In these challenging economic times, individual grants have become more difficult to obtain. Writing a winning proposal and demonstrating that you have done your research increases your chances of being a grantee.
Research foundations, federal and state agencies and corporations that offer grants to individuals. Be careful to research guidelines as many foundations will not give to individuals. Begin researching personal grant opportunities by visiting The Foundation Center website (see Resources below). Online research is effective but smaller funders may not have a website. In that case, use your local library to find out the contact person and call or email that person for guidelines. Before visiting the library, call or check online to find out if it has a grant research center. If so, find out the hours; they may be limited. Library grant research centers have access to more detailed grant opportunities than general online sources because they have detailed, searchable databases.
Develop a proposal idea adhering to the grantor's guidelines. Write a compelling needs statement outlining why your project or program is needed. Research past grant recipients for grantors in which you are interested. You can do this by looking up 990 tax returns that are public and required to be filed by granting organizations. You can also find past grant recipients and assigned projects on some foundation websites. Develop a proposal in alignment with past grantees, but make yours unique to your field of expertise, and describe how your project will impact the community.
Write clear goals and objectives. A goal is what will be achieved, and the objective is how it will be achieved. Many guidelines will require at least three goals and objectives for your project. Then, develop methods that describe how you will go about meeting your goals and objectives. An example of a goal is: Improve the quality of life for senior citizens in The XYZ Home. Two sample objectives would be: Provide ongoing and varied arts programs for seniors, or develop healthier menus for the dining room at XYZ Home.
Prepare the evaluation component. An evaluation is a process that outlines the effectiveness of a funded project. It should outline how the project affects or benefits the intended audience and include quantitative or qualitative data and overall impact of the services provided.
Determine strategies to fund your project for the future. Develop a realistic budget showing income (both earned and donated) and expenses, including salaries, fringe, marketing, travel and indirect costs such as rent and utilities. The income and expense amount should both be the same. Include the amount you expect from each funding source in the income section.
Write the introduction to the grant last because it will be easier to capture the purpose of your project after writing the other components. A good book to start with is "Winning Grants Step by Step" by Mim Carlson. Other websites that offer grant information for individuals are the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities (see Resources below).
Always follow the grantor's guidelines. If they ask for five copies, send five copies. If they state "no grants to individuals," don't think you can be the one to change their minds. You'll just waste your time and theirs.
Your chances of receiving an invidiual grant are greater through federal and state agencies. Don't forget to look into grant opportunities through local government offices in your town. Buy a comprehensive book on grant writing that includes a workbook section. Try to find one written specifically for individual grants.
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