How To Write A Winning Grant Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can feel overwhelming. It can be the looming monster in the back of your mind because you know a deadline is coming up, but you just can’t seem to take the time to sit down, read over the application guidelines, and start writing.

Well, if you want that grant money for your projects, then tough. You need to sit down and in the words of Nike, ’Just do it!’ But how do you do it? Well, that’s what we are going to talk about today. Let’s think of this as a basic grant application for a foundation.

Before you start writing a grant proposal

So, let’s pretend you are writing a grant for a project of your nonprofit animal shelter called We Care for Paws! You found the perfect grant from XYZ Foundation and you are jumping up and down for joy because of the following:

  • The XYZ Foundation has the priority of animal conservation!
  • The application process is currently open
  • You meet all the following requirements of the XYZ foundation:
    • We Care for Paws is an IRS tax-exempt registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization
    • We Care for Paws has a board of directors
    • We Care for Paws has been incorporated for at least two years

Now notice what you needed to look for BEFORE you even started to write that grant.

1. About your organization

This is where you gush about your organization in a very succinct way. Sound contradictive? Well, let’s take a look:

  • What year We Care for Paws was established with nonprofit status
  • When you were founded (usually before nonprofit status – see the example)
  • Why you were founded

These three can be tied together into a couple of sentences to showcase the heartbeat of the nonprofit.

2. Needs & target demographic

  • Need: This is where you showcase statistics and the NEED, not the solution.
    • Example: We Care for Paws still has a need to care for stray animals. In fact, 600 stray animals were brought into our facility in 2017 and we only had resources to spay and neuter 300 animals. There is a huge need to protect animal health and to increase resources for our spay and neuter program.
  • Target Demographic: Who or what is your specific target market?
    • Example: We Care for Paws takes in any stray animals in the urban area of Cool City. We cater to the needs in our area and serve approximately 45% cats and 50% dogs and 5% birds and other animals.

3. Goals, objectives, & timeline

  • Goal: What is the BIG outcome, and does it connect with any community goals?

Example: The project that XYZ Foundation will fund will help us create the Animals Thrive project. This project has the ultimate goal of creating healthy wellness for all animals in the urban area of Cool City.

Objective(s): Objectives are what you will specifically do for your project, how it will be measured, has a deadline and relates to your goal. In most cases, you will not want to use any more than three objectives in any given project.

Timeline: I love timelines. This is where it gets real. I believe that even if a funding source doesn’t request this that (if you have space!) you should add it in! I love laying this out in a graph format:


We Care for Paw’s Animal Thrive project will spay and neuter 300 stray dogs and cats by the end of 2019.


The project that XYZ Foundation will fund will help us create the Animals Thrive project. This project has the ultimate goal of creating healthy wellness for all animals in the urban area of Cool City


Person Responsible

Start Date

End Date

Recruit Veterinarian and Project Manager

Executive Director

Upon Award

End of Month One

Hire Veterinarian and Project Manager

Executive Director

Month Two

Month Two

Order supplies for Project

Project Manager

Month Two

Month Twelve

Develop a campaign to raise awareness of the need for spaying and neutering

Project Manager

Month Two

Month Six

Spay and neuter 300 stray cats and dogs


Month Two

Month Twelve

Run campaign

Project Manager

Month Six

Month Twelve

Submit reports to Foundation

Project Manager

Month Two

Month Twelve

4. Project approach

The project approach explains exactly what you will do and should include activities from the timeline.

We will be able to commence the spaying and neutering immediately with the animals we have in the shelter and on the waiting list. Based on previous numbers, we estimate spaying and neutering 30 cats and dogs per month for an estimated ten months (between month two and twelve of the grant funding), for a total of 300 animals. We will track the efforts in reports each month of the surgeries completed. We will also create an awareness campaign to encourage low-income families to bring their animals into the shelter for spaying and neutering their animals. Programmatic and fiscal reports will be completed by the Project Manager and submitted to XYZ Foundation each month.

5. Budget & budget narrative

This is the fun part! Foundations usually want a line-by-line budget and short description to explain each item needed.

Example: Animals Thrive Budget






$35 per hour for 520 hours


Project Manager

$25 per hour for 1,040 hours


Executive Director

$35 per hour x .05% (104 hours)


Personnel Subtotal


Fringe Benefits


7.65% x $47,840


Worker’s Compensation

0.01% x $47,840


Fringe Benefits Subtotal



Spay and Neutering Supplies

$100 per animals x 300


Outreach and Awareness

Advertising, printing, etc.


Supplies Subtotal


Indirect Cost

10% de minimis


Total Animals Thrive Project



Personnel: $47,840

Veterinarian: Conduct 300 spays and neuters of animals at $35 per hour for 520 hours totaling $18,200. The veterinarian shall work, on average, ten hours per week and conduct approximately 30 spay and neuters per week.

Project Manager: Oversee the development of the campaign and report at $25 per hour for 1,040 hours at $26,000. The Project Manager will create advertisements, graphics, oversee the social media and website development, order supplies, track animals that are spayed and neutered, work closely with the Executive Director and Veterinarian, and oversee all fiscal and programmatic reports.

Executive Director: This project will take 5% of the Executive Director’s time at $35 per hour for a total of $3,640. The executive director shall oversee the entire project, conduct the hiring, attend conferences and network within the community, and report to the board of directors.

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