report is intended for Members and staff assisting grant seekers in
districts and states and covers writing proposals for both government
and private foundations grants. In preparation for writing a proposal,
the report first discusses preliminary information gathering and
preparation, developing ideas for the proposal, gathering community
support, identifying funding resources, and seeking preliminary review
of the proposal and support of relevant administrative officials.
second section of the report covers the actual writing of the proposal,
from outlining of project goals, stating the purpose and objectives of
the proposal, explaining the program methods to solve the stated
problem, and how the results of the project will be evaluated, to
long-term project planning, and, finally, developing the proposal
last section of the report provides a listing of free grants-writing
websites, including guidelines from the Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance and the Foundation Center’s “Proposal Writing Short Course.”
Related CRS reports are CRS Report RL34035, Grants Work in a Congressional Office, by
Merete F. Gerli; CRS Report RL34012, Resources for Grantseekers, by Merete F. Gerli; and CRS Report RS21117, Ethical Considerations in Assisting Constituents With Grant Requests Before Federal Agencies, by Jack Maskell.
Developing a Grant Proposal
well-formed grant proposal is one that is carefully prepared,
thoughtfully planned, and concisely packaged. The potential applicant
generally seeks first to become familiar with all of the pertinent
program criteria of the funding institution. Before developing a
proposal, the potential applicant may refer to the information contact
listed in the agency or foundation program description to learn whether
funding is available, when applicable deadlines occur, and the process
used by the grantor agency or private foundation for accepting
seekers should know that the basic requirements, application forms,
information, and procedures vary among grant-making agencies and
foundations. Federal agencies and large foundations may have formal
application packets, strict guidelines, and fixed deadlines with which
applicants must comply, while smaller foundations may operate more
informally and even provide assistance to inexperienced grantseekers.
However, the steps outlined in this report generally apply to any
without prior grant proposal writing experience may find it useful to
attend a grantsmanship class or workshop. Applicants interested in
locating workshops or consulting more resources on grantsmanship and
proposal development should consult the Internet sites listed at the end
of this report and explore other resources in their local libraries.
governments may obtain grant writing assistance from a state’s office
of Council of Governments (CSG) or Regional Council. The primary mission
of CSG is to promote and strengthen state government in the federal
system by providing staff services to organizations of state officials.
Grassroots or small faith-based nonprofit organizations can seek the
help and advice of larger, more seasoned nonprofit organizations or
foundations in their state.
Developing Ideas for the Proposal
first step in proposal planning is the development of a clear, concise
description of the proposed project. To develop a convincing proposal
for project funding, the project must fit into the philosophy and
mission of the grant-seeking organization or agency; and the need that
the proposal is addressing must be well documented and well articulated.
Typically, funding agencies or foundations will want to know that a
proposed activity or project reinforces the overall mission of an
organization or grant seeker, and that the project is necessary. To make
a compelling case, the following should be included in the proposal:
• Nature of the project, its goals, needs, and anticipated outcomes;
• How the project will be conducted;
• Timetable for completion;
• How best to evaluate the results (performance measures);
• Staffing needs, including use of existing staff and new hires or volunteers; and
• Preliminary budget, covering expenses and financial requirements, to determine what funding levels to seek.
developing an idea for a proposal, it is also important to determine if
the idea has already been considered in the applicant’s locality or
state. A thorough check should be made with state legislators, local
government, and related public and private agencies which may currently
have grant awards or contracts to do similar work. If a similar program
already exists, the applicant may need to reconsider submitting the
proposed project, particularly if duplication of effort is perceived.
However, if significant differences or improvements in the proposed
project’s goals can be clearly established, it may be worthwhile to
pursue federal or private foundation assistance.
many proposals, community support is essential. Once a proposal summary
is developed, an applicant may look for individuals or groups
representing academic, political, professional, and lay organizations
which may be willing to support the proposal in writing. The type and
caliber of community support is critical in the initial and subsequent
review phases. Numerous letters of support can influence the
administering agency or foundation. An applicant may elicit support from
local government agencies and public officials. Letters of endorsement
detailing exact areas of project sanction and financial or in-kind
commitment are often requested as part of a proposal to a federal
agency. Several months may be required to develop letters of
endorsement, since something of value (e.g., buildings, staff, services)
is sometimes negotiated between the parties involved. Note that letters
from Members of Congress may be requested once a proposal has been
fully developed and is ready for submission.
money is the primary concern of most grantseekers, thought should be
given to the kinds of nonmonetary contributions that may be available.
In many instances, academic institutions, corporations, and other
nonprofit groups in the community may be willing to contribute technical
and professional assistance, equipment, or space to a worthy project.
Not only can such contributions reduce the amount of money being sought,
but evidence of such local support is often viewed favorably by most
grant-making agencies or foundations.
agencies require, in writing, affiliation agreements (a mutual
agreement to share services between agencies) and building space
commitments prior to either grant approval or award. Two useful methods
of generating community support may be to form a citizen advisory
committee or to hold meetings with community leaders who would be
concerned with the subject matter of the proposal. The forum may include
• Discussion of the merits of the proposal;
of a strategy to create proposal support from a large number of
community groups, institutions, and organizations; and
• Generation of data in support of the proposal.