When your organization has obtained its 501c3 status and is beginning to search for grant opportunities, the entire application process can be very overwhelming. For a lot of nonprofit founders, this is the first time that they have ever had to fill out these types of forms and documentation. Every funder has its own specific application process and preparing ahead of time will ensure that your organization has the best chance for success. If you think ahead and are aware of the type of information that is required to be included in the majority of grant applications, you will be ready to submit your applications and seek out grant opportunities.
Every grant application will request an introduction section as the first component of the application. This is the opportunity to introduce your organization, your mission, and the objectives that you are trying to accomplish. This is also an important time to highlight the accomplishments that you achieved in the previous year. Grant funders want to support organizations that have been successful in the past, so it is very important to highlight how you have served your community and what you have been able to accomplish due to your fiscal responsibility.
If your organization is also expanding its programs in the upcoming year, you will want to mention this in the introduction section. For example, if your church is expanding to begin offering a day care program in the future, you will want to briefly describe these changes and your upcoming goals. The introduction section is also a time to describe your founder’s background, their related experience and inspiration for forming the organization.
A Need Statement
Most proposals will require a need statement. This is the time to talk about why your organization is needed within your community. This can often be the most time consuming element of the proposal because you will need to include research and statistics from reputable sources that support the needs for your organization’s existence. The more specific that you can be about the need in your community, the stronger impact the need section will have.
For example, if you are providing a shelter for local homeless individuals, you will want to talk about the number of homeless individuals in your community, poverty rates within your community, and the cost of living for the town that you are serving. Be sure to site all sources and materials that you use in this section.
The objectives section of the proposal is designed for your organization to list its specific goals for the next few years. This is a chance for your organization to detail how the community support that you receive will allow your organization to grow and expand. For example, if you are offering afterschool tutoring, you can detail how many instructors your organization is seeking to hire with the funding that you obtain, how many children you want to enroll in the academic program, and your goal for increasing your students’ test results and grades. The more specific you can be in this section, the more attractive to the funders. This will allow the funder to believe that you have an action plan for your activities and measurable goals.
The Methodology Section
The methodology section is the time to detail how your organization will operate its programs. You will walk the funder through your programs by explaining the who, what, when, where and how for the programs that you are seeking funding for. In this section, it is best to only go into great detail about the programs that you are seeking funding for. The funders will want to know exactly what the money that you receive will be spent on.
If you are going to be purchasing a facility, hire staff, or acquire equipment, you will need to describe these items and goals in this section. Often the objectives section is where you will state concise, one sentence goals for the organization. The methodology section is where you will flesh it out in detail. You can also use the methodology section to briefly describe any other programs that you offer, but are not seeking funding for. This will allow the funder to get a full picture of all the programs that you are offering, even if you are not currently seeking funding for all the services that you provide.
The Evaluation Section
The evaluation section is a very important component of the proposal for the majority of funders. This section will detail how your organization will ensure that you are reaching your goals. In addition, you will want to state how you are evaluating the progress and satisfaction of the individuals participating in your programs.
If you are offering after school tutoring, how will you evaluate your students’ scholastic growth? How will you assess if the parents and students are happy with the tutors and programs? How often does you organization hold board meetings? How do you distribute the information provided from your evaluations? All of this information will allow the potential funder to see that you have created an action plan for success and that the support that they provide will go far within the community.
The Sustainability Section
The sustainability section is the time for your organization to detail your fundraising plan. Funders want to donate to organizations that will still be around years from now and are not fully dependent upon one funder. If you have received donations from any notable donors, this would be the time to highlight them.
If you charge program fees or have other sources of income outside of donations, this is the time to mention them. It is very important that your organization is not fully dependent upon only one source of income and the sustainability section is the time to highlight all income sources.
Lastly, you will want to include an appendix section. In this area, you will want to include a copy of your IRS determination letters and previously filed 990s with the IRS. You will also include any letters of recommendation, a budget for the upcoming year, and promotional materials.