Get Your Nonprofit Grant Funded By Asking These 5 Questions

Following is a blog post by Shannon Aronin, founder of Mission Messaging LLC, a fundraising, program design, and communications firm.

Every nonprofit grant proposal is both a funding opportunity and a chance to share your vision and connect with a new audience. But how can you most effectively convey your message and compel foundations to support your program?

To write a great grant proposal sure to impress those all important Program Officers, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Is it a good fit? Review the prospect’s website if they have one. This can be harder with smaller family foundations, but look for other web properties like a Facebook page as well. Determine if your mission, and your program, are well aligned with the foundation’s goals and funding guidelines. Don’t waste time pursuing a nonprofit grant that’s a bad fit.
  2. Is the request the right amount? Deciding how much to ask for is critical if you don’t want to leave money on the table or turn off a funder by asking for too much. Visit (make a free account if you don’t have one) and review the foundation’s 990s. These public IRS documents list all of the grants made and amounts. If it’s a first-time request, don’t shoot for the moon, come in on the upper middle end of amounts donated to organizations similar to your own.
  3. Does my budget make sense? Some Program Officers read the budget before the narrative. Far from being an afterthought, your budget needs to reflect what you need to fulfill the lofty promises you lay out in your proposal narrative. It also needs to be realistic. Don’t pad your budget, they will see right through that.
  4. Who cares? What makes your organization worth caring about? Grants are heavy on facts, statistics, citations and are generally serious in tone. But no one writes a check over a pie chart. At some point, in very brief ways woven into your proposal, you need to make your reader feel something. You are inviting them to help your cause in a meaningful way; be meaningful. Sometimes space limitations make this difficult, which is why it is so important that your basic mission and vision are crisp, descriptive, and somehow inspiring despite their brevity.
  5. Have I checked my work? Ask any Program Officer what their pet peeves are and they will say things such as spelling errors, listing the wrong funder name, and not following directions. Careless errors can sink an otherwise well-crafted proposal. Be sure to leave plenty of time for this step in planning your proposal process. If something is going to go wrong it is most likely going to happen at the end.
John Haydon