How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal – Training by the Foundation Center

On Thursday, August 11th, GlobalGiving hosted a training, “How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal,” in collaboration with the Foundation Center. Listen to the recording. View the slides.


Questions to ask yourself before approaching a foundation:

  • Do you have enough time?(6-9 months for U.S. registered organizations. 12-18 months for organizations based outside the U.S.) This is a very lengthy process involving research, the writing process, and further back and forth while the foundation is considering your proposal. Foundations also require a significant amount of deliberation time to select grantees.
  • What kind of support do you need? (General Operating Support or Program Development) Listen to the recording to learn about the difference between the two and how to apply for each.
  • Are you a credible non-profit?


It is important to remember that, like you, foundations and grantmakers have their own goals and objectives. They are looking for organizations that match their field of interest.

In order to determine if you are good match, take the time to find out what the foundation is interested in supporting, where they want to work, and the type of support they provide. The grantmaker’s 990—the tax forms that all U.S. registered organizations must file with the government—provides useful information about what organizations the funder has supported in the past. Take the time to see if they have supported organizations and projects like yours in the previous years. Guidestar is a great resource for finding 990s of other organizations.

It is not a valuable use of your time to apply to grantmakers that have not expressed interest in funding your type of work.

Proposal Contents (usually 8-10 pages)

Make sure to follow the grantmaker’s guidelines when writing and packaging a proposal! Some funders will request a Letter of Inquiry before a complete proposal. The Letter of Inquiry should be a longer version of your Executive Summary from your complete proposal. Make sure to address it to the funder in the same way you would address a business letter.

  • Title page and table of contents
  • Executive summary (1 page) The Executive Summary should be the last thing you write. It should include a condensed summary of the entire proposal. Make it good! This is the funder’s introduction to you and your proposal. Make sure it is persuasive.
  • Statement of need (2 pages): The urgency or important of your particular project. What is the problem you are addressing? Who will you be helping? Provide supporting facts and statistics that focus on your particular geographic region in which you are working.
  • Project description (3 pages)
    • Goals—long-term aspiration
    • Objectives—specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound
    • Methods (including staffing, collaboration, and replicability) This section should demonstrate that this project is well thought out and feasible. You may want to include a detailed timeline and a step-by-step outline of the process through which you will across your short-term objectives and long-term goals.
    • Evaluation—demonstrate ways that you will measure your outcomes to determine if you have achieved your objectives and goals.
  • Organization information (1 page)
    • Mission and history—Do you have a track record for success? What experience do you bring to the table?
    • Programs
    • Board and staff
  • Conclusion (2 paragraphs) This section is your final appeal. You will tell the specific funder why they should consider this specific project. You should also include what you will accomplish, why it’s important, and who will benefit.
  • Budget Make sure that your budget mirrors your proposal. Every budgetary item should be justifiable according to the proposal.
  • Appendices and supporting materials

Additional Resources:

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