How To Write a Grant Proposal: Guide + Templates

Fundraising Practices

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Nonprofit grant proposals can be a daunting task for fundraisers, but it’s a key way to help gain more sustainable funding for your organization. From finding the right grants to writing and applying for them, grant proposals require a lot of research and attention to detail! Even experienced fundraisers can feel overwhelmed, but by following a planned process and some best practices, you can take the stress out of appealing to grant funders. 

What is a grant proposal? 

A grant proposal is a structured document that outlines the need for funding, your nonprofit’s objectives, the proposed project’s scope, and the budget you need to accomplish your project. It serves as your voice when grant funders are reviewing proposals, and it can decide whether you secure the grant or not. 

Nonprofit grant proposals need to tell a moving story about your organization’s mission and vision while adhering to the stringent guidelines set forth by the grant maker. Writing a good grant proposal requires attention to detail, strategic thinking, and a compelling solution to a problem.  

What do you write in a grant proposal? 

Before you start writing your grant proposal, you need to know the key parts to include when writing your proposal.  

  • Cover letter: Your cover letter is the first impression you make on the grant review committee. Include big accomplishments and details that will help persuade the reviewers of the success of your work.  
  • Executive summary: The summary is a snapshot of your proposal. Create a concise but compelling way to capture your mission, the project’s scope, and the budget in a single page. 
  • Statement of need: Dive deep into the problem your nonprofit is trying to solve with grant funding. Use data to make a clear case for why the funder’s support is crucial to the impact you can make. 
  • Project description: Your description details how your organization intends to address the problem identified in your statement of need. Approach this with clear and tangible solutions to the issue at hand. 
  • Organization background: Show your nonprofit’s history, current programs, and any previous successes that demonstrate your capacity to handle the project you’re proposing for the grant. 
  • Budget: Go into detail about how exactly you plan to use the grant funding for your program. 
  • Sustainability plan: The fundraising world is looking more to sustainability to ensure organizations are getting to the root of a problem rather than just applying a short-term bandage. Outline how your program can continue long-term to help the problem at hand.  
  • Overall impact: Bring the grant review committee back to the main goal of your proposal by highlighting the overall impact your project aims to achieve. 

Each component of your grant proposal serves a unique purpose! Use your nonprofit’s voice to help ensure the work you do is highlighted through each part. 

5 best practices for writing a convincing grant proposal 

1. Make sure you have everything you need for your application. 

The guidelines for the grant you’re applying for should have all the information you’ll need to collect to apply for the grant. Two things you should make sure you have before you apply are your mission statement and any required paperwork. Your mission statement should be clear and explain your nonprofit’s purpose to provide a first impression for funders.  

There are a few types of paperwork you may need to meet the grant’s eligibility requirements. Funders may request financial statements or annual reports, as well as other documentation on your nonprofit to be submitted with your proposal. Make sure you can match all the eligibility criteria before preparing your proposal to avoid wasting energy on applications that are ineligible for approval. 

2. Tell a powerful story. 

Grant funders are looking for projects that can create a lasting impact in their communities. To show your organization can create long-term change, use success stories that can be backed with data to show what your nonprofit can do. Emotional pull is an important part of the grant writing process, but numbers help solidify your funding request.  

Craft a story that paints a clear image of your nonprofit’s identity, both visually and narratively. Share both successes and challenges to build a realistic visual of how your organization solves problems.  

3. Research previous winners. 

Before writing, research the grant you’re applying for and who the previous grant awardees are. Understand what the grant funders value to ensure your proposal is aligned with those priorities. Studying winning proposals from the past can provide insight into what works best for a specific funder. Look for common elements across different winners and structure your proposal in a similar fashion without losing your nonprofit’s voice. 

4. Writing clearly and concisely. 

Avoid using overly specific jargon and be as clear as possible. You’re an expert in your field, but the grant funders might not be. Your proposal might make perfect sense to you, but to others, it could take too much time to understand. Your communication needs to come across clearly, convey why your project matters, and how it will address the funder’s priorities. Make a checklist to guarantee you hit every point in your narrative. 

5. Double check your work. 

Proofread your proposal multiple times and have others review it as well. Typos and grammatical errors can detract from the power of your message. It also helps you ensure that your messaging is consistent throughout the proposal and that you’ve met all necessary guidelines.  

man typing up a nonprofit grant proposal on a computer

How to write a grant proposal for nonprofits in 11 basic steps

1. Finding the right grants to apply to 

Look through well-established grant databases, set up Google alerts, check out company foundations, and network with other nonprofits to keep track of available grants that align with your mission and find one that will fit your program needs. 

2. Making a list of guidelines you must match 

Create a checklist of the grant’s guidelines that need to be met in the proposal you submit. This helps you ensure accuracy and thoroughness throughout the writing process and provides an easy resource when double checking your work 

3. Summarizing your work 

In a few sentences, summarize what your nonprofit does and the primary focus of your work and the project you’re submitting for the grant. You can use this summary as a baseline for creating your nonprofit voice for the proposal, as well as use it to make first impressions when networking with potential funders. 

4. Illustrating the problem you solve 

Use real examples and statistics to help you illustrate the problem you’re tackling. You can show the urgency and need for solutions to the problem by providing tangible evidence of the issues occurring within your community.  

5. Specifying goals and objectives 

Your project needs to have specific goals with metrics you can measure to show your success. These goals should be directly related to resolving the problem you’ve identified in your community. Your objectives should also be something you can reasonably accomplish.  

6. Explaining your project plan 

Detail the steps of your project to achieve your objectives. Be specific about who will do what, when, and how to give an overview of the proposed timeline. You should also include how each step will help you move towards your objectives.  

7. Proposing your budget 

The budget is a key component of your grant proposal. Every line item should be justified and directly tied to activities that will help you achieve your goals. Your budget needs to be reasonable and fit within what the grant is able to offer in funding.  

8. Planning your evaluation 

Decide which metrics you’ll use to measure the success of your project. This part of your proposal demonstrates your commitment to accountability and your capacity to manage the grant. Pick a few key ways the funders can evaluate your program.  

9. Ensuring sustainability 

Show how you’ll maintain the project’s success after the funds from the grant are exhausted. Present a realistic, long-term plan for continuation. Your grant proposal doesn’t just fund a project with short-term results–it should initiate a change or growth that’s sustainable without continuous support from the funder. 

10. Revising your proposal 

Never rush the review process! After completing your first draft, provide a copy to a few reviewers to ensure your message gets across. You should also review yourself a few days after finishing up your draft to get a fresh look. You’ll be surprised how a clear head can help provide new insights. 

11. Following Up 

If you haven’t heard back within a reasonable time, it’s okay to follow up with the grant funders. Keep it simple and check if they’ve had a chance to review your proposal. You can also ask the grant review committee to provide feedback on your proposal to help you improve for your next proposal. 

Where to find grant opportunities 

There are a couple places you can look when trying to find grant opportunities. Well-known grant databases, such as or GrantWatch, can be great resources to do a wide search of grants. You can also look at large corporations to check if they provide grants, such as Carnegie Foundation or Bank of America. Local government branches that work within your cause are also great resources for grants. You can also network with your board members or other nonprofits to find grant opportunities that you already have a connection with.  

Here are 10 more places to find grants:

  1. National Endowment for the Arts
  2. GrantFinder
  3. Economic Development Directory
  4. Walmart Foundation
  5. Coca-Cola Foundation
  6. Aldi Cares Community Grants
  7. Grantli
  8. Candid’s Foundation Directory
  9. GrantStation
  10. Home Depot Foundation

Grant proposal templates 

If you’re looking for a place to start, use this grant proposal template: 

Cover letter

Dear [Grantor’s name],

Introduce your organization and thank the grantor for the opportunity to apply. Then, provide a brief overview of your nonprofit, including your mission, goals, and any unique strengths that set your organization apart.

Next, describe the specific project you’re seeking funding for. Explain the problem or need it addresses, the objectives of the project, why your organization is well-suited, and the intended outcomes. Include one or two examples of relevant experience that show your organization’s ability to complete the project.

Thank the grantor for considering your application and provide contact information to answer any questions they may have.


[Your name] [Your title] [Your organization]

Executive summary

Provide a brief summary of your proposal that provides the grantor the most important details of your project. Explain what your organization does, why the project is important, who the project helps, and an overview of your suggested budget in a concise manner. Be sure to include the items listed below.

  • Mission statement
  • Problem statement
  • Objective of the project
  • Intended outcomes
  • Funding request

Statement of need

Provide context about the issue or challenge that your organization is addressing with this project. Describe the problem in depth and highlight its impact on the community using key statistics about the problem. Provide examples of how this project aligns with your nonprofit, as well. Include images and data graphs to provide a visual of the issue.

Project description

Provide an overview of your proposed project, including its objectives, activities, and intended impact. Outline the specific activities and steps needed to achieve the project’s purpose, as well as details about each activity. Let the grantor see your staffing structure and what responsibilities each role will have in the project.

Include a timeline of key deadlines for your project into smaller phases and explain which activities will take place during each phase. The goal of this section is to show a thorough and transparent plan to the grantor. Break this section down into the sections listed below.

  • Activities and action plan
  • Staffing structure
  • Project manager
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Timeline

Organizational background

Use this section to introduce your organization to the grant reviewer and establish credibility. Restate your missions and values, and describe the different services and programs currently offered by your nonprofit to show your experience in similar projects.

Detail any previous achievements your organization had serving the community to provide credibility and a record of success to your proposal. Include any relevant qualifications your nonprofit has in your cause that could help with accomplishing your proposed project.


Provide an explanation and estimation for each expense of your project (materials, marketing, technology, administration, etc.). The grantor will want to know exactly how you plan to use the funds provided by the grant, so be as specific as possible in your budget when showing how your expenses directly contribute to achieving the project objectives.

Link each line item from the proposed budget to your project’s goal to show each expenses’ part in achieving the desired impact. Provide a chart or graph to add a visual representation of the budget.

Sustainability plan

Outline your nonprofit’s strategy for creating long-term sustainability of the proposed project. These plans should include where future funding will come from, what plans you have for long-term staffing of the project, and what ongoing support the program will receive from your organization.

This section is to show the grantor that the project will provide a reliable solution for the problem and not a short-term fix that relies purely on the grant fund.

Overall impact

Provide a detailed overview of the impact the proposed project will have on the community. Describe what the long-term benefits of the project will be on the community and how this impact can be measured by the grantor. Specify objective metrics that the grantor can use to examine the accomplishments of the project and include what metrics would need to be reached to indicate success.

AI prompt ideas 

Consider using AI to generate new ideas for the different sections of your proposal. It can help you add a fresh perspective to your proposal or save you from writer’s block. Here some prompt ideas to help you fuel your writing process: 

  • “Write a one-page executive summary of [insert proposal sections] highlighting [your organization] accomplishments.” 
  • “Create a data table of [public program data] to show the success of [program name].” 
  • “Describe how [project mission] could help solve [community problem].”  
  • “Use [project estimates] to create a budget for [program name].” 
  • “Define the overall impact of [project plan] on [community problem].” 
woman typing up a nonprofit grant proposal on a laptop

Grant proposal do’s and don’ts 

Use these grants do’s and don’ts as a reminder for writing the best grant proposal you can.  

Do prepare well ahead of time 

Grant proposals need to be a well-planned effort, not a last-minute scramble. Planning ahead can help you make a more polished proposal. 

Do communicate a consistent message 

If it doesn’t feel like your proposal matches your mission, you’ll be less likely to receive the grant. Ensure the messaging of your proposal matches your nonprofit’s mission and branding.  

Do show transparency 

Be open about how your nonprofit works and how you use funds. Transparency shows the grant funders that your organization is trustworthy to follow through with your proposal.  

Don’t submit without creating a connection 

Your proposal isn’t just a document–it’s an overall approach to creating financial partnerships for your organization. Don’t submit your proposal without reaching out and connecting with your potential funder. 

Don’t skim the guidelines 

The guidelines provided for each grant are specific to the grant and are required by the funders to get their funding. Missing out on a guideline can mean you lose your chance at the grant. 

Don’t be vague on your impact 

The grant funders want to see results. Making vague claims about what your organization can do without backing it with data can undermine your credibility. 

Final thoughts 

The grant proposal process can be challenging, but the results are well worth the effort. Successfully securing a grant can provide more sustainable financial support needed to accomplish your nonprofit’s next big project and make a meaningful impact in your community. 

Every word in your proposal should lead the review committee back to the main problem your project can solve with the help of the grant. Tell your story and make a compelling case for why your nonprofit deserves funding and how you can change the world. 

Additional resources 

Use these additional resources to help you find and write grant proposals for your organization.  

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