How to Write Nonprofit Grant Proposals

Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on grants to fund their programs, services, and operations. Grants are a type of nonprofit funding that allows nonprofits to carry out their mission and make a positive impact in their communities. However, securing grants is a competitive process that requires a well-crafted proposal that effectively communicates the organization’s needs, goals, and potential impact.

In this guide, we will walk you through the process of writing a nonprofit grant proposal, from understanding the basics of grant proposals to crafting a compelling narrative and budget. 

Whether you are a seasoned grant writer or new to the process, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to create a winning grant proposal that secures the funding your organization needs to thrive.

Recommended: Read our review of the best grants for nonprofits

Understanding Grant Proposals

Before diving into the process of writing a grant proposal, it is important to understand what grant proposals are and why they are important for nonprofit organizations.

Grant proposals are requests for funding that outline a nonprofit organization’s plans to carry out a specific project or program. This is the key step toward securing grants for a nonprofit. They are typically submitted to foundations, corporations, or government agencies that provide financial support to nonprofit organizations.

Grant proposals serve several important purposes:

  • They provide a clear and compelling case for why the organization needs funding and how the funds will be used to achieve specific goals and outcomes.
  • They demonstrate the organization’s capacity to carry out the proposed project or program, including its expertise, experience, and resources.
  • They establish a relationship between the organization and the funder, laying the groundwork for ongoing communication and collaboration.
  • They provide a roadmap for the organization to plan and implement the proposed project or program, including timelines, budgets, and evaluation plans.

Types of Grant Proposals

Understanding the different types of grants available can help nonprofits identify the most appropriate funding opportunities for their needs. There are several types of grant proposals, each with its own purpose and requirements:

  • Project-based grants: These grants fund specific projects or programs with a defined timeline and deliverables.
  • General operating support grants: These grants provide unrestricted funding to support an organization’s overall mission and operations.
  • Capacity-building grants: These grants help organizations improve their infrastructure, management, and sustainability.
  • Capital grants: These grants fund the acquisition or renovation of buildings, equipment, or other long-term assets.
  • Endowment grants: These grants help establish or grow an organization’s endowment fund, providing a stable source of income for the future.

What to Include in a Nonprofit Grant Proposal

Writing a successful grant proposal involves a combination of research, planning, writing, and revising. It requires a clear understanding of the organization’s mission and goals, as well as the funder’s priorities and requirements. A compelling grant proposal should make a strong case for why the organization deserves funding and how the grant will be used to achieve specific outcomes. Here are the key elements you need to include in your nonprofit grant proposal.

1. Cover Letter

Begin with a compelling cover letter that introduces your organization, summarizes the purpose of your proposal, and highlights the amount of funding requested. The cover letter should grab the reader’s attention and make a strong case for why your project deserves funding.

2. Project Abstract

The project abstract should provide a clear and concise summary of your project in no more than one page, including the need your project addresses, the target population it will serve, the goals and objectives you aim to achieve, a brief description of your project’s activities and expected outcomes, and the amount of funding you are requesting. Write the abstract last, after completing the rest of the proposal, to ensure it accurately reflects the content.

3. Statement of Need

In the statement of need, clearly describe the problem or need your project aims to address, using compelling data, statistics, examples, and stories to support your case and illustrate the human impact of the problem and the potential benefits of your proposed solution. Explain how the problem affects your target population and the wider community, discuss any gaps in existing services or programs that your project aims to fill, and emphasize why it is important to address the issue now.

4. Program Description

Provide a detailed description of your project or program, including its goals, objectives, activities, and expected outcomes, as well as how it will be implemented (including the timeline, staffing, and resources required) and how it aligns with the funding organization’s priorities. If you plan to use any innovative assistive technology or equipment, provide details about it and explain how it will enhance your project’s effectiveness.

5. Goals and Objectives

State your project’s overall goal(s) and how they align with your organization’s mission and the funding organization’s priorities, then break down your goals into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives that address the needs of your target population and contribute to achieving your project’s goals. Describe how you will measure progress towards your goals and objectives and what indicators of success you will track.

6. Timeline

Provide a detailed timeline that outlines the key milestones, activities, and deliverables of your project, broken down into phases or quarters with specified start and end dates for each activity. Ensure that your timeline is realistic, allows sufficient time for planning, implementation, and evaluation, and highlights any critical path items or dependencies that may impact your project’s progress.

7. Budget

The budget should provide a detailed breakdown of all income and expenses related to your project, categorized into areas such as personnel, equipment, supplies, travel, and indirect costs, with justification provided for each expense explaining how it relates to your project’s activities and goals. If you have secured or plan to secure funding from other sources, identify them and the amounts committed or requested, and ensure that your budget is accurate, realistic, and aligned with your project’s scope and timeline.

8. Evaluation

Describe how you will evaluate the success and impact of your project, both during and after implementation, by identifying the specific metrics, indicators, and data sources you will use to measure progress towards your goals and objectives, explaining how you will collect, analyze, and report on data, and discussing how you will use the findings to inform project improvements, future planning, and dissemination of results and lessons learned to relevant stakeholders and the wider community.

9. Staff and Organizational Information

Provide information about your organization’s mission, history, and key achievements, highlighting its capacity to implement and sustain the proposed project, and describe the qualifications, experience, and roles of key project staff, including their relevant skills, certifications, and previous successes in similar projects. This section should demonstrate that your organization has the expertise, resources, and commitment needed to successfully carry out the proposed project.

10. Appendix

Include relevant supporting materials in the appendix, such as letters of support, research studies, organizational collateral, proof of non-profit tax status, annual reports, and manufacturer’s brochures.

Writing a Compelling Grant Proposal

Grant proposals are essential for nonprofit organizations as they provide the necessary funding to support their mission and goals. A well-written grant proposal can make a significant difference in securing the resources needed to implement programs, hire staff, and expand services. These are some of the key considerations you need to make before you begin writing grant proposals for your nonprofit. 

Research and Planning

Before starting to write your grant proposal, it is essential to conduct thorough research and planning. This involves researching potential funders and their priorities, guidelines, and application processes, gathering data and statistics to support your statement of need and project design, engaging your organization’s staff, board, and other stakeholders to get their input and buy-in, and developing a clear and detailed project plan, including timelines, budgets, and evaluation methods. Taking the time to do this groundwork will help ensure that your proposal is well-informed, well-aligned, and well-supported.

Clear and Concise Writing

Writing a clear and concise grant proposal is crucial to effectively communicate your project’s value and impact. This means using simple and straightforward language, avoiding jargon and technical terms, breaking up long paragraphs into shorter, more readable sections, using headings, subheadings, and bullet points to organize your content and make it easy to scan, and proofreading and editing your proposal carefully to ensure it is error-free and polished. A well-written proposal is more likely to engage and persuade grant reviewers.

Tailoring the Proposal to the Funder

To increase your chances of success, it is important to tailor your grant proposal to each specific funder. This involves aligning your project’s goals and objectives with the funder’s priorities and mission, using the funder’s preferred terminology and language, following the funder’s application guidelines and format requirements closely, and customizing your proposal to highlight the aspects of your project that are most relevant to the funder. A tailored proposal demonstrates that you have done your homework and are a good fit for the funder’s interests and values.

Engaging Stakeholders

Engaging a diverse range of stakeholders in the grant writing process can strengthen your proposal and build support for your project. Moreover, engaging stakeholders helps ensure that your proposal is inclusive, responsive, and well-supported. This may involve:

  • Involving your organization’s staff, board, and volunteers in planning and writing the proposal
  • Seeking input and feedback from your target population and community partners
  • Including letters of support or collaboration from key stakeholders in your proposal
  • Demonstrating how your project aligns with the priorities and needs of your community

Review and Revision

Reviewing and revising your grant proposal is an essential step to ensure it is clear, compelling, and competitive. Not to mention, a well-reviewed and well-revised proposal is more likely to stand out and succeed in the competitive grant-seeking process. This involves:

  • Asking colleagues, board members, or other stakeholders to review your proposal and provide feedback
  • Using feedback to revise and strengthen your proposal, clarifying any unclear points and adding missing information
  • Proofreading your proposal multiple times to catch any errors or typos
  • Submitting your proposal well before the deadline to allow time for any last-minute adjustments or corrections

Additional Tips for Successful Grant Proposals

While the strategies and best practices outlined in this guide can help you create a strong and compelling grant proposal, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind as you navigate the grant writing process.

Hire a Grant Writer 

Consider hiring a professional grant writer, especially if you are new to the process or are working on a particularly complex or high-stakes proposal. A skilled grant writer can bring a fresh perspective and expertise to the process, helping you create a more competitive and persuasive proposal. 

If hiring a full-time grant writer is not feasible for your organization, consider working with a freelance grant writer on a project-by-project basis. Freelance grant writers can provide targeted support and guidance without the long-term commitment or cost of a full-time hire. When hiring a freelance grant writer, be sure to look for someone with relevant experience and a track record of success in your field or area of focus.

Use a Grant Management Software

Grant management software helps to streamline and organize every step of the grant process. These platforms can help you keep track of deadlines, requirements, and submissions across multiple funders and grant opportunities. It can also help you collaborate with team members, track progress, and store important documents and data in a centralized location.

Build Relationships with Funders

Building relationships with funders takes time and effort, but it can pay off in terms of increased funding opportunities and ongoing support. Strong relationships with funders can increase your chances of success and lead to long-term partnerships. This may involve: 

  • Researching funders thoroughly and understanding their priorities, interests, and funding patterns 
  • Attending funder events, webinars, and conferences to learn more about their work and meet their staff
  • Reaching out to funders to introduce your organization and explore potential alignment, 
  • Keeping funders informed about your work and impact through regular communication and updates

Understand Grant Guidelines

Understanding and following grant guidelines is crucial to submitting a successful proposal. This means reading the guidelines carefully and making sure you understand all the requirements and criteria, reaching out to the funder if you have any questions or need clarification, following the guidelines closely, including word limits, formatting requirements, and submission instructions, and making sure your proposal aligns with the funder’s priorities and meets all the eligibility criteria. Failing to follow grant guidelines can result in your proposal being disqualified or rejected, so it is important to pay close attention to these details.

Follow Reporting and Compliance Requirements 

Once you receive a grant, it is important to maintain good communication with the funder and comply with all reporting and other requirements. This involves keeping detailed records of how you use the grant funds and tracking your progress towards your goals and objectives, submitting regular progress reports to the funder, highlighting your achievements and any challenges or changes, being transparent and honest in your reporting, and letting the funder know if you encounter any issues or delays, and building a strong relationship with the funder to explore opportunities for future collaboration and support. 


Writing successful nonprofit grant proposals requires careful research, planning, and attention to detail. By understanding the different types of grants available, the key components of a strong proposal, and the best practices for writing and submitting proposals, you can increase your chances of securing the funding your organization needs to achieve its mission and make a positive impact in your community.

By following these tips and best practices, you can write grant proposals that effectively communicate your organization’s value and impact, and secure the resources you need to continue your important work. Remember that grant writing is a skill that can be learned and improved over time, so don’t be discouraged if your first proposals are not successful. Keep refining your approach, seeking feedback and support, and celebrating your successes along the way.

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