The first thing I recommend people do once they find a funding agency is to scrutinize the request for proposal (RFP). Read it over and over until you have a solid grasp of what the funder wants. Know who you’re writing to. The person who will ultimately score your proposal will have expertise in the field. Write to them like you’re sitting down in front of them telling your organization’s story.
The RFP is your guideline. It tells you what you need to do, and what documentation is required by the funder. Different funders require different items. Just remember to give the funding agency what they want. No matter how unimportant something seems to you, make sure it is in your proposal package. Oh, yes, and make sure it’s in the exact place they want it.
There are some things every funder is going to want from the nonprofit organization. They will need organization data and the name of a contact person. Documentation may include, but is not limited to, Federal tax ID number, Board of Directors, financial statements, Form 990, and The DUNS number, which is a unique nine-character number that identifies your organization. The federal government has adopted the use of DUNS numbers to track how federal grant money is allocated.
The funder will also request a description of the project/program, goals, purpose, and objectives of the organization and of course, the current operating budget. Most will require a line item budget and tell you what percentage of indirect cost you can add.
The RFP will explain what the foundation will fund. They want to know how the money will be spent if you are awarded a grant, and make sure you are a good steward of their money.
The needs statement, a.k.a., problem statement or vision, is a section in the RFP that explains how the program/project will address the needs of the community. Foundations are not interested in how funding will help the organization. They want to know their money will assist the people.
Explain why your organization is the best one to achieve the proposal goals, with their funding.
Emphasize facts and support your statistics with regional or national data. Be compelling, clear and concise. Draw the reader in with emotions. Paint a picture. Add stories of real people and how they relate to the problem or provide a solution.
Lastly, but most importantly, know what the funder wants and give it to them.
Follow the request for proposal guidelines to the letter and you’ll have a winning proposal.