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.
If you don't qualify, don't apply
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 Online, our searchable database of grantmakers to individuals, can help you identify potential funders. It is available by subscription or for free at our 400+ Funding Information Network locations.
Parts of a grant proposal
Your proposal should be a compelling presentation of your project, which includes reasonable objectives, a plan to achieve them, and your ability to carry out the plan. Your proposal should suggest that you are a potential partner in furthering the funder's mission, not just a person asking for money.
Proposals from individuals usually 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.
To learn more about how to prepare each section listed above, and how to write proposals in general, check out the following 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.
- Proposal Writing: Browse trainings, articles, videos, podcasts, and more on this topic.
See also "Document Checklist for Grant Proposals", a 3-part blog post series that covers the many types of documents often needed during this process.
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.
Sample proposals from nonprofit organizations might help, in terms of how to write the sections required from both individual and nonprofit grantseekers, like the statement of need. Also, some resources below link to sample proposals from individual grantseekers.