Succeeding with Private Grants

  1.  A focus on audience, persuasiveness, and clarity are essential elements in the proposal process. You might be responding to a formal request for proposals (RFP), applying based on a relationship that you or the University has cultivated, or submitting an application because the grant maker has a broadly defined program interest that fits with your project. No matter what, your proposal must compete for the reader's attention and communicate your project idea.
  2.  Of course, always follow the instructions and avoid common mistakes of grammar and logic! Keep in mind that your reviewers may or may not be experts in the subject matter of your field. (Most foundations do not use peer-review panels.) Avoid jargon and focus on presenting a clear case aimed at intelligent lay readers.
  3. At a minimum, your proposal will contain both a narrative and a budget. It must be clear how the project fits with the grant maker's priorities and how you will spend the grant funds.
  4. While you will not be able to pin down all the expenses associated with the project until the program details and timing have been worked out, a preliminary budget should be crafted prior to developing your narrative. The Development office collaborates with SRP on helping you establish a budget for your proposal for private grant funding.
  5. Private grants rarely fund your entire project. Nor do they provide support immediately or indefinitely. Grant writing will not get you money in two weeks, a month, or even a couple of months. Also, costs must be reasonable in proportion to the outcomes you anticipate.
  6. Furthermore, many private funders will not consider a funding proposal to be competitive unless there is institutional investment, sometimes referred to as "cost share." Therefore, it is important that grant seekers work closely with their department head and/or dean to identify whether strategic institutional investment is appropriate and available.
  7.   The need or problem that your proposal addresses must be clear, and it must fit clearly within the grant maker's interests. Furthermore, most private funders want to know how your project fits with the philosophy and mission of your organization.

Common proposal elements include:

  • History, mission, and activities of the organization (Gonzaga University)
  • Summary of the request (amount, purpose, who will benefit)
  • Outcomes, project goals, and objectives (why you are doing the project, what you will achieve)
  • Outputs, project plan, and timetable (what you will do, when)
  • Evaluation plan (how you will measure success... or failure)
  • Sustainability plan (what will happen when the grant runs out, supplemental or long-term funding)