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How to Write a Grant Proposal: Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re an established business, a new small startup, or a non-profit organization, you’ve probably considered applying for grants before if you haven’t already been awarded one or more. Grants can be a great source of funding for all kinds of organizations, but the process for actually qualifying for and receiving one can be a doozy. With the help of RFP response software, though, you’re able to work more quickly and in a more compliant fashion.

If you’ve determined that applying for funding through a grant is the right move for you, follow these steps to make your proposal process easier.

Gather your sources

No writing of value can begin until you’re sure that you’re past the preparation stage, so gather your folders (ideally digital) full of source documents, data, and contact information and keep a compliance checklist nearby. Depending on what kind of writer you are, this stage could be simple, or it could involve quite a bit of documentation and time. The important thing is that you know what’s ahead of you and how much time you have to complete your tasks.  

If you’re working alone and on a quick deadline, you may not have much choice in terms of workflow. But if you have a team working with you, now would be the perfect time to delegate tasks across your team. With the help of our software, this is where the compliance matrix comes in handy; all team members will know exactly what tasks are assigned to them and be able to freely communicate about the project in a centralized hub. 

Also, Read – How to Write an Executive Summary for Your Business Proposal

Organize your requirements

Depending on the grant for which you are applying and the requirements listed in the RFP, the main sections of your proposal could vary. Don’t rely on previous proposals or similar documents for an outline; as time-consuming as it is, you must refer to your specific RFP to confirm the requirements. Using automated software like our RFP shredder will cut your search time in half, and that will help you jumpstart the writing process by having your requirements confirmed. 

To familiarize you with general requirements, though, consider the following document elements as general rules of thumb for a grant proposal:


AKA, the executive summary, abstract, introduction, etc. This one is pretty straightforward: it’s your project and reason for applying at a bird’s eye view. It may seem insignificant since it lacks the kind of detail the rest of the proposal will have, but in terms of setting the tone for your document and making a good first impression (granted that your proposal has already been deemed compliant and makes it to a real evaluation), the summary is extremely valuable. 


AKA the problem statement, statement of need, needs assessment, etc. Like the summary, this should be self-explanatory: you want to plainly portray the purpose of the document you’re creating and submitting. Tell the reader why your organization has a need for a grant, and think about how you can stand out from the crowd. Simply needing funding isn’t a very inspired reason, but this is where the next section comes into play.


AKA project narrative, goals and objectives, etc. The basic need for funding may not be a motivating reason to receive it, but the plan for the funding can be. This is where you’ll explain what your organization will actually do with the funding if they receive it. What’s the trajectory of the project? How will the funds be used for good? 


AKA resources: there aren’t many more names for talking about funds, which should be clear to everyone. This is the section that will make it clear exactly how much funding your organization needs for its project, and what that funding will cover.

Additional docs

AKA Cover letters, resumes, letters of support, additional data, etc. Since your document will be compliant and you’ve already planned to become an expert on the RFP, you know that any additional supporting documents will entirely depend on your specific requirements. We can’t tell you precisely what supporting documents you will need, but be prepared to provide anything in the realm of personnel (cover letters and resumes, letters of support and recommendation, staff evaluations), project-related data, and past application/award information. 

Know your audience

It’s no secret that having not just a working knowledge but an expert understanding of your grantee can give you a leg-up on the competition. Study your grantee and determine how you want to appeal to them. Will they respond best to hard data? Do they have a soft spot (or proven track record) for granting awards to certain kinds of projects or to proposals that cover a specific narrative? Get a sense of the kind of objective and subjective qualities they’re looking for in the winning organization.

Learn the lingo

Similarly, knowing your audience will better enable you to mirror the kind of language and jargon they use. Referring back to your RFP will help with this, but even analyzing website copy can help you create a word bank of preferred language – think of it as a specific one-time style guide.

Step back

If you have the luxury to take time away from your work, do it; your ability to objectively assess what you’ve made will be much better. After your mini-vacation from your document, try to be as objective as possible as you look at your work. Of course, other people should evaluate the document as well, but you want to present a clean, readable copy to whoever is seeing your work next. Using automation here, again, can only help you scan for compliance and be on your way to a successfully finished document.  

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