How to Present Your Nonprofit’s Project Idea in a Grant Proposal - dummies

How to Present Your Nonprofit’s Project Idea in a Grant Proposal

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

It’s time to explain your nonprofit project idea. 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 charts or graphs to break up and complement the descriptive text.

Many 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, or performing other necessary preliminary steps.

Because this section contains all the project details, you may accidentally leave out or forget important information. These two topics are often 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 your organization plans to spread the word about this new project and entice the target population into becoming involved.

The proposal must explain what the organization will do and 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 through a pilot program and knows that it works. The reason may be that another organization in another part of the country has tested this method.

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.

In an effort to raise as much money as possible, you may be tempted to change your programs to match a particular foundation’s interests. Your board and management should carefully assess new project ideas to make sure they fit the organization’s mission. Otherwise, the nonprofit may drift away from addressing its purpose.