Course:6: Optional Materials
Lesson:Fundraising and Grantwriting
Topic:Applying for Grants

Applying For Grants

Grant writing is a time-consuming process and is based on the requirements of the funder you are writing the grant for.  Before you write a grant, make sure you have identified the funding source and understand the requirements thoroughly. 

The main steps in developing a grant proposal are research, writing, and submission to the funder. We have provided an overview of the process here.


Research the project you want to do; gather some appropriate statistics to document need; and look at professional literature to learn more about what others are doing and saying about your area of need. The more you know before you start writing, the better.

If you’ve never written a grant proposal before, you should also do some research about how to write a proposal. Your local library should have books available on this topic, and there are numerous web sites that offer helpful grant writing information.

You also need to research your funding options. Your project idea needs to match the funder’s focus and interests. Your best bet for finding funding is not the federal government; but your own local foundations, organizations and corporations. There are very often local, community grant programs that you can take advantage of. 

How do you find them? Ask around, read the newspaper, go to the library and do some research. Establish relationships with these local organizations – ask them if they have archival materials that they would like to donate or would like assistance with; take key people out to lunch; put them on your newsletter mailing list. All these simple steps help you raise awareness about your program and put you in a better position to apply for funding; or ask for a donation if they don’t have a grants program.

Once you have identified potential funding sources you need to find out if the sources have requirements for grant proposals. Many funding sources have specific information and process requirements that you need to meet.

Staring At Papers On Desk

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The General Services Administration offers a fairly detailed article, "Developing And Writing Grant Proposals" which you may find helpful. Click here.





Grant proposals are divided into several elements. The standard elements found in most proposals are:

Cover Letter. An introduction to your organization, the reason for and amount of the request

Abstract. A clear summary of the proposal. Not an introduction, but a summary that encompasses all the key points. The abstract is best written after the entire proposal is complete.

Statement of Need. The statement of need is often the most important part of the proposal. It answer the “why” question – why should we fund this proposal? Why should we be interested in it? 

Objectives/Outcomes. Objectives and outcomes answer the “what” question. What are you going to accomplish in order to meet your stated need? Objectives should be stated clearly and limited in number (no more than six).

Methodology/Work Plan. This section explains how and when you are going to meet your objectives.

Qualifications – Institutional and Staff. In order to make your case, you need to show that you have the appropriate qualifications within your staff and organizationally. You want the funder to have confidence in your ability to accomplish what you are setting out to do.

Budget. Your budget should cover appropriate expenses for the nature of the project, including personnel, overhead, equipment, supplies, travel, and miscellaneous. Budgets should be well thought through – don’t pad the budget, yet make sure that it is adequate. And proofread your budget multiple times before you send it in.

Evaluation. Many proposals require you to include an evaluation component in your project. This is a way for you to measure and demonstrate that you met the objectives you set out to achieve. 

Sustainability. Many proposals also ask you to demonstrate a commitment to sustaining the project that has been started with grant funding. You need to think about your next grant, or other sources of funding that will carry on grant funded projects in the future.

hands typing on keyboard


Once your proposal is written, edited, proofed, and finalized, it should be submitted. Many funders have specific guidelines for how proposals should be submitted – for example, they must be postmarked by a certain date; there must be ten copies plus the original submitted; they must not be bound, only paper-clipped. Pay attention to the details of the submission process. Make sure that the appropriate forms are filled out and the appropriate signatures are on the proposal. Success in grant writing is often in the details!

Additional Resources
Obviously there is much more to be said about each one of these sections of a grant proposal. If you are interested in pursuing grant funding, you will need much more information about how to write an effective proposal.

To find out about possible funding sources in your state, you should contact your state’s historical records advisory board.  A list of these boards is available at

To learn more about grant writing, take a look at:

Bauer, David G. How to Evaluate and Improve Your Grants Effort. Westport, CT: Oryx Press, 2001.

Bauer, David G. The “How To” Grants Manual. Phoeniz, AZ: Oryx Press, 1999.

Boss, Richard W. Grant Money and How to Get It. New York, NY: Bowker, 1980.

Golden, Susan L. Successful Grantsmanship. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1997.

Be careful to meet all submission requirements--they can get complicated!

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Web-Based Resources

Grant Writing Tools for Non Profit Organizations
Non-profit guides are free web-based grant writing resources for non-profit organizations, charitable, educational, public organizations, and other community-minded groups. Click here.

The Foundation Center, Proposal Writing Short Course. Click here.