Grant Writing Advice and Tips: The Grant Helpers Blog

3 Ways Community Foundations Can Help with Grant Funding

Posted by Roland Garton on Wed, May 24, 2017 @ 15:05 PM

TwoAtComputer.jpgCommunity foundations exist to improve the communities in which they’re located.  These Foundations are active fund-raisers, pooling funds from contributors to provide grants to local charitable organizations. They are therefore grant-making agencies not be overlooked in a search for grant funding. Providing grant funds is only one way they can help, though. Here are three ways community foundation can help find grant funding.

1. Community Foundation Grants - Direct Funding

Organizations that contribute to the quality of life and social conditions of a community are prime candidates for community foundation funding. If you are such an organization, locate your nearest community foundation, and then understand their priorities and funding cycle.  As with any potential funder, your ability to attract funds lies largely with how well you support their mission, and how well you communicate your case for funding. The Community Foundation Atlas can help you find a community foundation near you. Click on the Profiles button for a comprehensive directory in convenient map form, and find a link to the community foundation nearest you. (Another typical convenience of community foundations is that they tend to have relatively short URLs!)

  Insider Tip: Community foundations are staffed by local people.  Meet with them before applying.  Understand what they’re trying to accomplish, how you can support that, and how they can help you in ways beyond providing grant funds.  

2. Help with Grant Sources and Preparation

Some community foundations will help find funding sources outside their own capital resources. Many have subscriptions to databases of potential funders, and they may help with a search for sources. Some will strategize funding approaches, and some will review proposal drafts. Occasionally community foundations will offer open sessions on finding and applying for grant funds. Get to know the people at your local community foundation to find out what they are willing and able to do.

 3. Lead Fiscal Agent

Some proposal efforts may be initiated by a group that does not yet have a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit IRS designation. These groups are rarely funded by public foundations. However, a community foundation might be willing to serve as the lead fiscal agent for such a proposal, assuming a role in grant oversight and administration. As with the other two suggestions, the key is getting to know the people in your local community foundation, and demonstrating how your work improves the community. 

The Grant Helpers can increase your grant funding with help in all these areas, and more. Our not-for-profit specialist can help you obtain 501(c)(3) IRS status.  Contact us with your questions  No charge for the initial consultation.

Topics: best practices in grant writing, grant writing help, grant writing, Grant Writing Tips, Grant Writing and Planning, Community Foundations

What to Do When the Funds Dry Up

Posted by Roland Garton on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 @ 12:07 PM

Our company is based in Illinois, a state whose budget woes are getting budgetnational attention. Many of our municipal contacts are faced with a disheartening situation: state funds that have been reliable sources of support for many years suddenly are no longer available. Although such funds are never guaranteed, they have in the past been steady enough to build budgets around them. Now those budgets are in jeopardy. As a result, our consultations and strategy sessions often revolve around replacement funding.

The question is often phrased something like “How can we get the same money from another source?” I call this the replacement mentality, and it’s an obvious response. However, the replacement mentality places limitations on the kind of thinking and planning needed to meet shortfalls. Instead, we encourage our state-strapped clients (municipalities are the most common), to ask different types of questions. Thoughtful, well-considered responses to these questions can lead to improvements, born of necessity, in the organization’s grant strategy. In some cases, responding to the questions prompts an institution to develop an expressed grant strategy for the first time. That in itself is valuable.

Here are some examples of questions whose responses can reveal sources of funding not immediately obvious at first blush—sources that a replacement mentality would likely obscure.

What are our over-arching goals-our most critical objectives? Funding sources usually cannot be developed overnight, so the immediate timeframe may require reduction of activities.  Sometimes state-funded programs are so vital it is more prudent to cut other areas and shift funds to the previously state-funded programs. In the longer term, keeping the mission and priorities at the forefront of planning can help determine which areas are worth the investment of proposal development.

Which of our activities are the most fundable? Replacement funds may not be available for a particular program area, but there may be funds available for other areas not previously supported by grant funds. A replacement mentality could easily overlook such opportunities. 

How can we position our activities to be more fundable? Here is a terrific opportunity for thinking outside the box. Quite often, the project you have in mind can be adjusted to meet one or more funding trends. We get many consultation requests for Parks and Rec grants. Park districts tend think in terms of facilities. But funders tend to think in terms of programs and impacts. So, for example, to better attract grant funds, a park district might list “youth fitness” as a priority, rather than, say, “swimming pool.” As another example, public transportation could be funded by transportation programs, energy conservation programs, safety programs, emergency managment programs, economic development programs, assistance for older Americans, and more.

Two important aspects of this approach are worth noting: 1) Planning requires a good sense of funding trends. Some organizations are aware of these; others need to build such awareness or find experts to work with. 2) Planning also requires thinking about grant funds earlier than often occurs, during strategy and planning cycles. It therefore entails a long turn-around time, but the odds of funding increase dramatically when you are positioned specifically for fundability.

Who will benefit?  Every type of beneficiary for an activity, program, or facility is a potential funding source. Community gardens are a great example of this. They can benefit students, and thus are eligible for education funding. They can benefit at-risk youth, attracting Department of Justice funding. Gardens can also help feed the hungry, an area that’s supported by many foundations.  They can improve neighborhoods and retain residents, especially in rural and underserved populations which is of interest to the USDA, HUD, and others.

If your project impacts youth, think about what corporations benefit from building a relationship with youth. Many foundations associated with corporations are actively trying to become the champion of tweens, in the hope of generating long-term loyalty. Seniors are also a sought-after audience. Pharmacies offer loads of services directed at older Americans, so would be a potential source of funding for a community project benefitting the older population.  Consider your audience and ask “Who benefits from their loyalty?”  Then search for funders with such an interest.

What other opportunities are there? The trauma of funding lapses, while unpleasant, can prompt the kind of thinking that uncovers possibilities otherwise not considered. New partnerships, new sources of funding, and an improved vision are possible by moving from a “replacement mentality” to an “opportunity mentality.”


Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Topics: state of grant giving, ask these questions when writing a grant, best practices in grant writing, application tips, state of Illinois giving, state funding cuts, Illinois budget, state of Illinois budget, long-range planning

Six Reasons Why Grant Applications Get Rejected

Posted by Michelle Hansen on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 @ 16:08 PM

189310528 114f33cb67 mAs a professional grant company, we routinely seek out feedback from grant proposals. From this feedback we have identified some common missteps that can result in a rejected grant proposal. Following are six common reasons why grant applications get rejected, and even more importantly, what you can do to minimize those mistakes.

1) The proposal doesn’t meet all technical grant requirements.
Funding agencies, especially large, national ones, are so overwhelmed that they reduce the stack by first rejecting any proposal that’s deficient in some technical requirement.  For example, the National Science Foundation will reject proposals if an entry in the bibliography does not list the names of all authors (“et al.” is not sufficient).

What you can do: Make sure your proposal meets every technical requirement listed in the grant application. If you have a question about a prerequisite, contact a grantor representative and get a response, lest a bad guess cause your valuable time to go straight to the rejected stack.  Also, before submission, have some fresh eyes review the proposal specifically against all technical requirements.

2) Proposal not responsive to the guidelines.

Once you get past the requirements, funding agencies are looking for proposals that clearly and demonstrably meet their goals and criteria.  When we talk to reviewers, this is the complaint we hear most often.  Applicants may have a project that is only tangentially related to the funding agency’s goals.  Such proposals stand a poor chance of funding.

What you can do:  Before writing the nitty gritty text of a proposal, write down your basic case for funding.  Review the case for soundness.  Make sure you can support every argument you plan to make.  Also, review the case statement against the proposal review criteria listed in the funding announcement.  Even before developing your case statement, it’s a good idea to talk to the funding agency and get their feedback informally before deciding to develop a proposal.

3) Project or program to be funded is poorly developed.

Most grant-making organizations wish to fund projects that have a high change of making an impact. Best is a program that is in place, or modeled after one that is already in place and producing results.  Next best are programs that are not in action currently, but have well-thought-out plans, including specific impact areas and budget figures.  Such programs can begin quickly and provide results sooner than those with less advance planning.  An argument we hear from clients and potential clients is that they need the grant to plan the project.  Our response is that they are competing with applicants who do have plans in place.  If the resources are not available for such planning, it may not be a good investment to develop the proposal.

What you can do: Take the time to plan and detail your project or program.  This does require thought and effort beyong simply writing.  We often say that proposal development is primarily a research and planning task, and only after that a writing task.

4) Proposal is written or organized poorly.

Grants are exercises in persuasion. They need to be written in a persuasive fashion, with the primary arguments clearly stated and well supported. Also, while the proposal needs to be detailed, it also needs to be understood by a lay person that may not have a direct knowledge of your industry. And, of course, spelling and grammar really do matter. Any obvious problems show carelessness, which is not a good sign for a prospective grantee.

What you can do: Structure the proposal before you begin writing, and review the text for logical flow and consistency frequently during the process. Make sure several extra pairs of eyes look over the grant application before it is submitted.

5) Team or resources are inadequate.

Don’t undervalue having a competent and qualified team, as well as sufficient resources to implement your project. If members of your team do not have the background needed to perform the work (e.g., using student volunteers to screen for complex medical conditions), your plan is not sound. Any unanswered questions about what resources or equipment you will use to facilitate your project are also negatives.

What you can do: Make sure your team member’s qualifications are made clear in the proposal and are sufficient to carry out the work. Additionally, support from all parties should stated in the proposal, with letters of support as appropriate. The budget must be reasonable, and the means to provide facilities, equipment, and other resources should be determined before the proposal is submitted.

6) Evaluation plan is inadequate.

Most grantors require an evaluation plan as an integral part of the project to ensure the project has measurable results. If your evaluation plan is too vague and does not provide clear methods of evaluation, then it could be a strike against your funding request. Also, if your plan does not truly measure expected outcomes, grantors could be less likely to fund your project.  For example, if you want to reduce obesity in youth, you need to measure obesity, not just the number of presentations or other activities held.

What you can do: Spend quality time planning your evaluation plan and how you will track your results. Include baseline measurements and expected results over time.  Make sure that your evaluation techniques are sound, and your results can be collected and reported numerically. is full-service grant company that can help you avoid many missteps during all phases of the grant development process. Our services are completely customizable and range from strategy sessions to grant searches to grant writing to project implementation. Our team of experts, including Municipality Specialist Rebecca Motley, can also help walk you every step of your grant journey.


Photo credit: Toms Bauģis

Topics: how to get noticed, best practices in grant writing, grant application hints, grant writing help, Grant writing objectives, making case for funding, grant readiness, grant tips, grant hints, grant application tips

Writing Powerful Grant Summaries and Grant Abstracts: Tips & Hints

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 @ 09:11 AM

Grant Summary TipsNearly every grant application requires a summary or abstract of some sort, and it is often the first thing a review committee will see. So it is vital that the summary or abstract be very strong, as it will set the tone of your application and may even determine whether or not reviewers will continue through the rest of your application. Here are some tips to help you write a powerful grant summary or grant abstract.

  • Make the case” in your summary. The summary should be a logical flow into the main argument for funding. Using numerical data, show the need or opportunity, and the dramatic impact that your project will have. For example, “We will save the school district over $1 million,” or “We will keep 20 people off the streets and feed dozens more.”

  • Keep the summary funder-focused. Too often summaries are geared towards readers from their own organizations. In the summary, relate your work specifically to the funder’s goals.

  • Keep the summary high-level. Avoid the tendency to put too much technical detail in the summary. Be concise. Avoid wordiness, excessive detail, and technical jargon.

  • Spend a lot of effort on the summary. It's worth spending a lot of time on this, the front piece of your grant application. Write it early. Rewrite it often, as the grant proposal develops. Have multiple reviewers look over the summary.

  • Re-read guidelines on final review. Make sure you include everything the funder asks for. Some requirements even stipulate the wording with which the summary must begin.

  • Use bolding to highlight main points.

A strong summary or abstract at the beginning of your grant application will make a great first impression on the grant review committee. Therefore, be sure to invest your time and effort in this vital piece. We can help advise on any specific element of a proposal, or on an entire proposal. Contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help you through any stage of the grant development process.

Grant Writing Tips

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Topics: grant services, grant announcement, best practices in grant writing, application tips, grant application hints, grant formatting, How to Grant Write, Grant Writing Tips, grant application tips, grant formatting tips, grant formatting hints

Grant Application Formatting Tips

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 @ 18:11 PM

Have you ever written a grant that you felt certain would earn you funding, only to find out later that you were not awarded any money? After pouring much time and energy into writing a grant, it can be very disappointing to not have anything to show for it. Making a great first impression with your grant application can be important in establishing credibility and interest on the part of the grant reviewer. It also could help move your grant application ahead of the others in the stack.

Good highlighting makes content more readily accessible to review. However, bad formatting is a distraction and hinders your main message. In this article, we will discuss some simple tips on how to format a grant application to make it more appealing to those reviewing it. If you want experts to review your application before you submit it or if you need assistance in any other part of your grant writing process, contact one of our experts today for a free consultation.


Review the guidelines for requirements regarding format. Be sure to meticulously follow formatting guidelines in the Request for Proposals. If you are uncertain about a requirement, contact the funding agency.


Grant Format

Make your application easy to read. Grant reviewers spend countless hours reading through applications. Use a font that is easy to read and a font size that is appropriate. For example, do not use script or “fun, silly” fonts. Select a standard, formal font like Times or Times New Roman. When selecting a size, 12-pt font is usually standard. Anything smaller than 10-pt font becomes too difficult to read, unless used in a caption of a picture or chart.


Be consistent. Make sure that you use the same font and font size in your headings, the same spacing between sections, the same spacing between paragraphs, etc. If your application and materials are very long, you may find it helpful to create styles or macros that will define your headers, paragraph text, etc. These tools help assure consistency and let you change all instances of a particular format with a single action, thereby saving you time and effort in editing. Consistency makes your application easy to follow, which will keep grant reviewers focused on the content of your application.


Limit big blocks of text. Large blocks of text can be intimidating and more difficult to read than lists or charts. Instead of using large blocks of texts to explain something, illustrate your ideas using a bulleted list or a chart. When using a bulleted list, keep the points uniform. For example, if you are making a list of actions, do not throw in a random noun that shows no action. If using a chart, make sure you clearly label all important aspects of the chart. For example, the reviewer would need to know if a chart’s numbers are in the hundreds, thousands, millions, etc.


Double- and triple-check all application materials. The last thing you want is to overlook an important component that is required of the application. Make sure you submit materials in the order requested, if applicable. If there is no recommended order for how to package or submit materials, then do so in an order that makes sense. Also double-check for grammar and misspellings, as well as any references within your application to another piece of material. For example, if you say “see page 12,” make sure what the reviewer is looking for on page 12 is still on page 12 and has not been moved. It would be wise to have at least one more set of eyes to look over your application. It’s virtually impossible to check your own work.


These tips might seem like common sense, but they are well worth reviewing. Taking time to polish and refine your presentation gives you a competitive edge, since these steps are frequently overlooked by proposers in the rush to meet a deadline. Remember, if you want experts with years of experience to review your grant before you submit it, we can help you. Contact a grant expert today for more information.

Grant writing tips

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Topics: best practices in grant writing, application tips, grant application hints, grant formatting, grant writing submission, grant editing, Grant Writing Tips, grant application tips, grant formatting tips, grant formatting hints

The Common Errors of Grant Writing

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 @ 22:11 PM

It may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but one thing grant writers need to be diligent about is the proper use of grammar and punctuation in their writing. Obvious errors are one of the common complaints from grant reviewers we talk to. Such errors could immediately put you at a loss or disadvantage with a grant reviewer – and it’s not hard to remedy before you submit, but hard to recover from afterwards.

In this blog, we discuss a few of the most common grammar and punctuation errors. Perhaps showcasing these basic rules will make you more aware of how you use them and freshen your minds on how to use them properly. And remember, if you want an expert set of eyes to proofread your grant application, we are here to help you. Just contact a grant helper to get started.


Common Grant Writing Errors:

1)      Spelling – Even with spell check on nearly every word processing program, people still make spelling errors. Maybe in celebration of finishing a document, we forget to use spell check, but more often, spelling errors aren’t caught by a spell checker because the misspelled word is not “misspelled,” but rather, it’s the wrong word for the context. Autocorrect options make such errors even harder to detect.

  Incorrect example: The Grant Helpers is here to help you in all steppes of the grant writing process.

Grammar Writing ProofreadingSteppes is a word meaning prairies or grasslands, but here the word we are looking for is steps. This is an example of something a spell checker would not catch. The lesson here is to remember to use the spell check feature, but also remember to read your document closely to look for misused words, and to have a fresh set of eyes look it over as well.


2)      Commas (,) vs. Semicolons (;) – Use commas when connecting two independent clauses (sets of words that can be their own sentence) with a connecting word, or conjunction (and, but, or). Semicolons also connect two independent clauses but do not use connecting words.

  Correct examples:

  • I will be going to the store, but I am not stopping at the post office.

  • I will be going to the store; I will also stop at the post office.


Commas can also be used in a list.

  Correct example: His favorite colors were red, blue, green, and yellow.


Semicolons are also used in lists, but this usually happens when the lists themselves contain commas.

  Correct example:

  • Choose from fries, salad, or soup.

  • Choose from fries, baked potato, or mashed potato; garden salad, Cesar salad, or soup; and juice, milk, or a soft drink.


3)      Colons (:) – Use a colon to extend a sentence, set off a list, or to introduce a bulleted list. A colon should be used when the idea before it and after it are related.

  Correct Example:

  • There were two choices: watch a movie or go bowling. (extends sentence and is a list)

  • (See the colon after “For Example” above for an example of introducing a bulleted list.)


4)      It’s and ItsIt’s means it is or it has. However, its is the possessive form of it.

  Correct example: Where is its chew toy? It’s under the couch!


When finished writing your grant, it is highly recommended to have another set of eyes review your work to ensure your work is error-free. You will lose credibility if you turn in an error-laden piece of writing that is requesting funding, especially if those errors may seem minor. The Grant Helpers can offer expert assistance throughout all aspects of the grant writing process, and we have expert grammarians and English majors who can help with proofreading your grant materials. Contact us or respond to this blog to ask a question for free. You can also contact us for a free quote on a specific project.


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Topics: grant services, best practices in grant writing, Grant writing objectives, grant writing submission, grant editing, grant writing examples, How to Grant Write, grant strategy, Grant Writing Tips, Write a Better Grant Series

How May We Help You?: Our Grant Development Services, Part 2

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

We recently posted a blog discussing the services we offer throughout the first two steps of grant development. In this blog post, we at TheGrantHelpers discuss the final three steps in the grant development process as well as what we can do to help secure your organization more grant money.


Step 3: Plan and Research the Grant

            Grants require a certain amount of planning and research in order to be successful. With our Grant Readiness Support service, you will receive tools for tracking proposal applications and deadlines, developing budget templates for future grant applications, advising and editing boilerplate documents, developing a desirable funding profile and associated target funding sources, etc.

            If you need help developing a strategy and make the strongest case for funding for a particular grant, we can help you come up with a Grant Strategy. You can expect help with developing an approach, and you will receive two documents, a Case for Funding and a General Approach. Your organization can use these documents throughout the grant writing process.


Step 4: Develop the ProposalGet More Grant Money

            Developing a grant proposal can be tedious because before writing the proposal itself, there is a lot of planning, research, collaboration, organization, etc. involved. Before you invest the time and energy on developing a full proposal, make sure the grant opportunity is a good fit through our Grant Opportunity Review. We will help you go over guidelines, check for potential problem areas, and make suggestions on how to increase your chances for receiving funding.

            If you new to grant writing process, or if you simply don’t have the time to do so, or are looking to do even better, we can help you from start to finish. Even under a tight deadline, we can usually accommodate requests.

            Sometimes, organizations need just a little help and advice here and there along the way. In this case, our Grant Writing Assistance service might be useful. You can expect us to advise on strategy and approach, edit text, offer research support, help prepare budgets, produce simple diagrams and graphics, and more. We will work with your organization to fill in any gaps where they are most needed.

            We can also conduct a Grant Proposal Review. With this service, we will review your proposal against the grant guidelines, proofread your proposal, and double check for compliance so that your proposal is not rejected due to an error or overlooked mistake.


Step 5: What to do After the Grant is Awarded

            Receiving a grant award is fantastic, but the work on the project is only beginning when you receive the funding notice. Many grants require ongoing follow-up and strict reporting requirements, with the risk of having to repay the grant monies if you don't comply. We offer a Grant Award Management service, in which we can organize and manage the reporting requirements by providing training, report management tools, invoicing and financial interactions, or even managing the entire process for you.


No matter where you are in the grant writing process, and no matter where your organization needs help, we have the experts and services necessary to get you on the right track. We customize our interactions with you and offer a variety of high-value and high-quality services. Contact us today for more details, or check out our full services page.

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Topics: grant annoucement, ask these questions when writing a grant, grant services, free grant money, grant notification, best practices in grant writing, Grant writing objectives, Budgets, grant writing submission, grant research tips, grant management, grant readiness, grant editing, How to Grant Write, grant strategy

How May We Help You?: Our Grant Development Services, Part 1

Posted by Alisyn Franzen on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 @ 10:10 AM

We at TheGrantHelpers are often asked what types of services we can provide. Do we help organizations find grants? Yes. Do we write grant proposals? Yes. Can we help do the research and write the grant itself? No problem. Can we do all of this on an as-needed basis, without the burden of an organization having to employ a permanent staff? Absolutely.

As the holiday season quickly approaches and organizations struggle to find time to wrap things up and get ready for a new year, grant application cycles remain ongoing. Therefore, we thought we’d highlight different phases of the grant writing process and let you know that we are here to help you, no matter when or where you need it.


Step 1: Identify Fundable Needs and Best Practices

            Like most organizations, you probably know what your needs are. You need new playground equipment; you want to start a mental health counseling center as a community outreach service, etc. Some of these needs are more likely to receive funding than others. With our deep experience across many types of grants, with a brief consultation, we can help you identify which needs have the best chance of successful funding.

            Most organizations can improve their funding success rate with key practices that increase their grant writing effectiveness. With our Grant Readiness Services, we will work with you to understand your organization’s mission, goals, and funding needs. By the end of the review, you will receive a document identifying any critical gaps in grant readiness and recommendations of ways to increase your chances to obtain funding.

Find Grant Money

Step 2: Find Grant Opportunities

            After you have identified your most fundable needs, you must find grants that match those needs. This can be time consuming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the tens of thousands of entities that provide grants. We are familiar with countless foundations, organizations, corporations, etc. that offer grants on just about everything.

            Joining our free Watch List will help you learn about opportunities that can help you get more money. We simply notify you if we come across a grant opportunity that meets your funding needs.

            With our Grant Opportunity Search, you will let us know your organization’s top priorities, and together we will refine your needs. Then you will receive a fundability evaluation to make sure there are grants out there that fit your needs as well as a Grant Opportunity Report, which will detail at least three relevant grant opportunities.


There are three more steps we will discuss in our next blog post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, be sure to check out our full services page, or contact us for more information.


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Topics: ask these questions when writing a grant, grant services, free grant money, grant notification, best practices in grant writing, grant research tips, grant readiness, grant editing, How to Grant Write, Grant Writing Tips, tips on grant evaluations

What to Do if a Grant Making Foundation is “Off the Grid”

Posted by Roland Garton on Wed, Aug 1, 2012 @ 07:08 AM


Applying for grants with little information

off the grid grant makerRecently, a client hired us to help them apply for a grant from a local foundation.  This seemingly standard assignment, however, had a bit of a twist – the Foundation was “off the grid” in that it had no website, no one answered their phone, and no information could be found regarding their grant application process.  The Foundation engaged in limited publicity, and our client had only discovered it by reading a press release sent out by one of the Foundation’s grant recipients.  Our client’s funding need matched the goals of the recipient organization, hence our client’s interest. However, this scenario posed an interesting problem.  In today’s world of information-overload, how does a grant writer proceed when no information is available? 

Investigate and draft a letter of inquiry, of course!

With this assignment, we had two priorities: confirm that our client was a potential match for the grant making Foundation, and identify a way to apply. 

We pulled up the Foundation’s profile in the Foundation Center’s Grant Database.  While the profile had limited information, it did list the Foundation’s funding priorities.  Priorities can shift, though, especially in rough economies, so it is important to compare listed funding priorities with recent grants.  This comparison can highlight the grant maker’s current interests.  To do this, we performed another quick Internet search to look for additional press releases from other grant recipients. We also looked up the Foundation on Guidestar, which can provide information on recent grants made.  Recent grants matched the stated funding priorities we found in the Foundation Center Database, and our client’s intentions fell within the focuses identified. Since our client’s funding needs were a match with the organization’s recent grant making activities, we decided to proceed.

We called the Foundation a few times, but received no response.  This isn’t uncommon, especially for smaller foundations operating with volunteer staff.  Had our client known someone within the organizations that had previously received grants from the Foundation, we would have advised our client to connect with these contacts and inquire about the application process.  This was not a possibility in this case, so we chose to draft a letter of inquiry.

A letter of inquiry is meant to introduce an organization to a grant maker and to briefly summarize how a grant from the grant maker would be used.  Based on the information provided in the letter of inquiry, the grant making organization will decide whether or not it will consider a grant proposal from the applicant. To learn more about writing a letter of inquiry, you can visit a previous blog article on the topic here.

Once the letter of inquiry is submitted, the waiting game begins. With any luck, the foundation will contact our client requesting more information. That’s where we are right now.  We’ll post a follow-up blog if we get a response from the funding agency.

Have a similar story? We’d love to hear your strategies about engaging with off-the-grid grant makers. 

Topics: Letter of Inquiry, best practices in grant writing, Grant Writing Tips

Grant Writing Basics: Letter of Inquiry

Posted by Katie Adams on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 @ 09:07 AM

 Tips on writing a letter of inquiry for a grant

letter of inquiry grantwriting

Prior to submitting a full grant application, some grant making foundations request that interested applicants send in a letter of inquiry. A standard letter of inquiry should introduce the applicant nonprofit organization to the grant maker and provide a brief summary of the activity a potential grant could fund.  Based on the information provided in the letter of inquiry, the grant maker will determine whether or not the applicant should submit a full grant proposal.


A letter of inquiry typically has the following components:

  • Introduction

Introduce your organization. How long has it been active? Where does it operate? What does it do? How many people does it serve in how large an area?

  • Explain the connection

Mention how you heard of the grant making organization, and why you think your organization’s funding needs would be a match for the grant maker’s grant program.

  • Build credibility

If everything goes right, you will be invited to submit a grant proposal.  In order to get to this step, however, you have to demonstrate that your organization is credible and productive. To this end, summarize recent accomplishments that relate to the funding agency’s goals and list any accolades your organization has received.

  • Briefly describe the proposed project and related need

What need will the project address?  Back up your assertions with data.

Then, explain how the funding will be used. Be clear, but concise.  Provide overviews rather than details.  This is not the place to get into the nitty-gritty details of project implementation, but rather to share your overall vision with a potential funder.

  • Request their consideration

Express your organization’s interest in submitting a full proposal for the grant maker to consider.  Note – you are not requesting a grant at this stage, but rather, the opportunity to request a grant by submitting a grant proposal.  You are asking for their consideration, not a check.

  • Conclusion

Provide contact information, thank them for their time, and make sure they know you are available to talk to them.

The ideal length for a letter of inquiry is debatable, but we typically suggest 2 to 3 pages.  Print the letter on your organization’s letterhead, and have your Executive Director (or a similar role) sign it.

Need assistance?

As part of our Free Consultation Service, we can look over drafted letters of inquiry.  In addition, we can help you identify grant makers that match your funding needs with our Grant Opportunity Search service. Contact a Grant Helper for more details.

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Topics: best practices in grant writing, How to Grant Write