Planning and Writing a Grant Application: The Basics (2023)

Writing grant applications is exciting and imaginative work.

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Additional resources on donations and donation writing
Considering the audience, purpose, and expectations of a grant proposal
Common Elements of Grant Applications
General information
Examples of successful proposals

So you want to write a grant application? This is exciting! This means you want to do valuable research, create a specific nonprofit, or develop a community resource that you'd like to tap into. You have a clear vision of how something can be improved or advanced, and you are willing to apply for funding or other support to make that vision a reality.

Planning and Writing a Grant Application: The Basics (1)

When addressing this unrealized vision when developing a grant proposal, consider successful grant writing as an act of the imagination. Professor Kate Vieira, a professor of curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison with considerable experience in grant writing, describes grant writing as a creative process similar to writing a novel: They are works of the imagination. Professor Vieira recommends approaching the task of writing a grant proposal with an attitude of wonder and excitement as she strives to turn her ideas into reality. You have a great idea and you think you are the best person to achieve a certain goal. Now all you have to do is convince others to get excited about that vision too.


On this page, we offer some grant application ideas and tips on the application planning and preparation process. We review funding requests; general purposes, audiences, and expectations to make this information applicable in a variety of contexts.However, this general approach has important limitations.. First of all, you should get personalized advice on scholarship writing in your particular discipline or sphere. Second, you must carefully follow the precise instructions on proposals from the funding bodies to which you are applying.

Talk to professors, mentors, past recipients, the grant organization/group you are applying to, and trusted advisors in your field to learn more about what makes a successful grant application in your situation and to get feedback on your plan and procedure for obtaining the deed.

Before you start writing your grant application, you need to make sure of the following:

  • Develop a specific, meaningful, and doable plan for what you want to do and why you want to do it.
  • consider how your plan will produce positive results;
  • Find an organization or funding source that funds projects like the one you have in mind;
  • research that organization to ensure its mission aligns with your plan;
  • review the organization's proposal policies; AND
  • Review sample suggestions from your department, colleagues, and/or organization.

Once you've done all of that, you can start preparing your proposal!

Additional resources on donations and donation writing

For UW-Madison students, faculty, or staff, the scholarship information collection at the UW-Madison Memorial Library is a great place to learn more about scholarships, write scholarship applications, and scholarship institutions. Moneyits websiteand our review of some of their materials, as well as links to other helpful grant resources here.

Considering the audience, purpose, and expectations of a grant proposal

A grant application is a very clear and to the point document written for a specific organization or funding agency to persuade reviewers to support you because: (1) you have an important and well-thought-out plan to further a worthy cause, and (2) ) you are responsible and capable of carrying out that plan.

As you begin planning and preparing your grant application, ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
    Think about the people from the agency offering this scholarship who will read this proposal. What are the agency's mission and goals? What are your values? How does what you want to do align with the purpose of this agency? How much do these readers know about what interests you? Let your answers to these questions inform how you will present your plan, what vocabulary you will use, how much insight you will provide, and how you will formulate your goals. When considering your audience, you need to think about what types of information these readers will find most engaging. Are they numbers? If so, be sure to provide and explain your details. Are they testimonials? Recommendations from other employees? Historical precedent? Think carefully about how you build your argument in relation to your readers.
  • What are the specific expectations forOgrant?
    Be aware of everything the grant organization asks of you. Your proposal must strictly comply with these requirements. If you receive advice contrary to what is expected in your particular situation (including from this site), ignore this! Browse representative samples of successful proposals in your field or proposals that have received the specific grant you are applying for.
  • How do you establish your credibility?
    Be sure to present yourself as capable, experienced, and forward-thinking. Justify your credibility by the rigor of your plan, the intentional way you present its importance and value, and the knowledge you have of what you have already learned or studied. Please provide appropriate references to past achievements that validate your ability to succeed and your commitment to this project. Describe any partnerships you have established with complementary organizations and individuals.
  • How can you present your project clearly and logically?
    Make sure your organization is logical. Break your proposal into predictable sections and label them with clear headings. Strictly follow the title and content requirements set forth in the grantor's public notice. Funding proposals are direct and objective. This is not a good place to embellish your prose with flowery metaphors or weave in subtle literary allusions. Your language should be clear and concise. Customize the concepts and language your readers use and are familiar with. Your readers should not struggle to understand what you are communicating. For information on how to write clear sentences, see this section of our author guide. However, use a descriptive image, compelling anecdote, or catchy phrase if it conveys the urgency or importance of your proposal.

Common Elements of Grant Applications

Grant applications are generally divided into different sections. These sections have different titles depending on the policies defined by the granting organization, but generally serve the same purposes. Below, we identify some of the key elements of grant applications, consider the work that the section needs to do, and provide tips for building these sections successfully. However, rememberWhen writing your proposal, please follow the guidelines for this grant and use the exact section headings provided in the call for proposals.

wdt_ID Element details
1 short description
(also known as "abstract" or
Here you present the most important elements of your
Suggestion in as few sentences as possible. more extensive
Tips, you can use a whole page for this
Overview, but for other suggestions you may need to summarize
for a single paragraph. In any case, make sure
• What is the purpose or objective of your project, what is your need?
address or the problem to solve?
• What are the expected results of your project and how
Will you reach them?
• How will you measure or verify the success of your project?
• Why is your project important?
• In short, who are you?

Some funding bodies may also want you to clarify this.
Summarize the type and amount of funding or other support
ask for. Leave the mission and purpose of the problem.
Agency inform your summary. you might even want
Integrate the key terms and concepts of the organization.
mission statement in your summary. while the summary
The abstract can be the first element of your finished proposal, that's all
it's usually best to write it last. Wait to take this shortcut
version of your project until you have written all the other
For you.

2 exam of a
need or problem

(also known as "Explanation"
Need”, “Problem
"Declaration of
problem", "need
evaluation" or
"Literature review")
Your project is important because it responds to a gap
Resources, knowledge or opportunities that really need to be
filled. To determine the value of your project, you need
to clarify the need or problem to which your project responds.
Make sure at the beginning of your proposal that you have the
context of this problem (i.e., the background). yes this problem
affects a certain group of people, describe that group of people.
If necessary, add data. In particular for scholarships,
this test may take the form of a brief literature search
to clarify that you have read a lot on this subject and
Understand the scientific context and importance of your project.
But it is also important to clarify why this happens with academic scholarships.
The project will have a broader positive impact and not just as
answer a specific academic question.
3 description of
your project

(also known as "Project
Narrative"; "Project
goals, goals,
and methodology”;
or “strategies and
Now that you've identified a need for your project, you have it.
to describe your project. Be sure to answer these questions:
• What are the objectives of your project or research?
• What are the objectives of your project?
• What will be the results of your project?
[As with many other types of results, the grant application
Results must be SMART: specific, measurable,
achievable, realistic and timely.]
• How will you achieve these results? That
methods you will use?
• How will you measure or recognize your projects?
• How can you be sure that your project will be productive?
respond to the needs or problems you have identified?
• What is the schedule of your project?

Some of these questions focus on the impact of your project
will have. Delineation of impact is important because funders
I want to see if you have clearly established the realist
Benefits of your job along with how you want to review and
evaluate your achievements.

4 Budget
(also known as "Resources")
Since you are applying for funding or other support, you must do so.
Be clear about what you are asking and why you are asking it.
certain amounts. Budgets are usually tabulated and formatted
Pay. Each value must be clearly marked, and you can
should follow your budget directly with a justification
Explanation of why each cost, materials and equipment is explained
it is valid, meaningful and important to your project.
5 other sections

Motivation letter
Sometimes the funding application is preceded by a cover letter.
They usually serve to introduce you personally as a partner:
Find a person/organization, establish their ethos and
Professionalism, briefly describe your proposed project and
Convey enthusiasm for the project and appreciation.
readers consideration
Your order.

organizational qualifications
If you represent a non-profit organization,
Sometimes you have to dedicate an entire section to the description of
Nature, mission and function of your organization. often this
approaches the section where a problem is investigated.

Backup documents
You may need to provide a variety of supporting materials below.
at the end of your proposal, usually in the form of attachments.
These may consist of additional registrations, endorsements, and taxes.
Status information, biographies of your organization's staff
Employees, letters of support from friendly organizations or
Groups that collaborate with you on your project, etc. All that
Documentation must be clearly related to your proposal and
can be requested from the awarding institution.

General information

Pay attention to the core interests of the agency.

As mentioned above, if the call for proposals or the funding organization's mission or objective contain keywords, you should use some of those terms throughout your proposal. But don't be too clumsy. You want to help your readers understand the connections between your project and its purpose without delving into those connections.

Organize ideas with numbered lists.

Some grant writers use numbered lists to organize their ideas in their proposals. They made these lists with phrases like: “The three main goals of this project are . . . ' or 'This plan has four phases. . . "Using numbers in this way may not be eloquent, but it can be an efficient way to present your information clearly and concisely.

Write carefully tailored proposals.

Because grant funding is so competitive, you will likely apply for many different grants from various funding agencies. But if you do, be sure to carefully design each proposal to accommodate the different interests, expectations, and policies of each source. While you may be trading parts of one proposal for another,Never use the exact same sign twice. Also, if you are requesting from more than one source at a time, think strategically about what type of support you are requesting from which organization. For example, find out which source is most likely to support a request for materials and which is most interested in covering staff costs.

Look for scholarships of all sizes.

Pay attention to small financing opportunities and large financing opportunities. In fact, getting a smaller grant can sometimes make your request for a larger grant more attractive. Showing that one or two stakeholders have already supported your project can increase your credibility.

Don't give up! Keep writing!

Writing a grant application is hard work. It requires you to carefully review your vision and think critically about how your solution will effectively address a gap, problem, or shortage.And that process often ends in rejection, even for seasoned peers.But while grant writers don't receive many of the grants they apply for, they find the process of carefully describing and justifying their goals and methods productive. Writing extensively about your project gives you an opportunity to reflect on and evaluate it, regardless of what the grants committee decides. And of course, when you receive a grant, the writing doesn't stop there. Many grants require progress reports and updates, so be prepared to keep writing!

Examples of successful funding applications

One of the best ways to learn how to write grant applications is by reviewing successful samples. We review and feature three very different types of successful proposals written by colleagues associated with UW-Madison. We encourage you to read these examples carefully, along with the notes we provide, which draw your attention to the specific ways each does the job of a strong suggestion. But don't stop there! Find for yourself other examples of successful proposals like the one you are writing to guide and broaden your understanding of what worked and performed well.

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