HOW TO WRITE A GRANT APPLICATION * GRANTS  FOR BUSINESS START UP
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How Do You Write A Grant Application?

The Pieces and Parts of a Proposal


Grant applications, also called grant proposals, can vary a bit from each other depending on which type of organization you are applying to. Some applications begin with a simple letter of inquiry stating your grant proposal, and the granting agency will get back to you and let you know if you should proceed with the application process. Applications can be as short as a brief request letter to a grantor, or as long as several dozen pages, depending on the requirements for each specific grant to which you wish to apply. At Grants.gov, for example, you will find online application forms that can be downloaded, and the same application can be sent to more than one grantor, thus saving you time and effort. Their website will take you through the application process step by step. Other grant applications will necessitate that you write all parts of it yourself, but most require the following components: a summary, an explanation of why you need the grant, a description of your project, a budget for it, and a conclusion.


Because you will need to back up what you are saying in your proposal with data and facts, you will want to compile references that you will be able to refer to and use as you are working on writing the proposal before you begin writing. Places to look for this type of information can include your businesses' mission statement, your financial records, trends in the area you wish to pursue, and others. Your local and state government websites can provide some of this type of information, as can college departments that have the same specialization area as your proposal.


We'll now take a look at each of these significant parts of a grant application.


The Summary


The summary is the first page of your proposal that the person reviewing your grant application will read, and he or she won't read any further if it does not clearly and briefly state all the most important information about your proposed project. The purpose of the summary is to convince the reviewer that your project is worthy of his or her support, and persuade the reviewer to read further.


You want your summary to be as succinct as possible. Try to keep the length down to a single page. It is a good idea after you have gone through several drafts of your summary to let a knowledgeable third party read it and give you some feedback on it. You can use this information to help you refine the summary even further and make an even stronger case for why your project should get the grantor's support. You will likely find that your initial summary will change as you work through the rest of the proposal. As you refine your ideas on every aspect of your proposal, this will be an impetus to revision of the draft summary, and all for the better. So don't be surprised if you make several changes to it along the way.


Problem


Here you will give a very short synopsis of a problem that you or your organization has noticed. The problem part of your summary is also sometimes referred to as the statement of need; in other words, what is the need that you have recognized. This is a part of your summary where you will likely want to include some data that backs up your reported problem. You will also want to briefly explain why you or your organization has the knowledge and skills to meet the need with your proposed solution.


Solution


In this part of your summary you will give your solution to the aforementioned problem, which is your project proposal itself. Here you will give the briefest explanation of the main details of your project, including topics such as how the project will unfold, who will receive help from your project being implemented, where the project will take place, what the length of the project will be and who will work on it.


In this section of the summary you will also need to include the sum of grant money you will need to carry out your project and what the money will be used for, again in the briefest of detail. Later in the proposal you will go into your budget for the project in greater specification, so here you just want to give the bottom line of what it will take to get your project off the ground. Some projects are one-time shots and will need no further funding to keep it going in perpetuity. Other projects need a grant to start it, and will need further grants to keep the project going. Here you will want to give a brief explanation of the project's future funding plans.


Once you have asked for an organization's money, then it�s time to talk about you or your organization's qualifications for carrying out the proposed project. This is when you will want to look back at your own or your company's records and use this information as evidence that you are highly qualified to complete the project based on your history and what you have previously accomplished.


It is definitely to your benefit to go over and over your summary so that it says what it needs to say persuasively and in the fewest words possible. Grant reviewers often have to wade through several long grant proposals each day, and you want to make their job as easy for them as possible when they get to yours. So make sure you have done your research and that your project is a good fit for their organization. Then make sure that you or your company has the necessary qualifications and skills to successfully complete the project. You will want to put your best foot forward in the summary to convince the grantor that you can supply what they are looking for in terms of grant recipients. A grant making organization is expecting a return on their investment in your project in some way. It is up to you to do the research so that you know what they are looking for, and that your proposal will meet their needs splendidly.


Why Do You Need the Grant?


The next section of your grant proposal explains why you need the grant in terms of describing the scope of the problem you want to address in the solution that is your proposed project. At this point you will want to have research in terms of facts, data and statistics that you will use as evidence that the problem exists, what the scope of the problem is, who the problem affects, and the problem in terms of its contributing factors. However, you also want to show that the problem is not insurmountable, as evidenced by your proposed solution.


Because in this part of your proposal, as in the others, you want to convince the grantor that you or your organization is well-qualified to supply the solution to the problem, you will also want to include any evidence you have that shows you understand the problem fully and what contributes to the problem. Have you addressed this problem in other ways previously? This is a great place to include that type of information. Are you, through experience or education or both, eminently qualified to address the problem? Talk about those qualifications here.


Remember that you always want to be writing with the reader's perspective in mind. In other words, for this part of the proposal you want to explain what makes you or your organization so knowledgeable about the problem and so qualified to provide a solution that the grantor will see the value in investing money to back it.


A Description of Your Project


In this important part of your grant proposal, you will give a detailed description of your project. This section will give information on your project's objectives and methods, as well as how you will evaluate the project and account for its viability long term. This is the nuts and bolts of your proposal, and if the reviewer has read this far into your proposal, then you will want to continue to build on your momentum by having a clearly drawn-out project description.


Objectives


The objectives of your grant project proposal basically outline what the results of your project will be. You are stating what you plan to accomplish via the instrument of the project. Because later on in this section you will need to show how you will evaluate the project, you will need to state your objectives in a way in which they can be measured. Here you will also talk about the timeframe in which these objectives will be met.


Objectives will vary from project to project, but you need to show a result that you can measure in some way. At the end of your project will the outcome be a new product that you produce? That is your objective, because you can evaluate whether you have made a new product or not. Will participants who will benefit from your project learn a new skill? That is your objective, because you can measure whether they have learned the skill or have not. Will your project beneficiaries start out with a beginning set of skills and by participating in the project will they improve their skills? This, too, is an outcome of your project that can be measured, and so it would qualify as an objective.


If you cannot measure the outcome of your objectives, then they are not objectives usable for a grant proposal. Perhaps they can be refined and rewritten so that you can measure the result in some way, thereby becoming an objective for your proposal.


Methods


The methods you will write about in this part of your grant proposal will give the details of how you will meet your objectives that you stated previously. This is when you finally get to lay out your plan for succeeding with your project. This is a step-by-step explanation of each aspect of your project, from the beginning of the project to the end of it. You will talk about each aspect that will play a part in the successful completion of your project, and the exact steps that will have to happen in order to reach a conclusion of the project. You will also show the interplay of each aspect and how they work together to fulfill the project. Here is where you will talk about how much time will be required to complete each part of the project, as well as a listing of the people who will be required to do all the different jobs. An explanation of the materials and resources you will need to use to complete each part of your proposed project is important to include in the methods section of your project description.


Make sure that you break it down so that you are sure to cover in detail, each part that will go into meeting each of your proposed project's objectives. This is specific, detailed writing, and it will greatly benefit your project to revise this part several times. In the heat of the moment of writing, it is easy to forget some of the little parts, parts that are vital to be included to ensure the success of your project. Also, after working on a project for some time, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have included something in writing, and possibly adding the words in mentally as you read it, thus thinking that they are on the page without actually writing them down. It is a good idea, after you finish a writing session, to put the project away for a bit, do something totally different to clear your mind, and then come back to the proposal later. Refreshed after a little break from working on it, you can take a look at it again, and will likely catch any points you might have missed earlier.


Another tip is to read your writing out loud. Hearing the words spoken will often lead to you hearing any inaccuracies, or noticing any places where you verbally stumble because words or punctuation are missing, which you can then catch and easily fix. After this, ask someone knowledgeable in the area of your proposed project to take a look at your methods section, and have them confirm what is there and also offer some objective criticism of any parts you might have forgotten to include. Then you can go back, consider their suggestions, and use them or not, after due deliberation, to modify and strengthen the detailed accounting of the methods that you will use to satisfy the objectives of your project.


Evaluation of the Proposed Project


The next part of your project's description will talk about how you will evaluate your project when it is completed. This is where you will explain how you can show that you have met your project's objectives, which were stated earlier in your project's description. Because of the evaluation aspect involved in this sort of proposal, it bears repeating that all of your objectives must be measurable in some way, and your evaluation is based on those measurements. Here you will show how you will measure each objective you have for the project.


If your proposed project will result in the creation of a new product, then you will need to evaluate that new product in some measurable way. How does it compare with comparable products? What measurements can be drawn that prove its unique characteristics? Does the product work in the way you intended, or does it offer additional uses that were unexpected before the project began? You will measure in some way the answers to these types of questions, and this will be your evaluation of your project.


If your project will conduct new research, how will you measure the objectives? In your project, you will be testing to prove a research theory true. So, what are the results of the research? You will need an evaluation method to determine this. Alternately, did you prove your initial theory false, and if so how did you measure that result? Did the research benefit someone? You will want to evaluate the benefit to these individuals.


If your proposed project will teach people a new skill, how will you prove that they have learned it? What sort of test or demonstration will you administer to show that they in fact have achieved a new skill level? This will be your means of evaluation for this type of project.


Each grant for which you are applying can also have requirements for how you are to report this evaluation information. To that end, be sure to look carefully for those requests and fully explain how you will meet them.


Viability of the Project Long Term


The last part of your project description will show that this is either a one-time project and can continue to function on its own without any further grant assistance, or you will explain the need for future funding of some kind. The funds might come from other grants that you will seek, or the project might create some earnings that can continue it�s financing.

In this part of your proposal you will need to show where future funding will come from. Will your project generate revenue on its own, and be able to fund itself? This might be the case with a project that results in a new product. You can then go out and sell the product, create a cash flow and use that money to continue producing the product.


On the other hand, perhaps your project has to do with research. Maybe you will use your initial grant funds to conduct some type of medical research, research that can help a particular group of people. After you have finished the project, you might want to continue the project so that you can apply your new solution to the group of beneficiaries. Maybe you would need to open a medical clinic so that you can provide your new treatment to your group of individuals who will benefit from it. This was not perhaps a part of your original project, finding a solution to a medical problem, but is a logical need at the end of this type of successful research project.


You will need to explain your project and how it can be continued on long-term. Where will you find money for funding a clinic? It might be from new grants, or it might be that the research results generate some type of revenue that can be used to fund a clinic, for example. Your initial project is just one part in a larger frame of reference, in this instance, so you will want to discuss the financing for it here.


The Project Budget


The next section of your grant proposal will be the project budget. Here you will include in detail how much money you will need for every objective, method, and means of evaluation you have in your project proposal.


Let's say your project is to build a new type of computer part. There are several expense areas that will need to be taken into consideration as you draft your budget. Office workshop space will require a rental fee, or if you are writing a proposal for an organization that is already housed in a building, then you will need to figure out how much of the building could be used for your project and add that percentage amount for a rental or mortgage fee. What materials will be used to complete your project? These costs must be included.


Will you need to hire others, perhaps workers or researchers, to complete your project? Any fees for their services should be included. If you need to purchase equipment, like new computers, or tools to complete the project, count these costs as well. Will it cost money to put your new product to the test during the evaluation phase? Add these figures into your budget so that they are covered.


Before you begin your budget for your project, you will need to review how much previous recipients of the grant have been given by the granting organization. That way you know, generally speaking at least, what you might expect if you were given the grant, and can write a budget that will fit within those parameters. If you need a million dollars, don't submit a proposal to an organization that offers only a couple of thousand dollars to its grantees. However, one reason why you might consider doing that is if this grant is one of several that you plan to pursue in order to achieve your million dollar goal. This is where your long-term viability, as explained earlier in your grant proposal, will explain where all the streams of funding for your project will come from, so that the grantor will understand exactly where they fit into your proposal's budget.


Explanation of Why You Are Qualified


After you have given reasons for the need for your project and have outlined a complete description of your proposed project, next you will want to explain why you are well-qualified to carry out the project. As in all the other parts of your grant proposal, you will want to keep this section quite brief, yet include information that convinces the granting organization that you are the most qualified person or organization to carry out your proposed project.


Are you and the people who will be working on this project well educated in the subject area of your project in terms of educational background, continuing education and research, and experience? You will want to expound on that, and explain their areas of expertise that they will bring to the project. If you are writing a grant that will benefit your non-profit organization, you will want to include information about your group's mission, how long you have been working in this area and who has benefited from your organization's work. What specific activities and services have you provided in the past that will give you the background and experience that will ensure that this project will be completed correctly? Can you provide some evidence of who has benefited from the work your organization does? Your non-profit's history will come into play in this area, and careful record keeping from years past will definitely come in handy in providing concrete evidence for this part of your proposal.


A Conclusion


Congratulations, you have made it to the end of your grant application! But before you start to celebrate, you will need to craft one final part to your project proposal, and that is a succinct yet persuasive conclusion. You will want to briefly go back over the main points of your proposal, and once again restate why the need is so urgent that your project receives approval, and that the granting organization's funds will give them a return on their investment in the results of your proposed project. (http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/shortcourse/conclusion.html, 2007).


After you have completed your grant application, set it aside for a little bit. When you are ready, come back to it and re-read it, revising it as needed. As before, ask a knowledgeable third party to read the proposal over and give you some constructive criticism on it. When you believe that it is as good as you can make it, send it off. Of course, you will want to know how long the review process will take, and that information is often given on the grant announcement. If not, contact the granting agency and ask them.


When to Hire Someone Else to Apply for Grants for You


As you can see from the preceding information, there is an extensive list of parts that go into a grant proposal. Grant writing takes excellent thinking, researching, verbal and editing skills and you will need to decide if you have them or not. Likely you will find out when you start applying for grants and evaluate the results of your efforts.


You will first need to look up some specific grants for which you wish to apply, and look at their application requirements. Even if you only have to submit a short letter request, it can still take a lot of research to pack all the information you need into that short letter. Do you have the time to do all the research involved in writing a grant? This is something you will need to consider as you make this decision. If you are going for one small grant, you might have the time to devote to such an endeavor. If you have a non-profit organization, grant writing, as a part of your total fundraising efforts, is often a full-time job.


Grant writing can be challenging, but grants do get written every day. It is possible to do, one small step at a time as outlined above, and as long as you have the time and talent to invest in it, you will be able to successfully write a grant application. You might choose to start small, with a simple application requesting a small amount of money, before you write a large government grant request. This way you can get a feel for it and see if your skills lie in this area.


If you decide that you do not have the time to put into a grant writing project, or you lack some of the skills required for successful completion, then you might want to consider hiring a grant writer. This person can take on any or all aspects of the grant writing process, leaving you free to work on other business pursuits. You will want to interview this person and find someone who believes in your project and what you, or your organization, are working for in terms of your mission statement. You will need to entrust this person with sensitive information about you and your business or organization, so you will want to check references to make sure the grant writer is reputable, as well as successful, at what he or she does.


Bear in mind all the parts of a proposal and the time and energy involved in arriving at a complete proposal, and that this proposal preparation will likely not be an inexpensive proposition. However, if you don't try you will never get the grant money you would like to have, so start where you can, with whatever method will work best for you.


After you write your grant proposal and submit it, what next? The last chapter will give you some ideas of what you can do so that your efforts at grant writing will meet with success.

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