ESSENTIALS OF SUCCESSFUL GRANT WRITING
Delroy M. Louden, PhD FRSPH
President of Anguilla Community College
9th – 11th November 2011, Grenada
Before there is a grant, there is a proposal. What is a proposal?
• A bid for a contract/grant/cooperative agreement that is supported by a
narrative addressing explicitly the need of the grantor/funder and the
credentials of the bidder
• The bid is written in an attempt to convince the reader that the applicant is
the best qualified bidder.
• The bid offers to provide some deliverables that match the need of the
grantor/funder as published in:
1. Request For Proposals (RFP);
2. Request For Applications (RFA);
3. Programme Announcement (PA).
4. Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA)
• The bid explains the deliverables so that the reader understands their terms,
their costs and the suitability of the applicant’s solutions/methods to the
need/gap published in the RFP/RFA.
• The bid attempts to persuade the grantor/funder to select the applicant’s
solution to the need/gap.
• A successful grant, in terms of project funding and implementation, is one
that matches a project idea to the priority of the right funder and is submitted
in a well-written proposal.
• The first step is to find out all you can about potential funders. Contact a
funder to get basic information about its grant programs, including grant
priorities, rules, and procedures, requests for proposals, applications, packets,
list of previous grantees – including abstracts of their funding projects – and a
sample of a successful grant proposal.
• There are several types of foundations, such as independent or family –
owned, company, community, and operating. Know the differences prior to
contacting them for a grant request. Conduct prospect research, collecting
and selecting information on potential sources of funding from libraries,
reference books, computer databases, news clippings, and by word of mouth.
Review grants publications and periodicals regularly. Request annual reports
and funding guidelines and focus on funding interest, requirements,
restrictions, deadlines and procedures.
THE COVER LETTER, TITLE OF CONTENTS AND ABSTRACT
Cover Letter: The first paragraph of the cover letter should capture the essence
of who you are, what your organization does, and how much money you need for
the project. The entire letter sets the tone of the proposal and should grab the
imagination of the program officer. A board member or officer of your
organization should sign the letter .
• Use stationery with a letterhead;
• Include the date of incorporation, a list of board members (if
available) and affiliations;
• Verify the name of individual to whom the proposal should be sent;
• Use the foundation’s name throughout the proposal;
• Remind the program officer if you have had an on-site visit or contact
• Create a sense of urgency.
• Send a “Dear Sir or Madam” letter.
Title page: The title page should simply enhance the appearance of the
proposal. It should include a title and – if necessary – a subtitle. It should
also have the name of funding agency, the name and address of the
applicant, the date, and the amount requested (optional).
Table of Contents: The table of contents organizes the material into a logical
sequence and provides the reader with easy access to sections under review.
The headings and subsections listed in the table of contents should be
duplicated within the body of the proposal. The standard form is:
• Roman numerals for each major section.
• A capital letter beginning each subsection;
• Arabic numerals followed by lowercase letters.
• Use the table of contents to structure the flow of materials;
• Add page numbers after the proposal is finalized;
• Duplicate the headings and subtitles listed in the table of contents within
the body of the proposal.
Abstract: The abstract should briefly cover the highlights within the proposal.
This section is critical as it is often used to separate fundable proposals form
which do not fit the foundation’s current priorities. The abstract may be used for
a preliminary review. If the project interests the funders, they may ask for a full
proposal. Write the abstract after the proposal is finished, when you have
the best idea what it is.
• Describe the purpose of the project;
• Include the total costs and amounts requested from the funding source;
• Define the goal of the project and objectives necessary to achieve that
• Briefly describe how your organization is going to reach that goal;
• Incorporate an anecdote if it will help clarify the proposal’s purpose;
• Include the names of key people to contact for further information.
THE INTRODUCTION, THE NEEDS OR PROBLEM STATEMENT,
AND GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Introduction: The introduction acquaints the funding source with your
organization. This section captures the essence of who the applicant agency is,
what the applicant agency does, and why the applicant agency is exemplary,
unique, and one-of-a-kind in the delivery of its services. It also sets the identity of
the grant applicant apart from the fiscal, if anything organization is going to serve
as the fiscal agent.
• State the incorporated name of the applicant agency;
• Include the year it was founded;
• Include what type of agency it is (educational, human services, etc);
• Give detailed specifics on the agency’s locale within the U.S, the state, and
county (include a map for out-of state funders);
• Describe the agency’s services, mission and accomplishments to date;
• Identify the fiscal agent, if different, and explain why there will be a different
Remember to close this section with a transitional paragraph that answers why
the agency is writing the proposal. This paragraph should be brief, only
Introducing the project name and whom it will serve. It should also be the asking
Needs Statement or Problem Statement: The needs or problem statement
your need for a grant from the funding source – it builds the case for support.
Remember that this section is a primary deciding factor whether or not your
agency will be awarded a grant, so describe the problem clearly. The problem
may be described in terms of the population, using demographics or a
psychological profile, or geographically, as related to a given community.
• State the historical facts, in chronological order, contributing to the
problem the grant will resolve;
• State clearly what will happen without intervention;
• Include case scenarios to emphasize the seriousness of the problem;
• Use graphics to further clarify impacting statistics;
• Begin with an anecdote or personal story. Put “flesh and blood” into the
• Document your need with statistics;
• State why this is an unmet need. 8
Goals and Objectives:
• The core of any proposal is the section in which you explain your goals,
objectives and activities, all of which should flow naturally from the needs
statement in which you describe the problem you are attempting to solve.
They should be clearly distinguished. Goals express the overall intent and
outcome of the proposed project and should relate directly to the funder’s
purposes and priorities.
• Objectives specify a result or outcome that moves the project toward the goal.
They can include quantitative measures of accomplishment and qualitative
descriptions of progress. Each objective should explain what will be done, by
whom, to whom, when, how and to what level of performance. Objectives
must be specific and measurable because you also will have to develop
evaluation methods to judge your success. Activities explain what the project
will actually do, including timelines frames, personnel responsible for carrying
out each activity and the client population that will participate.
• The goal describes the anticipated outcome. It can be written in more
eloquent terms. The objectives are measureable outcomes that relate to the
project’s goal and should be written in precise, measurable terms. This
statement should answer the following: WHO will do WHAT and WHEN?
• Focus on desired outcomes;
• Personalize the goal by including the applicants name;
• Describe the outcome, population, approach, and timelines in one
• Describe objectives in quantifiable terms.
• Confuse methods with objectives – methods are means; objectives are
From your goals, objectives and activities flow your project’s procedures,
timelines, staffing plan, evaluation, dissemination methods and budget. You
should devote the most time to developing this core. When you have a first draft,
you might want to ask colleagues, experts, collaborators, administrators and/ or
evaluators to review it and offer comments. You also may be able to ask the
funders to review a first draft , either in writing or verbally, so you will know if you
are heading in the right direction.
The purpose of the program design is to provide the funding source with a plan
for implementing the proposed budget.
• Begin with a statement of the proposed project’s purpose;
• List outcome-based, futuristically worded goals;
• List measureable, time bound objectives;
• Separate process objectives, outcome objectives, and impact objectives if you
plan on evaluating these types of measureable steps to achieve the goals.
• Include a timeline tracking the start and stop of key activities.
• Write about costs yet (that’s in the budget section);
• Mistakenly begin to discuss the need or problem again;
• Be overly aggressive in establishing objectives;
• Set objectives at 100 percent; be modest in the changes your program will
enable to occur;
• Leave out any activity, no matter how minute.
PROFILE OF INSTITUTION
• Brief history of organization structure highlights – mission what the grant
allows you to do.
• Institutional capability e.g network capability, computers, library
• Characteristics of Academic environment- faculty, student, centers etc.
• Does the organization of environment offer those things necessary to
support the proposed project?
• Does the proposed activities take advantage of unique features of the
environment or employ existing equipment and facilities?
IRB – INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD –
(SOMETIMES CALLED ETHICS REVIEW BOARD)
The purpose of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) is to protect human subjects
involved in research. Two seminal documents are essential to this process. The
Belmont Report-Ethical Principles and guidelines for protection of human subjects
for research and the declaration of Helsinki.
A human subject is defined by the US federal regulations as a “living individual
about whom an investigator conducting research obtains (1) data through
intervention or interaction with the individual or (2) identifiable private
The cornerstone of IRB and the research process if informed consent.
• The informed consent process gives potential subjects a description of the
study that is clear and complete enough for the individual to judge
whether she or he wants to participate;
• The standard expectation is that all subjects will sign a document
containing of informed consent.
ROLE OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
• Overall responsibility for all aspects of the Grant;
• Is the PI experience and well suited to carry out proposed investigation?
• Is the work proposed appropriate to the experience level of the principal
investigation and the organization and other collaborators (if any)?
• Does the project bring students into the research arena?
Process Objectives relate specifically to the contributing factors of
the problem and take less than a year for measurement.
Outcome Objectives specify the level to which the problem should be reduced
within a specified period of time, and should take less than a year for
relate specifically to the determinants of the problem, and range from one to five
years for measurement.
q Before starting the application process, be clear about want you want to
accomplish. Draw up a long-range plan that projects goals at least five
q Basic rules of proposal writing: don’t ask for more than you need; take
your time writing the proposal; never lie; never use the same application
twice; be up front about asking for money; don’t waste time – get straight
to the point.
q Management vital. You must be able to demonstrate that you have the
management skills and experience that can deliver success.
q Know the funder. It’s been estimated that your chances of success
improve by as much as 300% when you make contact with the funder
before and during the proposal-writing process. Don’t ask for hidden
agendas, but find out about general trends or new ideas the funder is
currently interested in.
q Don’t give in to pressure. A rushed proposal rarely wins. Keep a file with
standard information enclosed and updated, like staff resumes and
community statistical data, so you can concentrate on the specific grant
information needed when the time to apply arrives.
INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL GRANT APPLICATION
• Read and follow instruction in the RFP/RFA/PA/FOA;
• Note page limitations, especially for research plan;
• Justify budget in detail (usually does not count toward page limit);
• Discuss protection of human subjects ( for patients and providers);
• Use appendices judiciously;
• Consult with colleagues, agency program staff, executive secretary of
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION
1. Know the literature and current work;
2. Know your audiences: the funding agency;
3. Follow the directions the funding agency requires;
4. State where appropriate hypotheses in testable form;
5. Methodological or cultural consideration that may affect your investigation;
6. Match staff and resources to the task;
7. Be explicit, thorough, clear, concise, and well-organized;
8. Obtain independent critical review;
9. Complete the appropriate preliminary research before requesting support or
use unpublished relevant data;
10. Reapply – if at first you do not succeed!
Remember! Good Idea Good Science Good Application
SIGNIFICANCE, INVESTIGATION, INNOVATION,
4. Very Good.
What is the expected value of the outcomes of the proposed project?
Are the organizational framework, design, methods and procedures adequately
developed, well integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the project? Does the
applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider alternative tactics?
Does the project employ any novel concepts, approaches or methods? Are the
approaches original and innovative? Does the project challenge existing
paradigms or develop new methods or approaches?
Specific Aims - 25 points
Significance - 30 points
Research Design - 25 points
Data Analysis - 10 points
Resources - 5 points
Timeline - 5 points
Scores will range from 0 to maximum of 100 points.
YOUR PROPOSED BUDGET
• Be sure to check the Funding Agency you are applying to as to the format
if any and the level of detail required.
YOUR BUDGET IS AN ESTIMATE
• Your budget is an estimate. A funding source will give you some freedom
in spending the money. Still you may not exceed the total amount for the
grant. Do not feel you must spend the money to the penny. Your funding
source will allow some freedom in spending the money.
• They might permit request to change the budget. Such requests must be
in writing. A written response becomes a formal “budget modification”.
The budget modification changes the conditions of the grant. Careful
planning will decrease the number of changes that may be required. Also,
careful planning shows honesty. This honesty will be necessary to get
permission for future changes.
• The numbers should be specific. Rounding an item to nearest dollar does
not inspire confidence. It also suggests you have not done much work
preparing the budget. The reviewer will do a lot of work studying your
budget. They expect you to do a lot of work planning the budget. If you
round at all, round to dollars, or tens at most. Along the same lines, there
is no place in the budget for miscellaneous or contingency items. Your
planning should allow for contingencies.
• For example, a cost of living increase will happen before the grant begins.
In this case, you should base salaries on the increased salaries. If you plan
to buy equipment, contact the distributor to find out the cost of the
equipment when you plan to purchase it. The amount of thought you
give to preparing the budget will produce a better program. It will also
increase your chances of receiving grant funding.
It has two basic parts:
I. Personnel Costs, and
II. Non-Personnel Costs .
There is an optional third part called “Indirect Costs” that pertains to some
grant applications. There is also a “Budget Summary”. This is written after the
budget is complete and is presented at the start of the budget.
DEVELOPING YOUR BUDGET
• Salary and fringe benefits for Principal Investigator, key personnel, and
other essential personnel;
• Equipment and supplies;
• Consultant costs;
• Alterations and renovations;
• Publications miscellaneous costs;
• Contract services;
• Consortium costs;
• Facilities and administrative cost (fixed cost);
• Travel Expenses.
• Describe the specific work to be undertaken;
• Include deliverables and timelines;
• Cannot be staff;
• Describe qualifications/experience of consultant;
• Identify and justify sole source if applicable.
• Justify any unusual items.
• Itemize equipment to be purchased;
• Include renovation and installation cost if applicable;
• Justify sole source if applicable.
• Use realistic cost estimates;
• Identify and justify international travel when planned e.g to attend state
of the science meeting – that has implication for your research/project.
• Itemize in justification.
CONSORTIUM AND CONTRACTUAL COST
• Facilities and administrative costs to secondary grants is sometimes
limited to the applicable rate on the first $50,000.00 of direct cost.
ALTERATIONS AND RENOVATIONS
• Be sure these cost are allowed;
• Description and justification are important;
• Get help with cost estimates.
GRANT BUDGET PREPARATION
• Follow agency budgeting instructions;
• Make budget consistent with narrative;
• Provide adequate justification;
• Use appropriate indirect cost rate;
• Thoroughly check all calculations;
• Do not inflate the budget
• The budget should never drive the proposal;
• Justify all personnel with respect to effort and expertise;
• The equipment request must be congruent with proposed methodology;
• Don’t ask for a BMW when a Saturn will do;
• Justify strongly all equipment requested;
• The supply request should match your project design, and be strongly
- Obtain salary range for position from HR;
- Be mindful of any salary caps;
- Budget increase in outlying years.
• Fringe Benefits
- Obtain and use correct fringe benefits rate from financial affairs staff.
- Use current rate for the institution in the country you are collaborating
• Grant proposals are strong when they include sources of matching funds.
Funders often require applicants to match their awards and may specify
the type of percentage of match required.
• There are two types of matching funds: cash and in-kind contributors.
Cash funds are actual dollars available from the applicant organization or
another funding source to add to the proposed grant project. In-kind
contributions are services or resources already available from the
organization to supplement the project
A competitive grant proposal takes several months to plan, develop , and submit
to a potential funding source. A good proposal cannot be put together quickly.
Careful planning, documentation, district review, state review (if required),
external support and cultivation of a funder take time. The process actually
should start long before a grant competition opens officially. By the time a
competition announcement appears, savvy grantseekers nearly have completed
their proposals .
• Follow the funder’s instructions to the letter;
• Develop concrete and measureable project objectives;
• Make sure your project evaluation plan relates to your project objectives;
• Develop a budget that is reasonable for what you want to accomplish,
with detailed rationale (never submit a “fat” budget);
• Always relate budget requests to project objectives;
• Make direct contact with the program personnel, seek their assistance
and submit a preliminary proposal whenever allowed by the funder;
• Write a clear, well-constructed narrative;
• Relate your project idea to what others are doing in the field;
• Review your proposal against the funder’s selection criteria; and
• Most important, know the funder’s funding goals and priorities and
concretely link your project to them.
T HA NK