The Anatomy of a Great Grant Application

What makes 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 real deal, so make sure to avoid simply telling them what you think they want to hear. Engage your ears 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.

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.

great grant application

Jeff Kutash

August 10, 2016

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