Few proposal writing resources are geared specifically to individual grantseekers. Foundations that give to individuals have highly specific criteria, and this makes it hard to create a comprehensive "how-to" guide.
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Successful grant proposals:
- Deliver an important idea and address a significant issue.
- Show that the applicant has chosen an innovative approach to that issue.
- Describe reasonable objectives and a detailed plan to achieve them.
- Assure the funder that the applicant is capable of success.
- Explain how the project will advance the funder’s mission.
In general, proposals from individuals do not exceed five single-spaced pages, in addition to the cover letter and the budget. Below is a typical breakdown:
|Cover Letter: Written specifically to the appropriate contact person at the foundation.||1 page|
|Abstract (also known as executive summary): Describes concisely the information that will follow.||250 words or fewer|
|Introduction: Helps to establish your credibility as a grant applicant.||1 sentence to 2 paragraphs|
|Statement of Need: Describes a problem and explains why you require a grant to address the issue.||1 page|
|Objectives: Refine your idea and tell exactly what you expect to accomplish in response to the need.||1 page|
|Methods: What you will do to accomplish your objectives within a stated time frame.||1 page|
|Evaluation: Measures your results and effectiveness. This should correspond to your objectives.||1 page|
|Future Funding: Details feasible plans to sustain your project. This applies only if the project will run indefinitely.||1 paragraph|
|Budget: Itemized list of income and expenses that shows precisely how much money you will need and how you will spend it to accomplish your objectives.||1 page|
Remember one important rule of thumb: "If you don't qualify, don't apply." Approach only foundations that have demonstrated interest in your field and geographic area. This will increase the likelihood that a funder will consider your proposal. Foundation Grants to Individuals, our searchable database of grantmakers to individuals, can help you identify potential funders. It is available online and in print.
Ultimately, your proposal should be a compelling presentation of your project and your ability to achieve results. Your proposal should suggest that you are a potential partner in furthering the funder's mission, not just a person asking for money.
To learn more about how to prepare each section listed above, and how to write proposals in general, please see our Proposal Writing resources. Although they are written for nonprofit organizations, much of the content can be applied to individual grantseekers:
Introduction to Proposal Writing, available free as an online webinar or in-person class.
Sample grant proposals for individual projects are hard to find. Applicants want to guard their ideas, and a proposal is very specific to the project and donor.
Proposals from nonprofit organizations might also help, in terms of how to write the sections required from both individual and nonprofit grantseekers, like the statement of need.
For samples of nonprofit proposals, please see our article How do I write a grant proposal? Where can I find samples? Also, some resources below link to sample proposals from individual grantseekers.
See also our webpage for Individual Grantseekers for further resources.
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