Foundation Center's newsletter and links to other good information. The Foundation Center itself is a great resource. Call ahead of time at 622-1917 and make an appointment with a staff person to go in and check out their directories, computer resources, files, and other information. Their staff is very helpful and can help you do a search for grantors. 
The National Foundation Center:     
This has valuable information on many foundations and links to their web pages.
Qualitative researchers Web page - links to conference announcements and proceedings, discussion forums, grant information, and qualitative data analysis software and archives:
Directories and More 
Directory of Texas Foundations ON-LINE
Federal Money Retriever: Pricing and Ordering Information 
Information on mini grants and free teacher resources: 
News about philanthropy, nonprofits, fundraising, volunteers, charity and jobs.
Pitsco's Launch to Grants and Funding (for Technology in Education)
Internet Nonprofit Center
National Science Teachers Association
The Distance Learning Funding Source book Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Philanthropy Journal Online
Non-Profit Gateway
National Education Association
Computers 4 Kids
Texas Literacy Resource Center
Links to Grants and Funding Information
Welcome to the Captain Planet Foundation
Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania
Corporate Philanthropy - Education
AT&T Foundation
The Foundation Center's Online Library -- main desk
Fundsnet Online Services Main Page
A Proposal Writing Short Course (low bandwidth version)
Information about Grants
Grants, Funding, Loans: FEDERAL MONEY RETRIEVER/Latest Online orientation -- proposal writing
Table of Contents

Books to Buy