Obtain Application Guidelines and Information
Once you identify the funder(s) you want to work with, make sure the form of your approach is correct. Most government agencies and private foundations prefer a phone call or a letter of inquiry as the first step while others will simply want you to send them a full proposal with all required documentation based on their published guidelines. Remember that you are going to be building a relationship/partnership with this funder and you want to make the best impression you can at every step along the way. Even if you do not receive approval or even a hearing on the first attempt, if the impression left is a positive one,the next time you may be successful.
Request all application materials and guidelines as well as copies of grants they have funded in the past. If you end up applying to foundations that other agencies have worked with previously, do not be afraid to ask your colleagues for copies of the proposals they used, regardless of whether they received a grant from the foundation. Any extra information you can find on the foundation will help you make your proposal stand out.