The first step before even considering the content of your community service grant is to conduct careful research about your project idea and to uncover potential funding sources. If you have a dream to improve after-school opportunities for at-risk students, for instance, you’ll need to be able to define every aspect of your ideal project. Who will you serve? What kind of community support can you rely on? Where should be funding come from? How much will you need? These are just a few of the goals that must be thoroughly explored as you prepare to write.
Jen Heneberry at Community Power Finance Forum
Photo Credit: mars_discovery_district
Developing a Grant Proposal
The more work you put into planning your proposal, the more likely your project will be funded. Before you start looking to foundations or federal agencies for grant money, define your project mission. To do that, answer the question, “What is the purpose of my project?” Next, survey the community you wish to serve to find out if there is truly a need for your project. Are there other non-profit agencies already in place that receive grant money to accomplish the same goals? If so, you need to refine your mission and be able to point out how will your project be different. Continuing with the “after school program” example, identify a portion of the student population that is not able to benefit from existing services. Or propose a mentoring program in an under served field — such as English and writing — to call attention to the unique nature of your project.
Where to Find Funding and Support
If your community service grant is intended to serve your local area, it is best to search for foundations closer to home. A community services grant is most likely to find funding in the area that will be served by the project. Corporations often make donations or even fund a project partially or in full through their community outreach offices.
It is possible to receive a grant for an individual, but most are awarded to non-profit organizations. If you are looking for sources to fund your small, one-person community project, you can find them listed in the Foundation Center’s publications.
Whether you are seeking a community service grant from a corporation, a local foundation, or a federal grant, garnering support from key community leaders and from those in leadership positions within organizations that could benefit from your project is essential. Search for academic or professional or even political leaders in organizations to get their support. Letters of support are often required for federal grants.
- There are two main internet resources to review when looking for funding sources. The federal government operates Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and the Foundation Center, which is a clearinghouse for funding organizations both private and corporate.
- There are various Congressional Research Service reports that provide useful information for grant seekers, including CRS Report RL34012.
- CRS Report RL32872: Community Services Block Grants Funding and Re-authorization provides information about the availability of federal block grants.
Preparing to Write the Proposal
Many people find it helpful to attend a grant-writing workshop before they start to prepare the proposal. If you have never written a grant before, a workshop could assist you in crafting your message to meet the criteria of the funding agency.
Be careful to target your idea to the foundation’s interests so that you optimize the potential for getting your proposal funded. Before you start, ask the foundation you have found for a grant application kit. If one isn’t available, ask for information that describes what the foundation is looking for so that you can more closely target your message to their needs in the appropriate format.
After you feel confident that you have fully defined your project and focused it on services that are needed in the community, you can develop a preliminary paper, referred to as a concept paper that will prepare you to write the actual proposal. The following points should be summarized in your concept paper:
- Who will benefit from your service?
- What are your project goals?
- Who will implement your project?
- How much time is needed to meet the goals?
- How will success be measured?
- What are the future plans beyond the scope of the immediate grant?
- What is the budget for completing this project?
- How do your project objectives relate to the foundation’s or agency’s stated purpose?
Some foundations and governmental funding agencies will agree to read your concept paper and provide feedback to you before you start the official community service grant writing process.
Finally, before you start writing, take a look at some sample proposals to learn more about the sections will need to cover:
- You can obtain sample proposals from the website Non-profit Guides.
- If you want to write a grant to serve students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, or a particular subset of the student population, see sample proposals at K12 Grants.
- The Minnesota Council on Foundations provides grant writing advice on their website.
Thorough research and a well-defined project are the necessary building blocks for a focused and relevant community service grant proposal. Be sure to talk to corporate and governmental leaders whose support you will need. If you can put together a concept paper that summarizes your project, budget and future plans, you are on the way to writing a winning grant proposal.