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Essential Proposal Elements

In many ways, applying for a grant is similar to applying for a job. Jobseekers and grantseekers are both applying (competing) to do work in their field of expertise. Just as there are essential elements in a resume, there are essential elements in a grant proposal.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations developed the Minnesota Common Grant Form to standardize the elements to be included in grant proposals, thereby making the process easier for both grantseekers and grantmakers. Using this form avoids having to re-organize the same information to fit different funder guidelines. The linked page above includes a list of which Minnesota grantmakers will accept this form.

Whether using the Minnesota Common Grant Form or not, the required elements of any grant proposal are usually some slight variation of the following:

Cover Letter and Application Form
The letter introduces the proposal and shows institutional support for the project. It should be signed by the project director's dean or vice president. Cover letters for large proposals are signed by the president. Some funders require an application form, which may request specific information such as EIN or DUNS numbers. You can request this information from your corporate/foundation relations office.

Summary or Abstract
Summarizes the proposal in a paragraph or up to one page. Do not underestimate the importance of the abstract! It may be the only piece of your proposal that is read during the initial screening of proposals. It should identify the applicant organization, include information on organizational credibility, situation being addressed, objectives, methods, and dollar amount requested.

Organizational Information
Tells reader brief history, mission, staff, activities, and governance. This section is often one of the first sections, or it may be placed near the end. SJU proposal writers may incorporate one of these organizational information templates or write their own.

Statement of Need or Situation Description
Description of why the project is necessary. This section is very important to a successful proposal. Include statistical evidence and statements from authorities to support your assertions.

Project Description, Plan or Activities
Explains your plan to address the Need and includes goal, objectives and methods. The goal is the long-range benefit you are seeking (e.g., to ensure the well being of college students), the objectives are the measurable outcomes (e.g. on-campus crime will be reduced by 20% over two years), the methods are how you will reach your objectives (e.g., implement plan of cooperation between campus security and city police).

Impact of Activities
What will be different and better as a result of the work to be done?

Evaluation Plan
Description of a plan that will measure the degree of success. Describes who will measure, what will be measured, and how it will be measured. More info

Sustainability Plan
How will the project continue after the grant period expires? Grantmakers want to know that the projects they support won't disappear as soon as the money is spent. More info

The proposal budget usually includes a budget narrative that explains how expenses are calculated and why they are necessary to conduct the project.

Supporting Materials
The funder may request items such as evidence of tax exempt status, audited financial statements, and organizational budget. Contact your corporate/foundation relations office for help assembling supporting materials.