What foundations need from you in order to make an informed grantmaking decision.
Most foundation employees are constantly deluged with letters, calls and project proposals. One way to instantly separate yourself from the crowd is to prepare a complete and concise information packet that tells the donor everything he or she needs to know about your project. Most agencies will provide you with a list of what they need, but here’s a sample round up of the information you should have at your fingertips:
The foundations will thank you!
Some foundations require applicants to send a formal letter of inquiry before submitting a full proposal. The letter of inquiry asks permission to apply and generally includes a brief description of the project. Although it’s an extra step in an already long process, think of your inquiry letter as a dry run for the important cover letter you’ll have to write for each of your proposals later. Come up with some good solid paragraphs now, and later on you’ll have the groundwork done! Click here for our sample letter of inquiry.
Ready or not, it’s time to start writing!
In this section of the Guide to Foundation Grants, we’ll take you step by step through the writing of a complete grant application.
As you can well imagine, the actual writing is the easiest place to get stuck in the grant application process. It’s daunting, we know! So before you sit down at your keyboard and pull up that blank document, set a personal writing calendar that you can realistically follow. Start with the application deadline and work backward, breaking the process into small, achievable pieces with clear deadlines. Write those dates on your calendar and stick to them.
Don’t forget to allow time at the end for proofreading and second opinions, and don’t plan to mail your application at the last minute! Being an early bird always makes a good impression, and the foundation staff may read your proposal and allow you to make suggested changes before the deadline.
And finally, before you start, find out if there’s any sort of standard application form in your area. Some states and regions have adopted a common proposal format that allows applicants to prepare one document and submit it to several agencies, with only minor changes. This can save you a lot of time and energy!
Although foundation applications vary, a proposal generally has five basic parts:
Writer’s block is tough, especially if you’re not usually a writer! Here are some tips to get those creative juices flowing:
Once your proposal is substantially complete, it’s time to prepare a cover letter, or take the next step, to proofreading and getting feedback.
In this section of the Guide to Foundation Grants, we’ll tell you how to top off your grant application with a great cover letter.
The cover letter that introduces your grant proposal is just as important as the proposal itself. It’s the very first thing foundation staff will read, and it introduces your project, your committee or organization, and your commitment to playspaces. That’s why we recommend saving it until last; once you’ve slogged your way through the grantwriting process, you’ll have all your best ideas and arguments in front of you. Then all you have to do is let a few choice ones rise to the top.
Be sure to keep the cover letter brief and to the point – no more than one page. And stay focused on your audience. Remember that although foundation staff may personally love your project, it’s their job to keep grants within the scope of the foundation’s mission. Therefore, it’s crucial that you make a strong connection between your goals and theirs, right off the bat.
Here are some additional elements to consider:
Click here to read our sample cover letter, or take the next step, to proofreading and getting feedback. You’re in the home stretch!
In this section of the Guide to Foundation Grants, you’ll learn the importance of reviewing your draft proposal before it gets sent out. Better safe than sorry!
Proofreading is key! A polished, complete grant proposal with no spelling or grammatical errors will always stand out, making your organization appear professional and trustworthy.
If you are the grantwriter, make sure that at least one person other than you reads the application before it arrives on the foundation’s desk. If time allows, recruit multiple proofreaders. Be sure to give them a copy of the complete packet, with all the information the granting agency requires.
Before you hand out copies of your work, be clear and specific about what kind of feedback you’re looking for. You want proofreaders to catch spelling and grammar mistakes, for sure, but what else? Readers should also be checking to make sure that the application is complete, and that the agency’s questions are all answered. You might also want feedback on the overall tone of the application: Does the project’s mission and passion come across? Are any key supporting arguments left out? You might consider devising a list of questions for reviewers to answer.
Finally, tell proofreaders to pay special attention to the cover letter and executive summary, since these may be the only documents reviewed by the foundation’s board of directors.
A word to the wise: depending on your timeline, you may want to limit your circle of proofreaders to those friends and committee members whose opinion you most value. Although additional input is helpful, writing by committee isn’t always the way to go, and a host of conflicting opinions can stymie your forward movement.
Once your reviews are in, you’re ready to seal the envelopes and take a big leap of faith. Then on to the final step, following up!
In this section of the Guide to Foundation Grants, we’ll take you through the final step of applying for grant money: the all-important follow up. Don’t let your hard work go to waste by neglecting your application once it’s out the door!
The hard part is definitely over...your grant applications are in the foundations’ hands. Doesn’t it feel good? Congratulations! However, your work here is not quite done. You’re in the nurturing phase now.
First, it’s important to cultivate a good relationship with your foundation contacts. Send a thank-you to anyone who lent a helping hand. Keep your contacts up to date on your playspace progress, and check on the status of your applications from time to time. Even if this particular grant doesn’t work out, you never know when you’ll need a friend on the inside.
If you do receive a “no,” try to find out why. Letters from funding sources are notoriously vague, since they often have a huge volume of submittals to process. Give them a call; after all, any information you can glean about your proposal’s strengths and weaknesses will help you in the challenges ahead. You might be done with grants, but you’ll still be making a similar funding pitch to businesses and individuals in your community. Learn from your mistakes!
Finally, if you do receive a grant, mind your manners. Thank them profusely, send pictures of what their money bought, invite them to every event and every celebration, and mention their name whenever and to whomever you can. Foundations may be busy saving the world, but they like to be included all the same.