Grant Writing Classes by Anne Holt


Make money for your non-profit
with Grant Writing Classes
by Dr. Anne Holt

Anne Holt offers a three-hour grant writing seminar based on her book.

Grant Writing Step by Step A straightforward guidebook for getting the money you need.


By Anne Haw Holt, Ph.D.

Successful grant-writing involves careful advance planning and preparation. It takes time to coordinate your event planning and research, organize and write your proposal, collect letters of support and other information and submit your proposal to the funder.

Planning and research is vital to the grant-writing process. Your well-thought-out preliminary work will simplify the writing stage. A well-written proposal follows the basic steps outlined below. Once you write one complete proposal, you can modify it as needed to approach other funders.

Make sure the grantmaker’s goals and objectives match your grantseeking purposes. Clearly understand the grantmaker’s guidelines before you write your proposal. Always follow the exact specifications of the grantmakers in their applications and guidelines.

Organize your proposal, pay attention to detail and specifications, use concise, persuasive wording, and request reasonable but adequate funding.

 Use these basic steps to guide you:

  1. Prove, through careful research, that you have a significant need or problem.
  2. Deliver a solution to the problem you have outlined, based on your experience, ability, logic, and imagination.
  3. Reflect careful planning, extensive research and vision.
  4. Carefully research all targeted grantmakers. Study their funding purposes and priorities and applicant eligibility to determine that their goals and objectives match yours. Request a copy of a successful grant if possible.
  5. Do not limit your funding request to one source.
  6. In many cases you can contact the grantmaker, before you write your proposal to be sure you clearly understand their guidelines.
  7. Present your proposal in the appropriate and complete format, and include all required attachments.
  8. State clearly and concisely your organization’s needs and objectives. Have someone edit your writing for accuracy, clarity, spelling and grammar.
  9. Always cover the following important criteria: applicant accountability and staff competence. If needed, hire a consultant with required credentials.
  10. Always follow the exact specifications of the grantmakers in their applications, requests for proposals (RFPs) and guidelines.
  11. If you are not awarded a grant, contact the funder and request feedback about your proposal’s strengths and weaknesses


Preliminary Proposal

 Many grantmakers accept grant applications by invitation only, and require potential grant recipients to submit preliminary proposals in the form of inquiry letters in order to be invited to submit a full proposal.

Inquiry letters are designed to convince the grantmaker to consider your request. They provide you the opportunity to give the grantmaker a snapshot of your proposed project/program.

Be sure to establish in writing a connection between your proposal’s goals and the grantmaker’s priorities. Focus on detail, clarity, and conciseness, while conveying the full impact your proposal will make on the need or problem you address.

Find the name of a person to address your inquiry letter to even if you must call the funder’s office and ask. Type your letter on your organization’s stationary.




In some form, funders want the following information. Keep it as concise as possible—no more than two pages.


  1. The mission of your organization and basic info such as EIN and Duns number.
  1. The purpose of your request
  1. How your request fits the grantmaker’s funding priorities
  1. Your organization’s total annual operating budget
  1. Your organization’s fiscal Year
  1. Total proposed project/program budget (if other than general support)
  1. Grant amount being requested for your project
  1. Matching funds committed from other funding sources or on hand if needed.
  1. Proposed grant project/program time line
  1. Your organization’s tax exempt status
  1. A concise narrative or a synopsis of the proposed project/program, that covers the purpose of the request, the problem or need being addressed, and how you will approach solving the identified problem or need. State the population or community served by your organization and how your project or program will promote long-term change.


Full Proposal

 There are different forms and formats for full funding proposals. Every funder has different guidelines and priorities, deadlines and timetables.


Always follow the exact specifications of the grantmakers in their grant applications, Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and guidelines.


Full proposals include a cover letter, cover sheet, narrative, budget, organizational and staff qualifications, conclusion and appendices, as follows:


Cover Sheet – a case statement and executive summary


Needs Assessment – a concise demonstration of the specific situation, opportunity, problem, issue, need, and the community your proposal addresses.


Your program goals and objectives – a succinct description of the proposed project/program’s outcome and accomplishments in measurable terms, and how it matches the funder’s interests.


Your methodology – a rational, direct, chronological description of the proposed project and the process used to achieve your proposed outcomes and accomplishments.


Evaluation – your plan for meeting performance goals and completing the program/project. Who will design collection instruments and collect data? Will you need a consultant?


Budget/Funding Requirements – a realistic budget with a detailed explanation of the funding request, committed matching funds, evidence of sound fiscal management, and long term funding plan.


Qualifications – your organization’s background, its funding history, board involvement and its capacity to carry out your proposal. Program staff and their qualifications.


Media Exposure – How do you plan to use the media—newspaper, TV, Radio, brochures or Internet to get the word out about your project and attract more partners and participants.


Conclusion – a brief summary of your proposal.


Appendices – additional attachments required by the funder, such as proof of tax exempt status, organizational and financial documents, staff/board lists, staff resumes, support/commitment letters.


Finally – present your full proposal neatly, professionally, and in an organized package. Type all proposals. Write, organize and present your proposal in the order listed in the application and guidelines. Only include the information and materials specifically requested by the grantmaker. Unless required, do not include an index or table of contents, or bind the proposal. Be sure to sign it in blue ink and submit the number of copies requested by the grantmaker EXACTLY AS REQUESTED.




            Follow guidelines EXACTLY. If you use a different format for financial reporting, convert your figures to the funders’ format.


If you have questions as to the funder’s definition of “in kind” and/or “matching funds” check the guidelines or telephone them and seek clarification. Do not immediately assume you cannot provide match. The funder may accept volunteer hours.


Do not “pad” your budget in case of unforeseen expenses. Seek bids for equipment, supplies, etc. Ask your vendors to fax or mail bids to you and retain them in case your funder questions a figure. Be careful to request funding for everything you will need to accomplish your goals. It is as bad to ask for too little money as it is to ask for an unreasonably large amount.

Note that most funders either state no “overhead” may be charged or specify a figure you may include in your budget. If yours does not, unless you are a government agency with an agreed upon figure, eight to ten (8 –10) percent is generally accepted.




  1. S. Government