Breaking Down the Grant Application - Part 2

advice appeals diy grants how to Mar 07, 2022

This is part two of a two-part series walking you through a typical grant application. Part 1 can be found by CLICKING HERE

In last week's article, we discussed the common sections of a grant application: the nonprofit's general information, an executive summary, a statement of needs, a description of the project, and then the budget for the project. In this week's article, we will discuss the project description and the budget in more detail along with some tips and tricks to make your application more likely to get funded.


Project Description:

Usually, the project description is the most significant part of the grant application. This is where you describe your project, how it will work to achieve the goal, and what the goals and outcomes will be.

Starting with your goals is a natural transition from the statement of need. You explained the need, so you can jump right into the overall goals in most cases.

Example: An average of 85% of this program students will graduate from college by 2025.

Take the time to break your goals down with about three objectives for each goal. I try to think of the difference between a goal and an objective this way… If these three+ objectives are accomplished, the goal will be achieved. If you have ever heard of SMART goals, this is an excellent place to use them.

An example of an objective would be: To have 100% of high school students apply to and be accepted into a four-year college or university.

The next step is to explain each objective in terms of what tactics, strategies, and activities you will undertake to achieve each objective.

Example: Essential to college acceptance is taking the SAT and ACT. The funds in this proposal will be used to purchase SAT prep books and hire a third-party instructor to teach a three-part prep course during the summer. The staff will increase high school students' engagement by advertising the dates for this program far in advance and reminding students, parents, and families at least five times before the project launch. Our staff is prepared to facilitate one-on-one sessions if necessary to ensure that 100% of junior students in the Graduate Support Program will follow through on the preparation course and will be scheduled to take the SAT in time.

Once you have this written out, you can put the content into a management plan. I encourage organizations to make a real management plan, including a calendar of activities, a Gannt chart of activities, etc. Most funders will ask how you will evaluate the success of your efforts in this section. I recommend that organizations think through their plan to assess each objective and include it in this section regardless of if they are asked.


The final section is the budget! The budget shows the overall cost of your program and how it relates to the amount you are seeking. Do not skimp out on this section. If you are only asking for 20 Chromebooks at $500 each, do NOT simply put that one line in there – you would be missing an opportunity to show broader support and/or ask for more money.

If your program produces revenue, such as registration costs or tuition, you will include that in your budget. I like to start with revenue, it seems happier to me, but there isn't a right or wrong way when the potential funder gives no formula.

You have an opportunity to show how the other areas of your organization, which are already funded, play a role in the program's success. You can also show the indirect costs related to your project to give confidence of broader support. Think volunteer hours, items that will be given in-kind gifts, things your organization provides (additional teacher time, space and utilities, etc.). Explaining the whole picture helps you prove that you have broader support, a more profound commitment to this project, and ultimately these lead to the ability to secure more funds.

In a previous post, the Pro Tip I motioned was to break down your organization's budget and include items you are considering "overhead" into the grant budget as specific line items. Most funders don't cover "operating expenses," but when they are necessary for your program, they are not "overhead" but rather "program costs." I encourage you to include the overhead items you can (percentage of time, percentage of utilities, rent to your organization from the program for the space, etc.). Even if you are not asking for the money to cover these items, you can always say that these areas are already funded, and all you are missing is XYZ. We have secured the $42,934 to operate the program, but we are missing the Chromebooks for the students who cannot afford their own computers.

If you are asked for a budget narrative, the funder is asking you to give more than just the numbers. Do not simply regurgitate what they can see in the line items. You will want to walk through some key areas to give more budget details than are on the page, and this is your opportunity to "sell" them on the items. Make sure you explain all of the largest line items and all sections or items that are vague or do not have a detailed description. You should try to justify the need for the funds and explain how that line item or group of line items is essential to the project's success.

In budget narratives, there is a grey line that you need to walk carefully. You want to give detail and explain the need, but you do not want to explain something you already talked about or get off track and distracted. Remember that the people reading the budget section are often looking for precise use of funds and that the items included are in line with and necessary to the project.


Keep your conclusion brief – one or two paragraphs at the most. Choose your main points, and remember to make sure you show that you see the funder as a partner in accomplishing this critical and urgent work.

Final Thought:

You are ready to go! Be sure to follow ALL guidelines regarding length, method to submit, timelines, etc. A foundation or funder will receive many applications and often disqualify and not read the ones that fall outside the guidelines, so don't let a silly mistake ruin your chances of funding.