In the non-profit world, a Grant application (a.k.a proposal) is a document with which an NGO puts forward a specific project to a donor for funding consideration. Thus, a grant application is a tool for NGOs to gain funding, and for donors to decide who to fund. In other words, the application explains the plan and purpose for the set of activities an NGO wishes to implement, and requests funding from a donor.
1.Update your title
Your project title provides the first impression of your project to a donor. Make it a good impression. A good project title will be succinct while aptly supporting the main pillars of your project. A great project title does this and also helps the donor remember your project.
2. Include a short executive summary tailored to the donor
A good introduction or executive summary lays a roadmap for the donor and also directs them to the most important pieces of information in the proposal. This can vary in length from a couple lines to one page, but it should always fit on the same page. This section should summarize the proposed project, but even more importantly it should highlight any requirements the specific donor has. For example, if the donor mandates that the project promote women’s issues, directly address this here. If the donor stipulates the grant must take place in Nepal, state this as well.
3. Move or delete your organizational profile
For a variety of reasons, your organizational profile is of little importance to the donor – at least in the initial proposal. So save space for the more important project information and either include a short profile at the end of your application or as an annex. Donors will review your organization’s capacity in the application process, but at a later stage.
4. Focus your impact
While projects often do need to be holistic, projects without a central theme or goal often appear disorganized. Fix this by highlighting a primary theme with supporting cross-cutting themes. Also, make sure you take the time to explain the importance and necessity of the project. Do not assume donors will automatically understand the difficulties faced by your beneficiaries. Case studies are a great way to highlight your point, either through stories or research.
5. Add branding
It is not necessary to hire a graphic designer, but a little bit of marketing can go a long way in getting the donor to remember you. Adding a cover page with your logo and picture, including your website in the footer, etc. are simple ways to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Even if you do not have a logo or website, a simple and consistent color scheme can do the trick. Or including images from past projects. If you are not confident in your design abilities, Microsoft Word offers a number of themes, templates, and color palettes to get you started.
6. Consolidate your contact information
You want the donor to contact you back, but adding too many communication methods can actually be detrimental to this goal. Too many contact details look cluttered and are more likely to result in typos or mistakes. Only include communication channels that are checked regularly and are reliable. Social media links are generally not important in a proposal unless they are a main communication channel or take the place of a website.
7. Check your budget
It very common for minor errors to appear in the budget. Double and triple check the categories, units, and amounts to ensure everything is correct and accounted for. Even if the budget was developed in Excel, always check the math to make sure no errors were made. Usually, donors are flexible, but some donors will insist on funding the presented budget, even if later errors or omissions are discovered.
8. Review the donor guidelines again
In most funding rounds, 50% or more applications are rejected because they do meet all donor criteria. Before you send in your application, make sure each section is complete, it exactly matches donor priorities, and is submitted with the proper form and method. You do not want your application thrown out before it is even read due to a technicality.
9. Check content and formatting
Every part of the proposal is designed to further the previous section. This means that making a change to one section may have repercussions throughout the rest of the document. Double-check the log frame or sketch a quick flowchart to make sure every piece is connected and flows logically. Once the content is consistent, also make sure the formatting is consistent. Font and text size should be standardized, all headings should match, spacing, margin sizes, etc. should all be standardized. Inconsistent formatting looks disjointed and can lead the donor to believe that the entire proposal was copied and pasted together.
10. Check spelling and grammar
While one or two minor mistakes may not be enough to warrant instant rejection, too many errors look unprofessional and rushed. Worse, a lot of mistakes may indicate there will be future communication issues if the grant is approved. Always have other people review the proposal for mistakes. Also, be sure to go through the text and update any specific references to donors or past projects. It is common to reuse sections of old proposals in new applications, but if this is done make sure any identifiers are removed.