How to Present Your Nonprofit’s Project Idea in a Grant Proposal
The project idea section of your nonprofit’s grant application answers the question Who will do what to whom over what period of time? If you’re writing your proposal for a research project, generally this section is called procedures. For most other types of projects, it’s called methods or methodology.
Although this section contains the idea that inspired the organization to seek funding, sometimes the writing is dull. The content is similar to writing a list of instructions, and writers often get wrapped up in describing each step in minute detail.
To avoid the dullness trap, think about constructing an argument from beginning to end. A good methods section opens with an overview of the approach and then leads the reader through key phases in the project’s development. It includes enough detail so that the reader can imagine the project clearly but not so much that she sinks into the daily grind.
Other techniques to preserve vitality include the use of timelines, charts, or graphs to break up and complement the descriptive text.
Most projects require a few months of preparation before they can be launched. Factor in time for hiring and training staff, purchasing and installing equipment, identifying research subjects, and performing other necessary preliminary steps.
Because this section contains all the project details, you may accidentally leave out or forget important information. Here are two topics that often are overlooked:
Hiring: If you need to hire new staff to do the project work, be sure to discuss the hiring process, job descriptions, and qualifications.
Marketing: Just because you create something great doesn’t mean that anyone will show up to take advantage of it. Your proposal must explain how an organization plans to spread the word about this new project and entice the target population into becoming involved.
The proposal must do more than explain what the organization will do. It also must explain why the organization is taking that approach — the rationale.
The reason may be that nobody has ever done it this way before. The reason may be that the organization has tested the approach and knows that it works. The reason may be that another organization in another part of the country has tested the approach and the project proposes to try it in a new setting.
Some funding sources ask you to fill out a table with columns in which you describe your goals, the inputs (resources you’ll put into the project) short-term objectives, long-term outcomes, activities, and intended results. These tables go by several names. Often they’re called logic models. Sometimes foundations identify them as theories of change or proofs of concept.
In an effort to raise as much money as possible to secure a grant, an organization may change its programs to match a particular foundation’s interests. The organization’s board and management should carefully assess new project ideas to make sure they address the organization’s mission. Otherwise, the nonprofit may drift away from addressing the needs of the constituents it was formed to serve or from sustaining previously developed, high-quality programs.