Guidelines for Conducting a Grant Writing Campaign
There are many ways to raise money for charitable causes including holding special
events, conducting direct mail appeals, selling products, and submitting grant proposals to potential donors. One of
the main fundraising methods for some nonprofits is soliciting grants from foundations, corporations, and government entities.
Although some charities receive a sizable amount of their revenue
from grants, there is a large pool of charities competing for a limited amount of grant funding. According to the National
Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2006 there were 904,313 public charities with 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United
States. This particular status is important because it allows donors – individuals, foundations, and corporations
– to make tax-deductible contributions to nonprofits.
there were over 900,000 public charities in 2006, Giving USA determined that foundations and corporations contributed $36.50
billion and $12.72 billion in grants, respectively, to charities in the same year. This is a significant amount,
but given the number of charitable organizations competing for these funds, acquiring grants is a challenging task.
A well-structured grant writing campaign will help your organization be competitive
To be competitive, nonprofits must implement an organized grant writing campaign that
is based on a sound organizational structure, healthy financial standing, solid program operations, and effective grant writing.
Listed below is information that will help you create a successful grant writing campaign.
It is important to create a plan that
clearly defines how your organization will carry out its grant writing campaign. The plan should include the following
• Purpose of campaign (i.e., general operating
support, program support, etc.)
• Types of funders to solicit (i.e., corporate giving programs, family foundations,
independent foundations, etc.)
• Timeline of activities
research and choosing the funders whose missions most closely meet your organization’s mission and activities will save
time and money, conserve human resources, and decrease the number of declines. If you are wondering where to search
for potential funders, the following Web sites might help.
Once you have identified the most compatible potential funders, create a calendar or database that includes funders’
grant submission deadlines as well as other important information. A calendar is one of the most important tools for
managing your grant writing campaign on a long-term basis.
Some organizations develop “broiler plate”
(standard) grant proposals that can be sent to different funders. Since funders have different guidelines and may require
different information, the broiler plate proposal will not be appropriate for every funder. It is, however, a good source
to use because you will not have to start from scratch with each proposal or application. The following guidelines will help
you write competitive proposals.
1. Develop a persuasive
a. Take the time and effort needed to write
a professional, well-organized proposal. If possible, do not wait until the last minute to write a proposal especially
if you must rely on others to supply important information.
b. Do not fill the proposal with unnecessary information
c. Develop achievable goals and measurable objectives.
d. Make sure that the evaluation method
is solid and feasible.
e. Include documented information about the problem your organization intends to solve such
as statistics and case studies. This information will add urgency and credibility to your proposal.
f. Make the
proposal as short as possible without omitting important details.
not neglect the cover letter
a. Develop a thought-provoking
cover letter that lists the amount of the grant request and summarizes the purpose of the proposal.
the cover letter to highlight your organization’s success with addressing the issue or to demonstrate the urgency of
your request by citing important statistics.
c. The cover letter should be one page in length. If possible,
address it to an actual person.
3. Make the grant submission process as efficient as possible
a. If you have questions regarding a funder’s guidelines, contact them for
b. Keep copies of documents that funders routinely request such as 501 (c) (3) letters, audits, board
lists, budgets, staff resumes, newsletters, and annual reports on file. This makes assembling proposal packages more efficient.
c. Maintain a database of statistics, studies, and best practices that clearly defines the issues that your organization
addresses. This information will help you build a strong case for the need for funding. If you update the information
regularly, you will be prepared to confidently discuss the issues with funders whether in written or verbal communication.
d. Be sure to follow the funder’s proposal requirements and instructions. Some funders will disqualify
applications and proposals if guidelines are not followed to the letter.
e. Do not miss the funder’s proposal
submission deadline. It is true that some funders will accept late proposals, but it is not worth the risk.
to complete the proposal package in enough time to send it via regular mail. It is important to convey to the funder
your organization’s need and ability to operate efficiently. Using couriers such as Federal Express is more costly
and can portray an image of disorganization.
It is ideal to create a strong connection with a funder before submitting a grant proposal
to increase the likelihood that your proposal will be funded. But relationship building can take a very long time.
If you don’t have a well-established relationship with a funder, contact them to request a meeting. Some funders
will not be open to meeting with you. They may prefer to receive a letter of inquiry or an actual proposal.
Sometimes a decline to fund your proposal can open the door to building a relationship
with the funder. In this case, try to find out why your proposal was declined, how you can improve your chances of receiving
a grant, and if it is worth it to resubmit your proposal in the future.
Approach the grant writing campaign with patience and determination
For some charities, a grant writing campaign is an on-going process and the steps mentioned
above are performed in tandem. To be effective long-term, the campaign must be flexible enough to adapt to changing
organizational, economic, and funding conditions. Gaining experience and knowledge about the process will help you build
and maintain a strong and efficient grant writing campaign.
Copyright © 2009 Katherine Williams
All rights reserved.