Your First Grant Proposal

It’s time. You’ve done your research, you’ve found a funder that lines up perfectly with your program; it’s time to write your first grant proposal. Here are some things to keep in mind:



Make sure all your documents are in order

Pretty much every grantmaking foundation and government agency is going to want copies of your organization budget, your program budget, your board list and your last financial audit, and many will want more documents than that. Do your future self a favor and get everything assembled as close to the beginning of the process as possible. You don’t want to be scrambling for the last piece you need on deadline day.


Triple check your proposal to make sure you fully address all the questions

You’re going to end up putting a lot of work into this, and you don’t want to accidentally disqualify yourself by neglecting part of one of the questions. Some of these applications are quite long, and it literally pays to be thorough.


In the body of the proposal, use subtle language mirroring

Most applications will have a section for you to describe your program in detail and explain how it aligns with the grantmaker's goals. This section is sometimes called the body of the proposal, and it’s a good opportunity to use some of the same language that your grantmaker used in their mission or interest areas. I wouldn’t recommend copying it word for word; a little bit goes a long way. Just describe your program in a way that incorporates language that you know they’re looking for.



Don’t be afraid to open a line of communication with the foundation’s program officer if you have questions. That’s part of why they’re there and they can also be a very valuable source of feedback. Plus, building a relationship with someone inside the foundation can be invaluable down the road.

I hope these tips help, and good hunting!