Tips for Writing an Effective Grant Proposal

Not everyone is a professional grant writer.  However, you can still write an effective proposal to IPCF by following these tips:

Top Tips

  • Read the criteria on the program page first! Make sure your organization and program are eligible to apply. If in doubt, contact us.
  • Clearly identify the community need or problem your program will address. All other questions in the application flow from this element.
  • When identifying the main goal of the program, do not use a vague phrase such as, “to help people in the community.” While a goal is broad in scope and difficult to quantify or measure, it should be concrete enough to answer the question, “What would we like to see happen to alleviate the need or problem we identified?” You may have many goals; list the one you feel is most important.
  • Do not confuse the terms “goals,” “objectives,” and “activities.”
    – Goals are defined in the bullet point above.
    – Objectives are targets that will move you toward the stated goal. They are characterized by the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).
    – Activities are the strategies by which you plan to accomplish your objectives. You will likely have both planning and direct service activities. Planning activities are most often behind-the-scenes activities carried out by staff and volunteers that lay the groundwork for achieving the objective. Direct service activities are those that involve program participants.
  • Describe the measurement tools you will use to determine whether or not each objective has been met. For instance, if one of your objectives is “90% of the children will improve their knowledge of nutrition fundamentals by the end of the six-month school garden program,” explain how you will determine if this, in fact, occurred. Was it through a pre- and post-test? Was it through direct conversations with the students?
  • Write clearly, concisely and professionally (don’t use acronyms or other jargon without first providing an explanation of its meaning).
  • Paint a picture for the reader: Where will the program be held? How many people will be participating? Will they meet in one large group or several smaller ones? By providing these types of details, readers have more confidence that you have thoroughly planned the program.
  • Every component of a proposal is interconnected; check that there are no inconsistencies.
  • Submit a realistic budget; do not pare it down nor inflate it because you think it looks better; include only those items that are listed in the criteria as being allowed. Do not provide a budget for your entire organization, only for the program for which you are applying.
  • Include information on how you plan to sustain the program after the grant period. IPCF should not be considered an annual source of income for your program.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread! Careless errors make readers wonder about other quality control issues.
  • Ask someone not familiar with your program to read the proposal to see if it is clear.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application! Smarter Select’s application portal closes at the time listed. If your clock is slow, you will be shut out.

Top Reasons Proposals Are Not Funded

The reality is that there is never enough money to fund every proposal. Sometimes well-written proposals are not funded simply because there were others that were more compelling in terms of potential impact on the community. But here are some factors that work against receiving funding:

  • Program does not address the grant focus or fit the listed criteria.
  • A community need or problem is not adequately identified.
  • Objectives do not flow from the stated goal of the program.
  • Activities do not seem connected to achieving objectives.
  • Tools and methods to measure the success of objectives are inadequate or unrealistic.
  • Program is not well thought out. Portions are inconsistent with one another.
  • Staff qualifications do not seem to match the requirements of the program.
  • Proposal is too ambitious or is not ambitious enough for the amount of money requested.
  • Budget is vague, inconsistent or unrealistic.
  • Budget includes items not directly related to the program.
  • Applicant has good ideas, but the proposal is poorly written. If you know your writing skills are not strong, find someone on your staff or board to help!