If you, or an organization you represent, are applying for funding from an institution such as a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, you will likely need to write a grant. Grant funds are awarded to support activities and programs that are consistent with a nonprofit organization’s mission. Grant writing can feel daunting and overwhelming — there’s strict deadlines, a wide variety of formats, and individual preferences by funder. Here is a brief overview to get started with grant writing.

First off, a few definitions you will need to know. A Request for Proposals (RFP) is used to announce the grant opportunity and outline eligibility, criteria, and how to apply. Some grant-making institutions will request a Letter of Intent (LOI), which is a brief summary of what you are applying for grant funds for. The Proposal is the full grant application, and a Report would be due to the funder once a grant is awarded.

Grant opportunities can be challenging to find. The Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online is a great resource for nonprofits which provides information on grantmakers and a list of current RFPs. Once you have identified a grant to apply to, it can be even more difficult to get awarded. Here are few tips to get you started:

Research, research, research

Take the time to get all of the information about the grant you’ve chosen to apply for. Many grants have very specific requirements, so you first want to make sure that the grant opportunity is a good fit your nonprofit organization. Also, read the directions carefully to find out when the application is due, whether they require an LOI first, how to access the full application, etc. You can also do some research on the grantor’s website or on the internet to find out who else they funded and how much they got.

Clearly describe your project

It’s important to provide a compelling reason for why you need the grant funding and to differentiate yourself from everyone else applying. Clearly describe the need your project will meet in the community and what makes you different. Pretend you are introducing your work to someone totally new.

Use Your Resources

There are many websites and resources available online for grant writing. Check out the Foundation Center or others to help guide you. And, if you know anyone (or know someone who knows someone) at the foundation or grant-making entity, try to talk with them first to get as much information as you can and to advocate for your application.

It is fairly common to have your grant proposal denied the first time you apply. Do not get discouraged if it does not work out; keep writing and applying!