How to Write a Biography for a Grant Application

by James Rutter

The biography section of a grant application provides a grant-awarding agency with information that can help the agency decide whether or not the applicant should receive funds. Grants are a form of financial assistance donated from an organization to another organization or individual. Unlike a loan, the grant recipient does not have to pay back the money. Foundations, corporations and many government agencies at the federal, state and local level offer grants for science, medicine, technology, small business, the arts, community services and non-profit organizations. A biography section differs in its requirements for individual and organizational applicants.

Individual Applications

State your name and current position or occupation in the first sentence.

Include your education history. The grant-awarding institution needs to know if you possess qualifications that will enable you to carry out the project specified in your grant application. For example, the National Institutes of Health specifically instructs researchers applying for grants to show that they are “appropriately trained.”

Detail your career history and accomplishments in your field. For instance, if you are applying for a small business start-up grant, mention successful small businesses you have started in the past.

Highlight awards or past honors you have received that are relevant to the grant application. Grant-awarding organizations like to see a track record of success. If you have won previous grants that led to past successes in your field, include the name of the grant awarding organization and year that you received the grant.

Tell a story. Think of your biography as a narrative that flows from one topic to the next, rather than a listing of dry facts.

Organization Applications

Provide a biographical sketch of each member of your organization’s board. Include the position that each member holds on the board, such as “President.” This biographical sketch should include degrees earned, relevant titles and recent career history.

List the name of each member of the research team or organization that will work directly on the proposed project. State each individual's position in the company or organization and briefly provide each person’s education and accomplishments.

Relate the organization’s mission statement to the mission statement, activities and goals of the grant-awarding organization. Illustrate the manner in which your company or organization’s philosophy reflects the ideals or beliefs of the grant-awarding organization. For example, if you are a community service provider applying for a grant from the United Way, detail how your organization’s mission reflects the United Way’s commitment to “improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities."

Highlight the grants your company has received in the past. Briefly detail the project that received the grant, the year of the grant award and the success achieved with the grant money. Detail awards or past honors your organization has won that are relevant to the grant application.

Indicate the degree of need within your company that the grant will help fulfill. For example, if your non-profit agency faces a budget shortfall because of declining donations, specify exactly how much your funding has decreased and how the grant will enable you to continue or expand your agency’s operations.

About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.

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