Proposal Basics


Some foundation grant makers will provide specific guidelines to follow in completing their application process. Anytime a foundation provides guidelines addressing the information to send in an application, applicants should follow the guidelines. As a result of following each foundation’s guidelines, grant proposals or applications will vary in length. Generally, larger foundations will require more detailed information than perhaps a local family foundation.

Regardless of how much information a foundation requires, all foundations ask for the same basic information. The way to look at it is that some foundations simply allow more writing space than others. If a foundation gives a page maximum, for example, up to ten pages, it is an indication the foundation expects applicants to submit a proposal ten pages in length. Let the guidelines clue you in as to how much detail the foundation expects from applicants.

Interestingly enough, many foundations do not have guidelines to provide applicants with information about what to send and how much information to send (page length.) When this is the case, it is recommended the grant writer submit a standard foundation proposal narrative one-to-five pages in length, plus a cover letter and appendices. The Standard Proposal is the most common type of proposal.

The Standard Proposal should include the following seven (7) sub-headings providing information in narrative format about each one:

Summary of the Proposal (a brief description of the project the applicant is seeking funds to support and a statement of how much money the applicant is requesting from the foundation.)

Agency Description (a description of the organization requesting funds from the foundation, including mention of the clients and services provided. The organization might be a hospital, the YMCA, a township, or a school district.)

Need for the Project (information should be provided to build a case for the foundation lending its support to the project. Answer the question: What is the problem?)

Project Description (a description of the project the applicant is asking the foundation to support, including expected results. The project could be an existing counseling service, the expansion of a meals program, construction of a new building, or the purchase of new equipment.)

Evaluation (a description of how the applicant will determine if the project has been successful.)

Financial Information (provides the foundation with information about the total cost of the project; how much is being requested from the foundation, and how the contribution will be applied to the project; other sources of funding for the project or the applicant’s plan for raising it; and the applicant’s plan for sustaining the project.)

Project Budget (a narrative summation of the proposed project budget.) Click here for Budgets and to see an example.

A formal Cover Letter will introduce and summarize the Standard Proposal. Click here for Cover Letter.

The Standard Proposal will include four attachments. The attachments are documents that are routinely requested by most foundations. They are (1) a list of governing board members; (2) proof of not-for-profit or public tax status; (3) line item project budget; and (4) most recent audited financial statement. Click here for Appendices.

It is recommended that applicants begin the grant seeking process by preparing a Standard Proposal for each project they will seek funding from private grant makers. Once a Standard Proposal is completed, the applicant will have the information needed to complete other types of proposals, including Letters of Intent, Letter Proposals, and online applications.

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  1. Letter Proposal | - December 21, 2010

    […] a foundation may ask applicants to send a Letter Proposal instead of the Standard Proposal. Click here to learn about Proposal […]

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