How to write a grant
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How to write a grant



Guide written for Michigan Festivals and Events Association.

Guide written for Michigan Festivals and Events Association.



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How to write a grant How to write a grant Document Transcript

  • Writing a Grantfor the Michigan Festivals and Events Association’sEvent Guideby Andy / @awolber / 313-595-2017May 11, 2012Before You Ask: Update and Online InformationBefore you apply for a grant, make sure information about your organization is complete andaccurate at Guidestar publishes Form 990s filed by nonprofit organizations withthe United States Internal Revenue Service. Be sure to provide additional information aboutyour programs, as well as identify your organization’s funding and volunteer needs. Creating aGuidestar account is free. You need to request permission from Guidestar in order to updateyour organization’s profile information.Many program officers will review data along with your grant request. So makesure that the information in Guidestar is up-to-date and accurate!You should also review your organization’s web presence: your website and social mediaaccounts (e.g., Facebook page), in particular. Make certain that lists of donors, board members,and staff are current. Program descriptions, news, directions and contact information onlineshould also be verified for accuracy. You might also check to make sure that key staff have up-to-date profiles on professional networking sites (e.g., Potential FundersYou can identify several potential sources of event funding simply by reviewing the major donorand sponsor lists of other local events and charities. Typically, funding comes from three largecategories of funders: corporations, foundations, and governments.Corporate support is often provided out of a marketing and promotion budget. These fundstend to be used to support marketing related interests, often called “cause related marketing”.Because these are marketing dollars at work, the visibility of the event as well as thedemographics and number of people reached are often important factors when obtaining thistype of funding. The total number of people participating in an event can also be important whenseeking government funding, since government support is often comes from travel and tourismpromotion budgets.Foundations tend to clearly identify areas which they support. In many cases these areasare defined geographically: funding projects in a specific region, or, in the case of corporatefoundations, in communities where employees live or work. In other cases, foundations selectspecific topical areas, such as arts and culture, or health and education, and focus their fundingon those. Community foundations typically manage a number of donor-advised funds, inaddition to having a pool of dollars available for projects to be awarded on a competitive basis.
  • The Foundation Center is one of the best, central sources of information about foundations andcorporate funding. provides links to both the Foundation Directory andCorporate Giving online databases. Access to these databases costs in the $200 to $1,300per year range, providing increasingly detailed grantmaker profiles and search capabilities asfees increase. If your local library or nonprofit information center is a member of the FoundationCenter’s Cooperating Collection program, many of the Foundation Center’s resources may beavailable to you for free (follow the link to find a Cooperating Collection near you) provides a similar central source of information about United States federalgovernment grants. Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the sitealso enables organizations to apply for grants online.Make sure you qualify, then follow the guidelinesAfter you’ve identified a potential funder, review their application and funding guidelines indetail. Most foundations publish guidelines on the web. Many larger foundations also makeinformation about all of their grants public. Take a look at for a detailed listof publicly available information provided by foundations, including websites, grant databases,social media channels used, as well as published foundation policies and practices.Be sure to follow the foundation’s application guidelines carefully. If the foundation offersthe opportunity to have a conversation with a program officer in advance of an application, Istrongly recommend you do so. A conversation may help you better understand the foundation’sprogram goals and areas of emphasis. Note that some foundations expressly do not encourageunsolicited requests or contact with officers or staff: be sure to honor their stated policies andrequests.Make sure you request funds for the specific type of funding the organization provides. Forexample, a foundation that supports “organizational capacity building” might be asked to providefunds for staff attendance at educational events, such as MFEA’s conference. A corporatefunder might be asked to provide support to cover the costs of an area to host educationalactivities for children. A funder focused on capital improvements might be asked to cover thecosts for building a new visitor center welcoming guests to an event site.Write Clearly; Budget ReasonablyWrite your request as clearly and concisely as possible.Describe the impact your project will have on the community, for event participants, and/or foryour organization. The standard “5w’s and H” often taught in high-school journalism classeswork well for grant writing. Be sure your grant proposal addresses:- Who will benefit?- What will be done / accomplished?- When will the funding be used?- Where will activities occur?
  • - How will the funding make a difference? How will the work be done?- Why is this project being done?- Why should this foundation fund your organization for this project?If it helps, you might think of your grant proposal as a mini-business plan: If we do X, webelieve Y will happen. The grant request provides the details of the resources required and anarticulation of the expected outcome.Remember that grant reviewers may be reading hundreds of grants! Use clear, simplelanguage. Make it easy for a grant reviewer to understand what you are trying to do. (Do notmake them wade through long, convoluted, confusing and complex sentences -- with lots ofclauses and side statements that make the sentence very difficult to read... such as this one!)To improve your writing, I recommend Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer byRoy Peter Clark, which provides quite practical advice.Budget revenue conservatively and expenses completely.Your revenue projections -- especially for earned income -- should be as accurate andreasonable as possible. “Optimistic” budget numbers that indicate significant increases inrevenue have no place in a grant request budget. If you must include speculative numbers,clearly show how the figures are calculated: explain your estimates and thinking in writtencomments to the numbers, if necessary.Make certain to clearly identify the costs associated with the proposed activities. Costs typicallyinclude costs for people’s time, services, materials and equipment. Many events would notbe possible without appropriately coordinated volunteer efforts or in-kind contributions. Yourbudget should accurately report the staff time necessary to ensure that volunteers and in-kindcontributions are effectively leveraged. Make sure your budget reflects the impact of these “non-cash” contributions appropriately.Do what you said you would do; recognize and thank appropriatelySuccessful grant implementation is as simple as doing what you said your organization woulddo. This sounds simple. It isn’t.Effective development officers are detail oriented. They “sweat the details”, because they knowthat is built between people and organizations when grant proposal language matches realworld implementation practice. If significant changes or amendments to the original approvedgrant are needed, be sure to communicate with the funders as soon as possible. Open andhonest communication are critical.Thank your donors appropriately. Recognizing a funder’s contribution (online, in print and onsite) is critical, especially for donations related to promotion or marketing efforts. You mustacknowledge a donor’s gift for tax purposes, at minimum. A handwritten note on a form letter isan improvement. A handwritten, personalized note is rare; a personal phone call of thanks may
  • also be appreciated.Evaluate and report accuratelyA grant is not complete until the outcome of the activities has been evaluated. Be sure tocomplete all formal reports requested or required by the funder. In recent years, evaluation hasbecome its own field of study. For our purposes, the essence of evaluation means analyzingactivities and reflecting on results: What happened? What worked? What was achieved?Think of your report as the first stage of the next grant request cycle. The report should showyour analysis of the results. What would you do differently next time? What did you and yourorganization learn during implementation? What can you improve?Grant seeking and making, ultimately, is about developing relationships between individualsrepresenting organizations seeking to achieve social impact and change. Do your homework.Diligently focus on details and seek to achieve results. Admit flaws; celebrate successes.Emerging Trend: CrowdfundingTraditional grant seeking meant receiving a large amount of funds from a small number offunders. Crowdfunding tools enable the opposite: receiving a small amount of funds from a largenumber of funders. Festivals and events are using these tools to fund specific performancesand activities. Do a search at “” or “” for the word “festival” forexamples.Crowdfunding projects resemble public television campaign offers: if you provide funding at$X level, we will provide you “Y” benefit. In the case of performances or events, the benefitsoften include signed photographs, opportunities to meet performers, etc. Crowdfunding is worthexploring for festival and events with a large number of enthusiastic supporters.Learn MoreTo learn more about grant writing and fundraising, I encourage you to subscribe to the Chronicleof Philanthropy ( The Chronicle serves as a general purpose publicationreporting on trends in fundraising and the world of philanthropy. Digital subscriptions start at alittle more than $50 per year.The National Council of Nonprofits provides links to all existing state nonprofit associations,which often present fundraising and/or grantwriting workshops. In Michigan, see might also look for workshops from a local nonprofit capacity building organization inyour community. Additional training is available from The Fundraising School at the Center forPhilanthropy at Indiana University, The Grantsmanship Center, and through the Association ofFundraising Professionals.