How to Write a Grant

To some people, writing a grant can be an overwhelming endeavor. Some have said:
"I don't know a thing about writing a grant. It all looks foreign to me."
"How am I supposed to answer these questions? Is there a secret?"

The secret isn't any different from what is told to students when tackling a project that appears too big for them: Chunk It. Below are common categories requested in grants and the questions/items that should be addressed. One can draft a grant concept paper (see terms) and have a grant pretty well written before looking at a funding source. Often, just answering these questions can help immensely in identifying where your proposal is weak, strong, or more information is needed.

Ø What is the problem the grant is trying to address?
Ø Demographic characteristics of the population to be served
Ø Needs survey
Ø How was the need identified?

Goals and Objectives and Strategies/Activities
Ø Goals: Broad statements of where the target population or organization will be at the end of the grant—should relate to the needs identified
Ø Objectives: Benchmarks that measure progress toward goals
Ø Strategies/Activities: Action items (like programs) that illustrate organizational efforts to remedy the need and are linked to the goals and objectives.

Project Design
Ø How will the strategies/activities be implemented?
Ø Partnerships?
Ø Key personnel involved? Responsibilities? Experience?
Ø Is the project modeled after other successful projects? Are there differences?
Ø Organization purpose statement
Ø Organization experience in administering grants or implementing projects

Adequacy of Resources/Project Needs and Organizational Resources
Ø Budget of Project
Ø What is the organization contributing?
Ø What are partners contributing?
Ø Are budget categories linked to goals and objectives?
Ø Organization financial statement/budget/Form 990.

Ø How will success of the project be measured?
Ø Who will be involved in evaluating the work?
Ø How will evaluation results be used?

Organizational Structure/Administration
Ø Date of founding?
Ø Board members and affiliations/professions. How are they chosen? Are they compensated? How long do they serve
Ø Number of employees/volunteers
Ø Nondiscrimination policy
Ø Organizational chart showing decision-making structure.


More on Budget

Depending on the skills sets you bring to your grant application, some people find that working on the budget first to be a way of establishing an outline of the grant—each budget category has to be supported/justified by what is written in the narrative portion of the grant.

As each item has to be supported by the narrative, so does each item have to be reasonable to the grant. For example, if you request $15,000 to purchase a Rolex watch in order to make sure students turn up on time, would a $5 watch work just as well? As well, your costs have to be justified—if you put in $1,000 to cover supplies, what supplies are you purchasing and are those costs reasonable?

Go to this link to see a template of a budget form called an itemized budget narrative that I use for grants. It is pretty simple. However, if you are not comfortable with that format, use one that you like. Remember, however, that the reader of your budget has to be able to understand what you are requesting and why—if your numbers appear to be confusing then the reader may think you're trying to hide something.

If applying for a multi-year grant, consider putting as much as you can in the first year and then request a percentage increase in the following years. Normally, a 2.5%-5% increase each year is a good rule of thumb.

Whenever possible, make sure to put in money for grant administration (sometimes also called indirect costs (see Grant Terms for more information). Some funding sources will not fund indirect costs—the funder wants all the money to be used for programming. Read the RFP and contact the funder if you have questions about the applicability of indirect costs or grant administration. As well, if applying for state or federal grants, there is an established indirect cost rate that is adjusted annually by the Nebraska Department of Education (the state rate is used for federal grants too). Contact Mark or Margene to find out the indirect cost rate for KPS.

The budget should present the skeleton of what you want to accomplish—the narrative is where you put the meat on the bones. The budget is where you'll be held accountable for the actions by the funder. Some funding sources will want a report (quarterly, annually, at the mid-point or end of the grant project) on how the funds were spent and the outcomes of the project.

The funder may, at any time, request an accounting or audit of the project. If you are unable to account for the funds, the funder has the right to request you to return the funds and end the project. Some funders may even request the entire amount (a school district in Texas had to return somewhere around $3 million in federal funds when it didn't deliver on the promises made in the grant applications.) Remember: A grant is a contract—you promise to deliver if provided the funding and the funder must deliver the funds to you as outlined in the grant or subsequent correspondence/commitment letter. Failure of any party to deliver results in lost opportunities for your students/families.