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Grant Proposals: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing

grant proposals
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Once you start searching, you’ll see that there are a lot of grants out there – from mini-grants for specific projects to huge amounts of money for a comprehensive program. You know what you need and have searched for proposals that match. You read the call for proposals carefully and found one that is looking for proposals exactly like yours. 

We’ve previously talked about questions to ask yourself as you searched for the best grant to address your needs. Now that you’re sure of the grant to aim for, we have another set of questions, the ones to ask yourself before you write the proposal. There will be other questions in the future but for now, let’s think about why you are writing this proposal. 

1. Why do you want this grant? 

You have a great idea and are determined to make it happen. But you have to be able to explain it in a clear, concise, and compelling way. This matters a lot. Not only will you have to convince the funders to believe in your idea but you also have to get all of the stakeholders in your school or district on board. You need the staff who will be involved in the project with you, the administrators in the school and district who have to sign off on it, and perhaps even the school board and the community. 

2. What needs will your project address? 

You perceive the need for carrying out what you plan, but you’ll have to convince others of the merits of your thinking. Whether students are failing to achieve their potential or have different abilities whose needs are not being well served, or some other reason, be clear about the needs you have the perfect solution for. 

3. What are your short- and long-term goals? 

Short-term goals are what you want to accomplish relatively quickly. They are small, manageable steps that help you make progress toward your ultimate goal. You can see each as an individual stepping stone in the overall plan, and you measure success by charting specific objectives that you can accomplish with each.

Long-term goals are those that you want to achieve as an end result of your project. A good way to identify a long-term goal is to analyze whether or not it will require deliberate planning, commitment, hard work, and a significant amount of time. 

Measuring achievement of your short-term goals and the objectives of long-term goals shows you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Often an outside evaluator will measure your success.

4. Do your goals address the mission of the funder? 

As you write your proposal, keep in mind that the organization that you’re asking for the grant must want to fund your idea. This means that the goals should match the stated mission of the organization. If your idea is similar in scope to projects they’ve funded in the past, you’re on the right track. 

5.  What do you need to reach these goals? 

You know what you want to accomplish so think carefully about what you will need to get it done. What staff, materials, equipment, support, and other items do you require? Be sure to mention everything so the funder knows how the funds will be spent and so the grant reader understands that you know what you’re doing. 

6. Who will be involved in the project? 

Include the titles of all the staff members who will be involved in the project. Part of the funding you ask for might go to support their time. Even if the district is supporting the program with staff, you need to explain how the staff contributes to the outcome. 

7. How committed are you? 

This is key. You must be sure that you and all the other people who are involved are committed to doing their part in writing the proposal and then in doing the hard work in completing the program if you win the grant. Again, be sure you have the backing of key people in the school and district. It’s important to know they want this project to succeed. 

8. How much money will you need? 

You’ll list your budget and write a budget narrative, so know exactly what you need, why you need it, and how much it will cost. Do the math! Include staff if you need funds for their salaries or afterschool activities. Include equipment that’s essential to the project, but don’t make this a wish list of technology. 

9. Do you fully understand the grant’s guidelines? 

Read the directions carefully and be sure they are clear. If there’s anything you don’t understand, contact someone in the organization. You don’t want to make incorrect assumptions. If you understand the directions, you can begin to write the proposal. Be sure to read the directions over again first and then answer everything you’re asked.

Gwen Solomon was Founding Director of The School of the Future in New York City, Coordinator of Instructional Technology Planning for New York City Public Schools, and Senior Analyst in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Instructional Technology. She has written and co-authored several books and many magazine articles on educational technology.