Identify your Organization's Strengths, Weaknesses and Identity
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you are trying to turn an idea for a project/program into a grant proposal is that proposal writing cannot be separated from effective organizational planning. An effective grant proposal must demonstrate that the organization has planned for the project and that the project has a good chance to be successful.
Many organizations put the cart before the horse (or in this case the grant before the project) and end up chasing grants that require a "stretch" of the identity of the organization. The organization attempts to be too many things to too many people and ends up trying to support programs not related to the core mission of the organization. This can and does result in failed programs for many organizations. This also causes grant proposals to be rejected by funders who can see that the organization is trying to be too diversified.
Funders want to know that a project reinforces the overall direction of an organization. If it appears that the organization is trying to be too diversified, or the proposed project is too tangential to the mission of the organization, the funder may assume that the organization will be unable to deliver on the promises in the proposal.
Locate information on the history, philosophy and mission of your organization and keep it stored on computer for easy access. This should include organizational charts, staff and organizational bios, evaluation plans, a list of previous funding, an inventory of resources, etc. Has the organization done strategic planning recently? If so, what were the primary objectives and goals? Keep summary documents available for inclusion in descriptions of the organization.
Make sure you have generic descriptions of the organization's projects (current and future) on hand for easy access when writing the proposal. These should not exceed two pages in length but should give a clear picture of the organization's activities, audiences and services.
Identify and describe any special resources (including human resources) that the organization could utilize to make a project successful. This might include unique community resources as well.
Identify and document the accomplishments of the organization. Sometimes called a "credibility file," this should include articles about your organization from newspapers, magazines, journals, etc.; letters of support from other agencies/organizations and from your clients; and any special commendations the organization has received.
Be honest about, but don't dwell upon, organizational weaknesses. Again, reference to the strategic plan may help you document "trouble spots" and your plans to address them. Funders may be suspicious of descriptions that sound to good to be true.
Collect any examples of how the organization is involved in the community. This should include the nature of the involvement and the demonstrated commitment to the support of the community. Large corporations often direct sizeable grants to projects that improve their communities, if you can demonstrate the impact your organization has on both the people and economy of the local community, your proposal will merit serious consideration.
Overview of Non-Profit Program Planning
This document explains a basic framework in which nonprofit programs can be developed. The framework will produce a program that is highly integrated with the organization's mission and other programs, and will serve as a sound basis for writing program proposals to funders, because the framework closely follows that of the standard proposal document.
Fundamentals of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is not the same as long-range planning. With long-range planning, an organization envisions and sets goals for the future, and develops the necessary procedures, tasks, and actions for achieving that future. Because of the unpredictable nature of running a nonprofit these days, however, long-range planning is no longer enough.