TIPS for Writing Grant Requests


Dale Tucker, KY State Program Specialist

Corporation for National & Community Service


1. Background Information

   A. Have a Mission Statement that captures who you are and what you do in a few short,

        well-crafted sentences.

   B. Establish the Need for Your Program


    Why is the issue important?  Do you have demographics from the latest census, or   

studies that reveal that what you propose has been shown to make a difference, or a 

statement from an authority to support your program and its mission/proposal.  Is there some tie to a regional or national problem?  Can your program show an innovative, timely, unique approach to solving the problem?

Good sources for data include:

  Kentucky Data Center

  Kentucky Youth Advocates  --has Kids Count Data Book

  US Census

  Your Area Development District

  US Department of Labor

  US Department of Health & Human Services

  US Chamber of Commerce

  Habitat for Humanity

  Your local library or university library—those librarians are very helpful!


    C. Develop the program plan which reflects the agency’s mission statement and the 

        needs you have identified.   






Inputs—Specific people/things you utilize

Assets you bring to bear




Action Steps to reach Objectives



Intermediate Outcomes

Milestones/Check Points & Adjustment

End Outcomes







       The General Model which may still be used by the foundation or will be understood by the company whose help you are seeking.


  1. Purpose/Mission statement
  2. Goals—General
  3. Objectives—specific and measurable
  4. Action Steps—how you plan to meet the objectives
  5. Check points/Milestones which will allow you to stop and evaluate progress and make mid course corrections
  6. Be sure to describe the population to be served


     D. A Plan of Evaluation

     1. Who will be doing the evaluation and how chosen?

     2. What is the criteria for success of the project?

     3. How is the data to be gathered and analyzed?

     4. What type of report will be issued?


     E. The Budget

     1.  A budget is a program that has been “costed out”

     2. It should be fairly detailed without a large miscellaneous category

  3. Be sure that you have included all items in the narrative and budget that were

      requested by the potential funder.

  4. Separate the program from the staffing costs

  5. Include details of other funding sources

  6. Indicate in-kind and volunteer services (cost them out if possible)  Independent Sector  

      stated that the value of a volunteer’s time was worth $17.55 in 2004

  1. What are your plans for ongoing funding/sustainability?
  2. If you indicate other funding sources, are these committed or just hoped for?


F. GRANT WRITING KEEPERS—things you need to keep in a file

     1. Non profit exemption letter from the IRS

     2. Agency structure; board members and their affiliations/addresses, phone numbers,   

         and the officers

     3. Annual Reports

     4. Latest certified audit

     5. Copies of your latest 990 reports

     6. Your employee handbook and personnel policies

     7. Affirmative Action Statement

     8. Mission statement

     9. Simple Strategic Plan for next year (s) which also indicate your priorities

    10. A clipping file of your events, achievements, data that documents the need for your


    11. Your Credibility Information

      a. Full Legal Name

      b. When/where you were incorporated and when you received your nonprofit


      c. A Short History of the organization

      d. Accomplishments over the past several years

      e. Letters of support and endorsement

    12. Copies of your latest newsletter



    a. Unsupported assumptions

    b. Use of jargon—it is better to be understood than to try to “snow” the source

    c. KISS—Keep It Simple Sam (or Samantha)

    d. Use positive and active tone—verbs, adjectives, adverbs

    e. Utilize your agency resources (staff, board, consultants) and make sure your       

        supervisor and board chairperson are knowledgeable about your organization and

        what you are trying to accomplish with this grant request.    Also have key staff  

        prepared for a surprise pre donation site visit.

    f. Have the proposal test read—by a 13 year old, your grandmother, a client (and

         someone who is good in English composition and spelling)


3. A Prospectus/Letter of Inquiry

    a. It should be no more than 2 pages

   b. It should be positive and create interest

   c. be sure of spelling, punctuation, grammar, the names, titles and addresses

   d. If you write a Prospectus, also send a one page cover letter.  However, your letter

        could also be the prospectus.

   e. The best bet is a 2 page letter of inquiry with attachments if necessary.



    a. The Center for Nonprofit Excellence sells a CD which contains most of the foundations and organizations that give to Kentucky nonprofits.   You can get more information at  They also have information on certain foundations on their webpage, grouped alphabetically and by interest areas.

   b. The Foundation Center

The Foundation Center provides information about non-federal sources of funding. In addition to its publications and extensive collection of materials at its several locations in the United States the center also offers an Associates Program and a Cooperating Collections Program at numerous sites throughout the nation. You can obtain more information by contacting the Center's headquarters at:

The Foundation Center
79 Fifth Avenue, Dept. JG
New York, NY 10003-3076
(212) 620-4230

  This organization conducts week long training sessions that are excellent (but expensive).  See if a local company, bank or foundation will pay for the director to go to this.  A great investment in the organization’s future.


There are cooperating collections of foundation information at:

Helm-Cravens Library
110 Helm Library
Bowling Green, KY 42101-3576
(270) 745-6163

140 East Main Street
Lexington, KY 40507-1376
(859) 231-5520

301 York Street
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 574-1617

c.       Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)

See Glossary for description. The catalog is sent to a number of distribution points, including U.S. Government Depository Libraries, (see item 8, below) in each state, Federal Executive Boards in major metropolitan areas, and offices of state and local governments. It is often available in the reference sections of major libraries as well. You can also purchase a subscription directly from the Government Printing Office. For further information, contact:

Superintendent of Documents
Attn: New Orders
Box 371954
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance can also be accessed online at:

d,   Federal Register

See Glossary for description. The Government Printing Office distributes paper, 24x microfiche, and online versions of the Federal Register to U.S. Government Depository Libraries (see item 8, below). It is often available in the reference sections of other major libraries as well. You can also purchase your own paper or microfiche subscription. For further information, contact:

Superintendent of Documents
Attn: New Orders
Box 371954
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954

Orders can be made with a credit card at:

(202) 512-1800 (voice)
(202) 512-2250 (fax)

The Federal Register is also available through an online database. Public access is available at:

Questions about the Federal Register online can be directed to the GPO Access User Support Team by e-mail at; by telephone at (202) 512-1530 or toll free at (888) 293-6498; by fax at (202) 512-1262.

e. Business First lists top 20 in different categories and has a book of those lists

f. Newspaper legal notices—Foundations will often advertise that they are accepting proposals or how you can get a copy of their annual reports.

g. Go to special events, get on mailing lists of other nonprofits and look who is donating to those causes, then begin to research how your organization might make a connection.

h. Your local telephone book.  Contact the business and ask who is responsible for receiving requests for donations.

i. The Secretary of State of Kentucky –find an organization, its address, members of their boards and their other connections.

j. Guidestar

k. The Chronicle of Philanthropy—the best magazine to which you can subscribe (in my book anyway after years of fundraising)  Great ideas and a listing of deadlines for grant proposals for many foundations





a.       Different types of organizations that make grants/donations

(1)   Operating foundations—for a hospital for instance

(2)   Staffed/non-staffed

(3)   Family Foundation

(4)   Local, state, national government

(5)   Community Foundations—Community Foundation of Louisville, Community Foundation of West Kentucky

(6)   Corporate Foundations

(7)   Corporate donations programs

(8)   United Way—usually has some special funding for new ideas/needs

(9)   Federal campaign list—your organization needs to be on the list if it is not and there is a process to get on the list

(10)   Employee Donations Programs: GE Employee Fund, UPS Pilots, Bell Pioneers

(11)   Denominational Funding Programs

(12)   Donated in-kind services/products

(13)   Company matching program for employee donations/volunteer hours

(14)   Service/fraternal clubs in your area

(15)   Churches/synagogues in your area

(16)   Unions may be a source


b.      What is the Profile of the Potential Donor?

(1)   Geographic limitations

(2)   What is their usual size of donations—don’t ask for too much or too little

(3)   Which areas of interest is publicized (or determined through your research)

(4)   Who is on their board and what can you learn about their interests/who knows them


6. Other Thoughts

     a. People give money to people—They give to organizations that have captured their 

        interest, organizations that have served someone they know, or because someone

        they know and value has asked them to help out your organization.

     b. Have a program before you ask for money—don’t create the program to look for

         the money although it has been done before.

     c. Make sure you can do what you say you can do in your proposal

     d. Try creative combinations if the straight shot is not fundable

     e. Collaboration pays—most funders are looking for some form of collaboration

     f. Try to get leadership from a targeted corporation or business on your board before

          you ask them for a big donation—you will then have an advocate for your request.