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Grant Proposal: Tips on Planning and Writing

Grant Proposal: Tips on Planning and Writing

If you’re going to write a grant proposal, it means that you’re dealing with valuable research or feel passionate about developing a community resource. Perhaps, you have a clear understanding of how something can be improved so you’re looking for funding to make your vision come true.

While developing your grant proposal, you shouldn’t be afraid to use your imagination. Grant proposal writing is a creative process, so it’s not that different from fiction writing. We recommend that you approach this task with excitement, thinking of how your ideas will become real. Your idea is great, and you can achieve your goal. All you have to do is convince others and make them as excited about your idea as you are. Check out this guide from Paper Due Now to write an outstanding grant proposal.


We are going to provide you with some tips on how to approach your grant proposal and to plan it properly. We recommend that you consider the overall purposes of your grant proposal, the audience, and expectations, to make sure that your information will be applicable in different contexts. Nevertheless, the general approach implies certain limitations. First, you need advice tailored to your particular field of study. Secondly, you should follow certain instructions and your proposal must meet the requirements of the granting agencies.

Talk to mentors, professors, and people who have received grants already. We also recommend that you contact the funding group or agency you’re applying to and find reliable advisors to understand what your grant proposal should look like. Any feedback is valuable.

Before writing the grant proposal itself, we suggest that you:

  • Plan what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it;
  • Think of how your plan will achieve the necessary results;
  • Research the organization to learn more about its mission;
  • Check out sample proposals from your department or organization.

Once you’ve done everything from the list above, write the first draft of your proposal.

Additional Resources About Grant Writing

You can visit a library at your university and learn all you need to know about granting institutions, grant proposal writing, and grants, in general. We also recommend that you visit the official website of your university and search for useful resources.

Purpose, Audience, and Expectations

A grant proposal is a straightforward and clear document intended for a particular funding agency or organization. The main goal is to persuade your audience to provide you with support. To do it, you should demonstrate that you are responsible and have a detailed plan.

When planning your grant proposal and writing your draft, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who is your audience?
    Think of who will read your proposal. What are the goals and mission of this agency? Is your goal aligned with their values? Does your audience know anything about your field? If you answer these questions, you will better understand how to present your plan, what background you should provide, and what vocabulary to use. We also recommend that you select the information that will be most persuasive for this particular audience. In some cases, statistics and numbers may have the strongest effect, and sometimes, it’s better to provide recommendations and testimonials. You should develop your argument depending on the nature of your audience.
  • What are the expectations for your grant?
    Consider all the requirements of the granting organization in detail. Your proposal should meet these requirements. We recommend that you ignore any advice that contradicts these requirements, including suggestions from this website, because some general tips may turn out to be useless in your particular situation.
  • How to establish your credibility?
    You should present yourself as a knowledgeable expert and establish your credibility by demonstrating the strengths of your plan. You should prove the value and importance of your plan, as well as your solid knowledge of your field. Provide references to your previous accomplishments and prove your ability to succeed with this project. We also recommend that you mention any partnerships that you’ve had with the various individuals and organizations.
  • How to present your plan logically and clearly?
    You should organize your proposal in a logical way. Create several sections with clear headings and make sure that the content of every section corresponds to the heading. You should also make sure that your content meets the requirements for grant proposals of the granting agency. Grant proposals are clear and straightforward. It means that you shouldn’t use metaphors or allusions. We suggest that you stick with a clear and simple language so that your readers can understand your message easily. However, you can use vivid imagery or interesting stories if they allow you to illustrate the importance of your proposal and its urgency.

Common Elements of Grant Proposals

Usually, grant proposals have several distinct sections. The titles of the sections depend on specific guidelines of a certain organization. However, they usually serve the same functions. In the list below, we consider some of the common elements of grant proposals and their purposes, along with tips that will help you write these sections successfully. We also recommend that you use the headings defined by the call for proposals and follow the grant’s guidelines.

  • Short Overview (a.k.a. “executive summary” or “abstract”)
    In this section, you should present the most important points of your proposal as briefly as possible. Longer proposals may require you to provide a full page for the overview. However, quite often, this section can be one paragraph long. No matter the length of your proposal, the overview should answer the following questions:

    • What’s the problem you’re going to solve and the goal of your project?
    • What outcomes do you expect from your project and how you’re going to achieve them?
    • How will you evaluate the success of your project?
    • Why is your project important?
    • Who are you?

Some granting organizations may also require you to specify the amount of funding that you need. Build your abstract around the purpose and mission of your project. A good approach is to include the main concepts and terms from the organization’s mission statement. Although your abstract or summary is the first section of your grant proposal, we recommend that you write it last. It will be easier for you to write a short overview when all the other sections are ready.

  • Examination of a Problem or Need (a.k.a. “problem statement,” “statement of need,” “needs assessment,” “statement of problem,” or “literature review”)
    The importance of your project can be explained by a gap in knowledge, resources or opportunity that you’re going to fill. To explain the value of your project, we recommend that you clarify the need you respond to. First, you have to establish the context, or background, of your problem. For example, if this problem is related to a certain population, describe this group of people and include the necessary data. When looking for an academic grant, this section may look like a brief literature review that demonstrates your extensive knowledge of the topic and understanding of the scholarly context, as well as its significance. However, even academic grants require you to explain what impact your project will make and how it will contribute to solving a specific academic problem.
  • Description of the Project (a.k.a. “project goals, methodology, and objectives,” “strategies and tactics,” or “project narrative”)
    Now that you’ve explained the need for your project, describe the project itself. We recommend that you answer the following questions:

    • What are your research questions?
    • What are the goals of your project?
    • What will the outcomes look like? (Make your outcomes specific, achievable, measurable, timely, and realistic).
    • What methods will you use, and how you’re going to achieve your goals?
    • Why do you think that your project will respond to the need or problem productively?
    • What is the estimated timeline for your project?

Some of these questions focus on the impact of your project. The impact is especially important because the funders want to see the real benefits of your project and understand how they can evaluate your achievements.

  • Budget (a.k.a. “resources”)
    When asking for funding or support of any kind, you should clarify what exactly you need and why you need a particular amount. Usually, budgets are presented in the form of figures and tables. Make sure that every amount is properly labeled. Your budget should be followed by a justification statement that explains all the kinds of costs, equipment, and material which are necessary for your project.
  • Other Sections that Might Be Required
    • Cover Letter
      Sometimes, you may need to write a cover letter before your grant proposal. Cover letters allow you to introduce yourself as a seeking individual or organization, establishing your professionalism and describing your project. It’s a good opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm.
    • Organizational Qualifications
      If you represent and non-profit organization, you may need to write a particular section devoted to the mission, nature, and functions of your organization. Quite often, this part is located near the section that examines a problem.
    • Supporting Documents
      You may also need to provide supporting materials at the end of your grant proposal as an appendix. You may include additional endorsements, records, personal bios for your employees, status information, and letters of support from other groups and organizations you’re partnering with. Make sure that all the documentation from this section is directly related to your proposal.

General Tips

Mind the agency’s key interests

If the call for proposals or the funding organization’s mission contains keywords, try to use these terms in your own proposal. However, don’t try to use as many keywords as you can. The main point is to help your audience understand the connection between their purpose and your project.

Use numbered lists to organize ideas

Quite often, people use numbered lists to organize the key ideas within a proposal. You may start such a list with phrases like “This plan involves the following stages…” or “The main goals of this project are…” The use of numbers allows you to present your information efficiently, making your proposal easy to comprehend.

Write customized proposals

Looking for grant funding involves certain competition so you may apply for several grants from different funding agencies. If you choose this approach, make sure that your proposal responds to specific expectations, interests, and guidelines of each agency. We recommend that you never use the same proposal over and over again. In addition, if you’re applying to several sources at the same time, you should think strategically, clearly understanding what kind of support you need from every organization. For example, do your research and determine which source is more likely to cover the cost of personnel, and which will likely support your request for materials.

Don’t reject small grants

Both big grant opportunities and small grant opportunities are important and can be useful. Moreover, if you’ve already found a smaller grant, it might increase your chances to get a larger grant. If a couple of stakeholders have already supported your project, it will increase your credibility.

Never give up and write more

Writing a grant proposal is difficult because you need to carefully analyze your vision and approach your solution critically, responding to a certain problem or gap. Even experienced grant writers often face rejections. Nevertheless, if you keep writing, you’ll be able to justify your objectives and to determine the most productive methods. The more you write about your project, the better you understand what the grant committee is looking for. In addition, even if you’ve already received a grant, it doesn’t mean that the writing should stop. There are many grants that require you to provide updates and reports on a regular basis, so you should be ready for it.

Successful Sample Grant Proposals

The most effective way to learn how to write grant proposals is to check out good samples. We decided to provide you with an example of a successful proposal and we encourage you to analyze it so that you know what to focus on and what makes a strong proposal. You can also look for more samples on the internet, understanding what are the most persuasive and effective writing techniques.


Application for HEX Fellowship (2018-2019)



Student ID Number


Email address

Madison Address, Zip


English Department

Intended Degree


Year in Program (bold one)

MA student|PhD student|


Anticipated Graduation Date

Spring 2019

Proposed Title of Your HEX Project

This Is My Home: Housing Issues in Madison

Community Partner (if known)

Tenant Resource Center


Project Goals (300 Words):

The population of Madison represents only 48% of the overall county’s population while including 73% of the county’s low-income households, which means a tremendous need for affordable housing. There are thousands of families whose housing is being put at risk. What resources do they have? My proposed project, “This Is My Home: Housing Issues in Madison,” will partner with the Tenant Resource Center to serve as a platform for people whose lives are affected by the current situation with housing in Madison, creating a series of podcasts and aiming for the development of new ways of communicating tenant rights.

Next year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Go Big Read will host several events dedicated to Matthew Desmond’s Evicted. Given the issue of housing justice, I consider my project a connection between the Madison community and the University. My project will provide information on Madison housing regulation, rights, and development in the form of interviews with activists, legislators, and community members, which focus on low-income neighborhoods. Five podcast segments will address issues highlighted in Evicted in the context of individual experiences and Madison politics. The series of podcast segments will be hosted on a web page that will also include a forum and informational resources. The TRC described this project as “exciting,” because it allows for speaking to a wider audience. My main goal is to help people who face systematic inequalities of the housing system and to let them share their experiences so that the community can better understand the problem. The idea of this project is to ensure a better understanding of other people’s experiences while also informing the audience about how policies are enforced.

Target Audience (300 Words):

This project aims to engage different types of audience. I’ve conducted interviews with people whose lives have been affected by housing policy, focusing on such issues as accessibility and affordability. I hope that their voice will help to illustrate the issues these people are dealing with and the circumstances that prevent them from accessing affordable housing.

Every episode of the podcast will focus on one family or person whose story will be complemented by other interviews from people who have the same experience or knowledge of this subject. These interviews will illustrate Madison’s housing history in the broader context. The series of podcasts will also include interviews with TRC staff members who understand the regulatory and legal issues associated with tenants rights. One of the goals of this project is to highlight the administrative structure and to encourage collaboration among different levels of administration. This project will also help the TRC communicate with tenants who otherwise wouldn’t call the Center for counseling.

As a volunteer, I can access the communities. The cases handled by TRC staff will serve as the basis for interviews with people who are at risk. Fieldwork research and my collaboration with Professor Revel Brown have allowed me to summarize the available information on Madison housing and key figures in governmental and non-profit sectors.

Methodology (300-400 Words):

Conducting the necessary number of interviews will require a lot of time and effort. However, I have already established good relationships with researchers and community members. Given the fact that I’m already working at the TRC, it will be easier for me to gain the trust of people who need housing assistance to interview them. I am aware of the risks associated with interviewing people who speak out against the abuse of power and my goal is to establish trust by demonstrating respect for the privacy and a commitment to community-based work.

I’m going to spend 3 hours a week as a housing counselor, improving my understanding of housing law and the mission of the TRC. In addition, I will spend 2 to 4 hours a week conducting interviews and working with the raw material. The interviews will be conducted at the Center or another community location, as well as over the phone. I have the necessary experience in video and sound editing, which allows me to produce a high-quality piece. At the same time, this is a time-consuming process so I anticipate that the editing process will take a few weeks.

I’ve contacted Madison 365 — a website that mostly focuses on Madison’s communities of color to make sure that they will include my short segments in their own podcast. In addition, every episode I produce will be available on a website provided by UW and distributed with the help of the Go Big Read project, along with the TRC website and local media. Longer segments are intended for nationally distributed podcasts.

I’m going to evaluate the success of the project depending on its reach, analyzing the traffic on websites. However, I think that the success of the project is determined not only by the number of people who hear the podcast. While working at the TRC, I realized that people not only want to be informed about their rights but also to be heard. Understanding that there is someone who wants to listen to them will help these people fight the feeling of helplessness. Providing a platform for these people is one of the most important goals of my project. I hope that it will improve communication between people with the same experiences who faced similar issues and who are looking for structural changes. To better understand the investment of participants and their access to the podcast, I will provide a brief questionnaire.


I am looking for a two-semester grant. As I already have communication with community partners established, I am going to prepare the project this summer and to start it this fall, to coordinate with the Go Big Read. I believe the distributing their production over the course of two semesters will help improve the quality and depth of the project, while also improving our understanding of Madison’s housing system.

Summer: Coordinate with Revel Brown’s urban planning class to establish a network of potential interviewees and to collect the necessary information on Madison housing regulation. Conduct research.

Examine recent methodologies.

Brainstorm on themes for segments.

Coordinate with the TRC.

Early Fall: Conduct interviews.

Mid-October: First podcast segment.

Early December: Second podcast segment; distribute questionnaires.

Early Spring: Conduct interviews.

Late February: Third podcast segment.

Early April: Fourth podcast segment; distribute questionnaires.

Mid-May: Final longer segment.

Community Connections (150 Words):

As a graduate student, I have gained knowledge of the conditions of racial disparities, poverty, and systematic inequalities common among the communities that surround the university. I volunteered as a counselor for Community Justice, Inc., a law firm in Madison. I have experience in working with individuals that need legal assistance for civil and criminal issues. At that time, I became interested in housing problems in Madison, and this experience pushed me to volunteer at the TRC to focus on the housing issues. I have established good relationships with the executive director and the campus programming coordinator. I am familiar with the networks of government agencies and non-profit organizations assisting low-income families and individuals, which allows me to analyze Madison’s housing structure.

I also worked as an instructor at the Oakhill Humanities for three years, which helped me better understand the specifics of public humanities programming.

Academic Research (300 Words):

My main research interests lie in queer theory and LGBTQ cultural history. My dissertation investigates how socially vulnerable populations build their identities, relations, and affiliations. I consider this project an opportunity to explain different configurations of supportive alliances while using my previous research to illustrate structural inequality. My minor coursework focuses on the language of disciplinarity and its impact on academic research. I hope that this grant will help me illustrate common problems, using the first-person narrative to explain issues surrounding housing crisis in Madison.

Analyzing previous HEX projects, I paid particular attention to Rebecca Summer and Garrett Nelson’s “Goodman to Garver: Stories of Place on Madison’s East Side.” Their work focuses on a particular neighborhood, which inspired me to narrow my scope. I will also take into account their work to interpret Madison’s housing crisis.

This project has been heavily influenced by ProPublica’s model of journalism, and Nikole Hannah-Jones’ coverage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, in particular.

Analyzing the relationship between public activism and humanities research, I have been interested in Housing Works, a non-profit from New York City. Their center includes studio space and bookstore. This is not only a business model but also an attempt to make sure that the target audience, including people who suffer from HIV/AIDS, have the necessary resources and can access a community space, sharing their experiences related to housing problems. I hope that my project will be a starting point for an online community space that represents vulnerable communities of Madison.

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