Elements of a Grant Proposal

There is no one, uniform, grant application.  Each grant maker will give you their guidelines and tell you what paperwork is required for the grant proposal.   However, most grant proposals have similar elements.

The following are some elements typically found in a grant proposal:

Cover Letter

The cover letter you write should be one page consisting of a brief introduction to your nonprofit organization, a summary of your grant proposal, and contact information.  The cover letter should be written on your organization’s letterhead and signed by your organization’s executive director or highest official.

Summary or Abstract

The summary is the first item in the proposal, however it should not be written until the rest of the proposal has been developed. The summary should include a description of your nonprofit, a definition of the problem to be solved, a statement of the objectives to be achieved, an outline of the activities and procedures to be used to accomplish those objectives, a description of the evaluation design plans for the project at the end of the grant, and a statement of what it will cost the funding agency.

Organizational Overview

Usually a grantmaker will want an overview of your organization.  Briefly state its history, the composition of the board and key staff, and the population your organization serves. The data you provide in this section should establish your organization’s credentials for administering the project.

Problem Statement or Needs Assessment

With the statement of need you are describing the problem your organization intends to overcome with the help of the grant funding.  You can reference research and statistics documenting the prevalence of the problem. With the statement of need, you are justifying your project’s existence. The case must be made that your nonprofit is the right organization to solve the problem.

Project Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives should flow logically from the statement of need. Goals are the visionary aims of your project. Objectives are the measurable steps you will take towards meeting those goals.  With your goals, you inspire the proposal readers. With your objectives, you convince them that your project is doable.

Project Methods

The project methods explain how the project goals and objectives will be reached.  All of the various tasks involved in completing the project are outlined chronologically. When readers look at the project design, they want to see that you have carefully thought out all the necessary steps to accomplishing your objectives.

Project Evaluation

Grant makers  want to know that their money will be put to good use. In your grant proposal, you must be able to demonstrate that you can evaluate your project. Project evaluation (or measurable outcomes) should be based upon your project objectives: clearly and concisely, in one or two pages, you should write out what you intend to accomplish and how you will know when you have reached this goal.

Future Funding

Grant makers do not want to give money to a project and then see it fail due to lack of future funding. If you intend for your project to continue beyond the grant period, you must explain how this will be possible. Whether you are relying upon funding from other sources, or whether you intend to plan request future funding from the same grantmaker; make this clear in your proposal.

Project Budget

All project expenses should be explained in detail in the project budget: salaries and benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contract costs, etc. Make sure that your budget completely and accurately reflects the activities you have outlined in your proposal.  A well prepared budget should be reasonable and demonstrate that the funds being asked for will be used wisely.


The conclusion should be short and inspirational. It is your final opportunity to convince the reviewer that your project will meet a need in the community.


Any supplemental materials that are requested by the grantmaker, such as organizational pamphlets, letters of support and resumes of staff and board members, etc.

Those are the common elements that you will need to prepare for a grant proposal.  One thing to remember is that you should not submit anything more than is asked for.  It will not help your proposal and might hurt it.  Proposal reviewers do not want unsolicited materials such as CD’s or brochures.

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