The Anatomy of a Great Grant Application

When it comes to writing a gonna-get-the-gold grant application, it’s all about body language. Not what you expected to hear?  No problem, see below for a closer examination of the anatomy of an amazing grant application.

 

First use your fingers. Take your thumb, index finger, ring finger and pinky (keep your middle finger rested, you may need it for later in the process) and move your mouse. Wake that computer up and find your way to the foundation’s website. Not sure where to start? Check out great places to look for grants on page five of this issue.

 

Now open your eyes and take it all in – their mission, program priorities, grant guidelines and decision criteria – all required reading. Assure yourself there is ample alignment between your outcomes and their objectives to decide if it is worth your while to apply and worth their while to read your application. Peruse their past grants to look for parallel projects to help triangulate the total amount for which you will ask. Devour every detail on their process, no matter how picayune or petty, so that you can adhere ritualistically to their ridiculous rigmarole and pointless pet peeves. If they ask for 9.494 Franklin Gothic font on loose leaf pink paper, good golly give them 9.494 Franklin Gothic font on loose leaf pink paper! Now, aren’t you glad that middle finger is nice and rested?

 

Don’t forget to flex all your fingers and call the foundation. Move that mouth to ask for answers to your questions. Talk authentically and build your bond. Foundations want to know the realdeal, so make sure to avoid simply telling them what you think they want to hear. Engage yourears and unleash your active listening skills. Really soak up what it is the foundation is saying to you.

 

Now loosen your lungs and take a big deep breath. It’s time to draft the document.

 

Let your silver tongue take over. Attack that application!  Share not just what is asked, but whatreally matters. Be candid – communicate the good and the bad.

 

Use your brilliant brain to brandish the definitive data and the irrefutable feckless facts.

 

And open your heart!  Humanize your efforts by enlightening them about your compelling clients and the emotional effects of your efforts.

 

And goodness gracious; be bold, be brazen be brave, and have the bal…uh…the guts to ask for funds for what you need and not just what you think they will approve; and to ask for enough to cover your complete costs – operating, overhead, and other.

 

So I hope this is helpful, and I respectfully request you to forgive my folly if this was all just a little too tongue-and-cheek.

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Jeff Kutash is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub Magazine. As Executive Director of the Peter Kiewit Foundation, Jeff Kutash is responsible for the foundation’s grantmaking, community initiatives, and operations. Jeff combines an extensive background in strategy development for social sector organizations with significant experience in education and youth issues.

  • Edward Wollmann

    Hello Jeff

    On the surface, ‘waking that computer up to find your way to the foundation’s website’ would seem to have merit.

    But there’s only problem: Over 90 percent of grant making foundations in the USA DON’T HAVE websites.

    And these foundations are not ‘little minnows.’ There are two foundations in the county where I live that don’t have websites and that make grants of $6 million and $5 million a year, respectively.

    So now what?

    Edward Wollmann
    Michigan Grants Funding, Inc.

    • Jeff Kutash

      Thanks for your comment. I believe that foundations, particularly staffed foundations, have an obligation to transparently share their mission, vision, areas of focus, application process, and decision criteria. See my blog post on this topic written for Center for Effective Philanthropy: http://www.effectivephilanthropy.org/foundations-who-live-in-glass-houses-shouldnt/. To your point, though, many still do not do this, particularly if they are small, family-led and/or do not have staff. In those cases, I still recommend doing whatever you can do to learn about their interests and priorities. This can include calling them if you have a contact number, googling their name to see where they may have made grants in the past (to what causes, at what amounts), checking for their names in the annual reports of nonprofits in your community, and by looking to see what you can find out about them on the Foundation Center website and the Guidestar website. You might even be able to get a copy of their IRS 990 form listing the grants that they have made on the Guidestar website. Thanks again for your comment, and hope this is helpful.

      • Edward Wollmann

        Hello Jeff

        Thank you for your response. Well, what our posts both seem to say is; that at the end of the day, finding suitable grant funders is going to take work, work, and more work.

        There just are no shortcuts in the ‘grants game.’

        Thanks again for a well-thought out response.

        Edward Wollmann