A Guide to Writing a Small Business Grant Proposal

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Last Updated on 

January 19, 2023

While there may be more opportunities for non-profit organizations when it comes to grant funding, grants for small business owners are not rare.

In fact, small businesses received more than $334 billion in total award obligations through the SBA in 2021 , spread across more than 9 million transactions and 7 million new awards. Over $254 million was spent through grants alone. The amount spent on grant awards has risen in 2022 as well, increasing to more than $455 million.

Federal contracts and financial assistance are out there. And that is without mentioning small business research grants and other types of non-governmental contracts and awards.

Grants for small businesses can often be a better option than a loan, as grants do not require repayment of any kind. The caveat? Your goals need to align with the goals of the organization or awarding agency you’re seeking a grant from.

Many grants are dedicated to supporting non-profit work or specific research initiatives. However, small business grants are dedicated to helping owners and founders achieve specific business goals or projects that align with a funding agency’s mission or a particular initiative.

This includes research grants designed to support businesses working on research and development that has a high potential for commercialization. As a biotech founder, CEO, or employee, this is most likely the exact type of grant you’re looking for.

Like non-profit grants, small business grants are offered through both government and non-government agencies. Furthermore, unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back.

In this article, we’ll review small business grants, grant proposals, and how to write small business grant proposals. We’ll also review some best practices for grant writing, the differences between a “good” and “bad” proposal, the various types of grants available, and additional resources to help you write a small business grant.

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What Is a Small Business Grant Proposal?

A small business grant proposal, like a typical grant proposal, is a clear and concise presentation of what you’re proposing to do before it actually happens. It usually takes the form of a written document that you either prepare online or physically.

You send your proposal to a particular funding agency that’s providing a grant opportunity you’re interested in.

The presentation should thoroughly explain the reasons for your proposal and why you’re applying for grant funding from a specific funder. Explain the who, what, when, where, how, and why of your proposed project or program.

When you clearly and concisely explain your proposal in an organized and well-thought manner, you will have a better chance at receiving approval from the grant reviewers.

What Are the Steps to Developing a Grant Proposal?

There are several steps you should take to develop an effective proposal. First, begin with an idea, followed by planning, strategy, and success.

What is the idea you’re hoping to make a reality? It’s ideally something you’re already working on and are seeking additional funding to help continue developing, but it can also be something you’re planning on starting and need funding to begin that journey.

Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to start planning. Flesh out the details of what your program, project, or initiative is all about that you’re seeking funding for.

After planning, you’ll need to start forming a strategy. This involves detailing your approach and methodology regarding bringing your program or project to life. How will you effectively put your plan into action?

With a strategy in place for success, you’ll be able to show the funder how you will accomplish what you’re setting out to do and how you will evaluate your accomplishments, giving the funder confidence in you by showing them you’ve got a game plan.

From here, you will want to take some additional steps before you start researching grant and developing your proposal:

  • Make sure your idea can be funded, as some things are not eligible for grant funding
  • Read the grant application guidelines carefully, they will help you determine if you actually qualify or not
  • Make note of the eligibility requirements and what the funder is requesting; you might not be eligible or have everything they’re asking for

Lastly, ask yourself:

  • Is my proposal doable?
  • Does it have a focused goal?
  • Can you provide everything a funder is asking for in the application? (If you can’t, you’re putting yourself in a position to become disqualified, wasting time and effort)
  • Is it in alignment with your own goals and, most importantly, with the goals of the potential funding agency?
  • Is there a beginning, middle, and end? (Granting agencies do not fund projects forever; in fact, most grants only last a year or two, depending on who’s providing the grant)
  • Can you meet the deadline? (Grants have deadlines; if you start too late, you’ll have to rush and that can lead to mistakes and disqualification)

Grant Proposal Review & Common Elements

Grant proposal guidelines and instructions vary from funder to funder. This means the required information and formatting may be different from proposal to proposal. To better understand the common elements, it can help to review grant proposal guidelines and instructions to get a sense of what will be asked of you.

In the guidelines that you can typically find on the funding agency’s website, you’ll see exactly what you need to do in order to apply for a grant. While following these guidelines and instructions does not guarantee you’ll get funding, it does increase the likelihood of getting approved.

If the guidelines provide a list of do’s and don’ts, take note. Funding agencies will have various requests for you that include things they’d like to see in your application and things they wouldn’t like to see.

There may also be a checklist for completed requirements. If that’s the case, you can use the checklist to track your progress and make sure you don’t miss anything. Budget your time to make sure you’ve got enough time to get everything together that is required of you before the deadline. You don’t want to rush. It can lead to mistakes, which will automatically disqualify you in most cases.

Similarly, if you don’t complete and submit the proposal by the listed due date, your application will automatically be denied. We can’t stress this enough—give yourself enough time!

You’ll also see in the guidelines that a grant proposal must include information submitted in a specific order. Make sure to do this, and follow the instructions for each section exactly. Funders will most likely reject your application if your proposal is not in the correct order.

There are additional requirements for proposals that can include submitting the proposal to a specific address or department, rules about how you can submit the application, and reporting leadership or major staffing changes after you’ve submitted your proposal.

Do your diligence and read the guidelines and instructions carefully. Grant proposal reviews can be the best way to learn what to expect. That said, there are some elements, or sections of information, seen across many different types of grant proposals. These can include:

  • A cover sheet or letter of intent that allows the agency to estimate how many independent reviewers will be needed; it also helps the agency avoid potential conflicts of interest in the review
  • A short executive summary, or “abstract” in the non-profit world, summarizing your grant proposal
  • A table of contents; it should help the reviewer find what they need quickly and easily should they want to flip to a specific section
  • A needs statement and problem statement describing the purpose of your project, the need you’re addressing, or problem you’re solving, and why the project is important
  • A project description or narrative explaining the project you want to fund in greater detail; you can separate different ideas into sections to better explain each aspect of your project and review the expected outcomes; this description can sometimes be included in the executive summary
  • A list of your goals; ideally you will pick SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timeline) goals
  • A description of the methods you will use, in addition to project management plans and timeline, illustrating how you will achieve your goals and objectives
  • A staffing list showing how you will staff your project
  • A detailed budget explaining what the money will be used for
  • A cover letter providing an introduction of yourself or your business as the grant seeker, in addition to a description of your ethos, professionalism, and proposed project or business goal

You will most likely need to include information about yourself and your business as well, including:

  • Your business’s mission and history
  • Your business’s financial health and stability
  • Any additional support documents, usually in the form of appendices; additional records, endorsements, tax status information, personnel bios, letters of support, etc.

Including this information is not only important, it’s necessary. Without it, your application will be disqualified.

Remember, this isn’t the exact order for every grant proposal. Proposals vary from funder to funder, and each may ask for a different order that the information above should be included. It’s vital that you follow the grant’s instructions exactly and include everything that’s asked for.

Before You Start, Research

Before you start writing your grant proposal, you’ll want to research the grant or grants you are applying for and the organization to whom you are submitting your proposal. This is part of the pre-award phase, covered in more detail on grants.gov .

Also consider who your audience is, what the grant’s expectations are, and how you will achieve your goals if you secure funding. To properly prepare for your application, it’s important that you:

  • Follow the steps for developing a grant proposal listed above; this means clearly defining what you want to do, why you want to do it, how you’ll do it, when you’ll do it, and who you’ll do it for—remember to be SMART when defining your goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.)
  • Identify an awarding agency or organization that funds projects or goals like the one you have in mind and figure out if their goals align with your own.
  • Identify a grant funding opportunity before you begin the application process; it’s important that you find a grant that matches your proposal and goals and a funder whose mission aligns with yours.
  • Review the agency’s grant proposal guidelines, eligibility requirements, and instructions document to determine if you are eligible and have everything on hand that they’ll require.
  • Register to apply for grants through websites like grants.gov and sbir.gov ; depending on the agency, you will have to go through several steps to register and may be required to complete different types of registration to receive all the necessary identification.
  • Review any grant proposal samples you might have or can find in order to get a better understanding of what a good or bad proposal looks like.

Research will help you identify a grant you can actually apply for, an agency that will want to work with you, and a better feel of what the funder’s interests actually are. This will vary from funder to funder, but doing your research will help greatly.

How to Write a Small Business Grant Proposal

The grant writing process can be quite arduous. But, there are a variety of ways to approach it. The best way you can handle the writing process, in our experience, is to begin with great research, followed by developing an effective proposal that carefully follows all the instructions and guidelines a funding agency provides, including everything they ask for. It’s all about giving the information that is required, not pushing the information that you want.

After taking all the necessary steps, such as registering your business in the proper places, identifying a grant funding opportunity, and determining your eligibility, you’ll begin preparing your written application and developing your proposal.

Below we break down the basic approach to writing a small business grant proposal based on our own experience as a small business.

Keep in mind that this is a guide for you to learn how to write a proposal. We outline a general approach of how to write a small business grant proposal. It will help you be well-prepared to begin the writing process, but does not necessarily follow exactly how a funder will want you to put together your proposal. Remember to follow instructions carefully!

Be meticulous in your following of the proposal’s instructions. This means including all the necessary documentation, completing the required forms, and staying on top of deadlines.

Write Your Cover Letter

You can start by writing your cover letter. However, it may help to leave this till the end of your application, as you might have a clearer idea of the main parts of your proposal and their value.

That said, if you do start with your cover letter, make sure to keep it short but impactful—you need to capture the attention of the agency’s reviewers.

Say what you need without using too much fluff, being as direct as possible without missing the important parts. And make sure to connect your project and goals with the funding agency’s own. If you can make a connection between their mission, funds, and your proposed project, you will have a better chance of getting approval.

Write Your Executive Summary

Next, write your executive summary. This serves as an overview of why your organization wants the grant, what your funding needs are, and how you plan to follow through with the project. Be as engaging as possible, using short and clear sentences that concisely illustrate the main aspects of your proposal.

Introduce Your Business

You can introduce your business next. Share as much relevant information as you can about your infrastructure, history, mission, experience, etc.

Here you include a biography of key staff, your business track record (success stories), company goals, and philosophy; essentially, highlight your expertise.

Client recommendations, letters of thanks, feedback from customers and the general public are must-have things to write in a grant proposal.

Also include all valid industry certifications (ISO or Quality Certifications), licenses, and business and indemnity insurance details.

You need to show that your company or organization has the capacity and the ability to meet all deliverables from both an execution perspective but also meet all legal, safety, and quality obligations.

Write Your Needs & Problem Statements

Now, write your needs and problem statement. It should illustrate the problem you will solve and how the grant funds will help you do it. It will be important to convey the scope of the problem or need of addressing and what sets you apart from others trying to solve the same problem or need. It can be helpful to include any research you’ve done on this matter as well.

Don’t rush this section of the proposal. It’s a critical element. Craft your argument patiently, and make sure to use any supporting data and research you have to back up your argument and plan.

It’s important to keep the language simple as well, as there is a big chance the reviewer doesn’t have the same technical expertise you do. Keep jargon to a minimum, or fully explain what each term means, in order to keep things clear.

Write Your Project Description

Next, write your project description. Clearly explain your goals for the project, how you plan to achieve those goals, and how the grant funding will help. Stick to SMART objectives, ones that can be easily tracked and measured. Doing so will help you demonstrate your eventual successes to the grantor, an important part of the grant process later on.

When you explain how you plan to achieve your goals, it can help to include specific information about your project’s timeline, budget, staffing, the resources and community you’ll leverage, and why you’re in a strong position to tackle a problem or need. It can also help to explain how you will track your project and goals, evaluating your overall success.

Ideally, your project description provides a clear picture of your goals, how you will achieve those goals, what you plan to do with the funds, and how you will manage and measure your project’s progress. If you tie your goals into the funding agency’s mission or goal, you will build an even stronger case for your business.

Write a Detailed Budget

After that section, you will need to write about your budget. It’s critical that you provide a detailed project budget that outlines how you will use the funding and what your operational costs will be. This will also serve to explain your expenses and justify the amount of money you’re seeking.

Provide any financial documents you may have to back up your budget here, and try to stay within the funding limits the funding agency is offering. It’s important to neither overquote nor underquote yourself, because while you might secure the grant by underquoting, you may not walk away with enough funding for your project. Overquote and you may see your application rejected.

When we say provide a detailed budget, we mean it. Include information about all of the costs, whether they’re direct or indirect. This can include everything from personnel, materials and supplies, and equipment to travel costs, advertising, utilities, insurance, and more.

Remember to check your numbers. You want to ensure they’re accurate. Otherwise, your application might not make it through the review process. Simple errors like an incorrect decimal point or forgotten number can significantly distort your budget. If you need to, leverage a team member who is excellent with numbers.

Perform a Final Review & Have Your Team Help

After you’ve finished writing, attached all the necessary documentation, and completed the required forms, you need to review your application! Make sure you have:

  • Followed all the instructions
  • Stuck within the guidelines
  • Included all the necessary documentation
  • Completed the required forms
  • Formatted your proposal correctly
  • Eliminated simple spelling or math errors

It can help to have others review your application as well. They can bring a different perspective and fresh eyes to the proposal and catch things you may have missed. In fact, it can help to have as many people you trust review the proposal. When you’re confident there are no errors, it’s time to submit your proposal.

Properly Submit & Track Your Application

Depending on the funding agency you’re submitting your application to, there will be different instructions for submitting. Figuring out what these submission processes look like can sound a little daunting, but each group will provide clear instructions somewhere on their website on how to properly submit your proposal.

It will be important that, once you submit the application, you make sure to track it to address any errors that are flagged and view the assembled application to ensure it is 100% accurate.

Once you’ve submitted, you can check online that your application has all the correct information and hasn’t been flagged for errors. After making sure your proposal wasn’t flagged, all you can do is wait for a response from the funding agency.

If the review process goes well, you may be asked to provide additional information. The way this request is handled can vary from department to department. For example, the NIH uses the Just-in-Time (JIT) process, located in its eRA Commons .

If you’re selected to receive funding, you’ll be sent a notice that you have been selected for the award! In the case of the NIH and the SBIR/STTR programs, you’ll receive a Notice of Award (NoA) , the official grant award document the department uses to notify an awardee the grant has been made. From there, you will be able to access more information on how to manage the award, and what the post-award process and requirements entail.

In addition, you will gain access to a wide number of agency resources and programs, helping you maximize the benefits of your grant funding.

While the approval rating for grants has increased through 2022, grant funding is highly competitive, and there is a big chance your proposal will be rejected. Don’t give up! It’s important that you keep trying. If the review does not go well, you will be able to reach out to the program official to discuss next steps. You can review feedback, address the issues, and resubmit your application .

12 Tips for Writing A Successful Business Grant Proposal

Below are steps to writing award-winning grants that you can use to improve your proposal, potentially increasing your chances at writing a small business grant application that will get approved.

Develop a Game Plan

Create a game plan for where you’re headed. Don’t dive into effort without knowing exactly what you’re doing. You’re going to want some mode of operation to complete the grant writing process, and a game plan can help you do that. In fact, you’re already using a game plan right now: learning how to write grant proposals in an effective way.

Don’t Rush & Pay Attention to the Agency’s Goals

First and foremost, don’t rush your writing. Grant applications can be long and grueling, and it can be easy to make mistakes if you try to rush through the grant proposal writing process.

Hopefully you start early enough so that you can take your time writing before the deadline gets closer. Making mistakes can make it take even longer to complete your proposal, and will lead to a rejection.

Taking your time will undoubtedly make it easier to craft your story and proposal, leading to a more developed proposal narrative and project description before you start writing grant applications. Having a strong story and a detailed proposal will help you stand apart from other grant applicants, clearly explaining the what, why, and how of your proposal.

Use Rich Media When You Can

Use pictures, charts, and graphics if permitted. Using rich media can help your proposal come to life and convey important points in different ways. While this may be harder to do with certain applications, look for instances where you can add visuals.

Research Prior Winners

If there are previous grant winners for the specific grant you’re applying for, review their business and the project. There may be a connection or similarity between your business and a prior winner that you can integrate into your proposal.

Seeing what kinds of businesses are awarded a certain grant can help you narrow down if your business is a good fit, what you could do to increase your chances, and ultimately help you save time by not applying to a grant you’re unlikely to land.

Search Through Local Grants First

It might be easier to secure a local grant than a federal grant offered nationwide. While federal grants can be more appealing—the award is typically larger—local grants are sometimes less competitive. Start your search by looking at locally offered grants, and expand your search as you rule out grants you might be able to apply for through your city, the state and regional levels.

Apply for Grants of All Sizes

In addition to searching for local grants first, you should also pay attention to funding opportunities of all sizes. Smaller grants can sometimes be easier to secure, and doing so can even make your business more appealing to agencies offering larger grant funds. Showing the support you’ve already received can make you more attractive to grantors.

Use a Team Approach

It’s often helpful and more effective to assemble a team to write your proposal. Ideally you can include people who have review proposals before or someone who has experience as an editor. Your choices do not have to be limited to your business, you can find people outside your organization to help with the process.

Approach The Writing Process Like a Reviewer

It can help to think about your grant proposal like a peer reviewer, rather than a business owner. The funding agencies you’ll send your applications to always have long-term organizational goals and objectives that you will want to appeal to. If you can set your proposal apart from others by showing how your use of the grant funds will directly align with the funding agency’s mission, you may stand a better chance at securing approval.

Provide Up-To-Date Information & Complete All Requests

Provide relevant up-to-date information. If you provide out-of-date information, you will come across as dated. This relates to completing all requests. Remember to give the funder 100% of what they ask for. This means following instructions exactly. You want to provide the information they need, not push your information on them.

Include an Evaluation

Include an evaluation that clarifies how you will evaluate your project or program’s performance. Determine a way to evaluate the project you’ve just received funds before. Will it be internal or external? Funding agencies typically look at evaluations very favorably.

Try, Try, Try Again

Even people who have a lot of experience writing grant proposals face rejection. In fact, most applicants face rejection more than approval. That said, the grant writing process can be highly productive. You get to dial in your objectives, methodology, and more, clearly defining what problem you’re addressing, how you will achieve your objectives, and more.

Don’t let rejection stop you. Try again and incorporate whatever feedback you can get a hold of into your next proposal.

Think About Hiring a Grant Writer

It’s no secret that grant writing can be difficult. If it’s proving too difficult or time-consuming, consider hiring a grant writer to help you complete and submit your proposal. Although these professionals can be expensive to hire, it may be worth the money in the long term.

The writer will likely know the type of language to use to make your application stand out in addition to the correct formatting. Their expertise in grant writing can make the process much quicker as well.

What Makes a Good Proposal?

A good small business grant proposal has a number of identifiable characteristics. None of which are very surprising:

  • Easy to understand; it doesn’t need to be sophisticated, it needs to be understandable
  • Proposes something that is doable within a certain timeframe
  • Clear and concise
  • Details what will be done, when it will be done, and how it will be done
  • Tells a compelling and exciting story; what led up to your business’s decision to go in this direction, and what benefits people will experience
  • Has excellent flow and continuity
  • Visually appealing
  • Engages the reader and provides social proof

If your proposal has all of these characteristics, it doesn’t guarantee you will get approved. But, it does increase the likelihood you will secure the funding you need. Having a well-written and visually appealing proposal, in addition to compelling research and data, is essential.

What Makes a Bad Proposal?

Sure enough, bad grant proposals have some common traits as well. These include:

  • Lacks clarity; make sure the funder knows what you’re proposing to do
  • Loaded with errors; if you can’t take care of proposal, how will you treat the money you’re provided
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • No clear outcomes
  • Lack of alignment; doesn’t match up with funder’s goals and how the funder wants to see the world
  • Bores the reader; you want the proposal to excite the reader by proposing a brighter future

Bad writing, no matter the context, is just that: bad writing! Even if you believe your proposed project has all the marks of a winner, you will still need to make sure your grant proposal is well-written and thought out to help stand out from all the other applicants and make it easier for peer reviewers to understand your proposal.

Types of Grant Proposals & When to Use Them

There are several types of grants small business owners can apply for. Your eligibility for each type will depend on a number of factors. When to use each type will vary based on your proposed project and goals as well.

Federal Grants

Federal grants are a type of government grant or economic aid the US government provides from the funds made available through the general federal revenue. The government gives grants to stimulate the economy and draws from the U.S. general federal revenue. Grants can be funds for a portion of a certain project or organizational costs, or include complete funding for a project or research.

There are more than 1,000 different grant programs available to businesses and individuals that qualify, distributed by 26 grant-specific agencies across 21 distinct categories.

State Grants

State grants are need-based, state-specific awards that usually provide a smaller amount of funds than federal grants. As they are state-specific, there is often less competition, making them more attainable for small businesses. While they are smaller than a federal grant, state grants can provide the boost an organization needs to carry a project or program further, and demonstrate the project’s attractiveness to other granting agencies.

Local Grants

Local grants are awards issued by a city, county, or township, or any other local government department or agency. that stimulate the economy directly around them. Applicants are only eligible for local grants if they meet specific requirements, the most obvious being whether or not the county or city deems that the business is part of that area. This is typically true if the organization provides services to the city and its residents.

Corporate Grants

A corporate grant comes directly from a major corporation. Like federal grants, corporate grants will have various requirements, provide different amounts of funding, and be suited for specific or broad types of business or research. Companies generally set aside capital at the beginning of the fiscal year and host competitions to distribute the funds to qualified businesses.

Other Types of Grants: Nonprofits

In addition to the grants dedicated to for-profit businesses, there are four types of non-profit grants. These are dedicated to and designed for non-profit organizations and businesses.

It may not apply to you and your business, but it’s worth mentioning. The four types include: competitive grants, continuation grants, pass-through grants, and formula grants.

Competitive Grants

Nonprofits, universities, colleges, K-12 schools, and government organizations can apply for competitive grants. Occasionally, a small business may be eligible to apply as well. Competitive grants, like any grant, are submitted for approval and reviewed by a team of reviewers who make a decision to fund the proposed project or not.

Competitive grants simply mean the grant application is competitive and involves an approval process that is performed by a committee or board of directors, who base their decision on different criteria. This also means the grants are discretionary, and do not need to be awarded.

Formula Grants

Formula grants are non-competitive, and are typically awarded to support larger programs. Like a competitive grant, formula grants award funds that are distributed to businesses and organizations based on meeting specific criteria. Unlike a competitive grant, these awards are distributed to applicants based on a statistical formula and overseen by a legislative body.

All applicants that meet the criteria will receive funding, but the amount is based on certain benchmarks. This means formula grants are always awarded. Awardees can include states, local governments, territories, and other types of government organizations.

From there, states may be able to allocate money to organizations and businesses for a specific activity. The amount the awardee distributes can be based on the numbers an organization serves or the number of residents in the community.

Pass-through Grants

Like federal, state, and local grants, pass-through grants come from the federal government. The funding is distributed to a state or local government, who then passes on the funding to different organizations, institutions, and businesses. Eligible applicants can apply to states or municipalities for federal funds to stimulate the local economy and make an impact in a specific community or area.

Continuation Grants

Non-profit organizations can use continuation grants to renew a previously awarded grant for an additional amount of time. Without a continuation grant, the funding for the project would expire. These grant opportunities are also an opportunity for the awardee and funder to foster a relationship. While continuation grants are discretionary and mostly available to existing awardees, new applicants may be considered.

How to Find Grants for Small Businesses

There are different databases available online that you can access to search for various small business grants. Some are free, while others require a subscription.

Below we review government grant databases on the federal, state, and local levels, as well as corporate grants you can apply for and the databases you can use to search for private grants.

Federal Small Business Grants & Databases

Government agencies are among the biggest distributors of business grants, supporting a range of enterprises from environmental conservation to child care services. Applying may seem intimidating, but federal grants are great opportunities for small-business owners looking to grow.

Grants.gov allows you to search for grants based on category, eligibility, agency, and funding instrument type. It lists all of the grant opportunities currently available across more than a thousand different programs as well as closed and archived opportunities. It aims to simplify the grant search and application process.

SAM.gov is an official US government website. It is a central database for everyone who makes, receives, and manages federal grants and awards. Government contractors can use SAM, short for Systems for Award Management, to search for grants and contracts and view contract opportunity reports . To use the site and do business with the US government, you need to register your business. Learn more about the website’s requirements and features using its  help center .

USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) offers a wide range of grant programs for agriculture- and agriculture science-based research and business initiatives. One such program,  the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) program , provides funding to support research that will help regulatory agencies make “science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms (GE).” This includes a wide range of organisms, from plants, microorganisms, fish, and birds to mammals and other animals.

Businesses can view BRAG’s Request for Applications (RFA) to learn more about the grants program, funding opportunity, award information, eligibility information, and more. Businesses can also apply for a grant directly on the agency’s website.

USDA Rural Business Development Grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees and manages the Rural Business Development Grant program . It provides funding to strengthen and grow small businesses throughout rural communities.

In order to qualify for funding, businesses cannot have more than 50 new employees. Additionally, the business must have less than $1 million in gross revenue. It needs to also be located in an eligible rural area . Grant proposals are accepted only once per year through the local or state USDA Rural Development offices.

SBIR/STTR Programs

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs enable US-based, for-profit small businesses to become involved in federal research & development. The STTR also includes a partnership between the small business and nonprofit research institutions to formally collaborate in Phase I and Phase II.

These programs include a searchable solicitations database you can explore to find potential funding opportunities. These contract opportunities are available through different funding agencies, including the NIH, NSF, and more:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a funding database that allows researchers to search for different types of grants, contracts, and even programs that help repay loans. There is also research training and career development available. You can subscribe to their weekly email newsletter that summarizes the funding opportunities posted each week and stay up to date with what solicitations are currently open.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has an opportunities database that allows you to filter their opportunities according to different factors like award type, directorate, division, and education level. The database lists current, available opportunities with their respective due dates.

However, you can find the agency’s archived funding opportunities on its website as well. Reviewing the archived listings can give you a better idea of what the NSF has funded in the past, what they may fund in the future, and whether or not any of it applies to your R&D.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) lists funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) on their website according to offices within the department. You can search through its database based on program, fiscal year, and post date or close date. Additionally, the DOE lists Open Lab Announcements and Closed Lab Announcements as well.  

Through the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), the US Department of Defense (DOD) offers a number of grants, contracts, and funding opportunities for organizations and small businesses performing research and development.

OSBP manages a number of DOD programs, from the Mentor Protege Program and Indian Incentive Program to DOD small business program funding, market research, procurement goals, and contracting processes and activities. You can explore the various programs managed by OSBP and search for contract or grant opportunities on its website. These opportunities are mostly applicable to small businesses interested in commercializing their R&D.

State & Regional Small Business Grants & Databases

Economic development administration.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is an agency overseen by the Department of Commerce (DOC). It provides grants, resources and technical assistance to communities based on local business needs and conditions in order to stimulate and support economic growth and development while promoting entrepreneurship.

You can search the site for current and previous funding opportunities spread across the agency’s various programs. Additionally, you can search the economic development directory for regional offices and local resources.

State Business Incentives Database

The State Business Incentives Database is a database created by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) . With close to 2,000 programs from around the US, the database gives business owners, economic developers, business development professionals, and economic researchers a place to search for and compare various incentive programs.

Its site includes a map feature you can use to search for grants based on location, and provides information on tax credits and exemptions. To use the site, you must have an account. However, accounts are only available to members of C2ER.

California Grants Portal

The California Grants Portal was developed by the California State Library. It provides a central location for state grant opportunities, allowing state grant-making agencies to add and update their award information, and for grant seekers to search the database for opportunities. This makes it possible for all state grant opportunities to be searchable online.

Each listed grant includes a summary of what is needed to apply and how, along with links that businesses and organizations can follow to learn more. To the same effect, the California Grants Portal site includes an FAQ section .

State Trade Expansion Program

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) , provides state and territory governments with funding to distribute to small businesses with export development.

Supported by the SBA, STEP helps small businesses cover the costs to start or expand into international markets. Funding and eligibility requirements vary based on your state, but the money can be used to participate in a variety of business activities.

California Office of the Small Business Advocate

The California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) supports economic growth and development in California, ensuring California-based small businesses and startups have the support and resources needed to search for programs and understand regulations.

CalOSBA’s many funding programs include the California Microbusiness COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, California Dream Fund, and more.

Minority Business Development Agency Centers

The Minority Business Development Agency Centers (MBDA) is a nationally ran network of business development centers that support the growth and promotion of minority-owned small businesses. This includes helping businesses secure funding and contracts and compete in emerging markets.

Search for your local MBDA center and programs to apply for various types of funding, including state and local business grants and loans. The agency also typically holds a small-business grant competition annually. You can find contest updates on MBDA’s website.

Corporate/Foundation Small Business Grants & Databases

Many corporations and larger companies offer nonprofit and small-business grants. While some corporations work solely with nonprofits, others also provide funding to for-profit small businesses.

GrantWatch is a grant listing directory that currently features more than 28,000 grants, funding opportunities, awards, and archived grants—some of the archived grants will become available again as well. These grants come from a wide variety of sources: corporations, foundations, and government agencies on the federal, state, and local levels.

While GrantWatch can be an excellent database to search for grants , it does require that you become a member. With the free account, you gain access to a number of features and can search for grants using different dimensions, such as location and grant type.

However, if you want to get highly granular with your searches, access complete grant information, and access direct links to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in order to apply, you’ll need to sign up for a paid account. The website also provides a wide range of resources, news, and more.

Sloan Foundation

The Sloan Foundation offers grants that support original research and education focused on science, technology, engineering, and more. The foundation’s funds are provided through the accumulated wealth of Alfred P. Sloan, and its mission is to use its funds and grantmaking abilities in the service of the public good.

The foundation selects projects to fund based on proposals submitted by both individuals and teams with original and innovative ideas. It is most interested in projects that have an expected return to society, show strong methodological characteristics, and do not yet have wide access to funding through government agencies, the private sector, or other foundations.

You can learn about the foundation’s grants , its grantmaking strategy, what it doesn’t fund, its grant application process, and more on its website. It also provides a searchable grants database you can use to see what’s currently available and archived.


GrantForward is a funding opportunity database and recommendation service created by academics for researchers. You can search for grants using a specific keyword, however, in order to get complete use of the site and additional searches, you’ll need to create an account. Free trials are available.

GrantForward uses a search algorithm alongside a team of specialists to continuously add new and up-to-date funding opportunities to its database, making sure your searches are as relevant and current as possible. It also provides search filters that make it easy to quickly find a funding opportunity that fits your needs.

The database includes a wide range of grant types you can search through, from fellowships to post-doctoral to equipment, facility, and organization grants. In addition to searching for grants, you can find pre-solicitations and awarded projects as well. However, you’ll need an account to complete these searches.


Nonprofits and professional grant writing consultants rely on Instrumentl to match with the right funders, identify trends, and track and manage grants.

While Instrumentl works most closely with nonprofits, helping match grant writers with private and corporate grants their organizations can use to achieve specific goals, it also provides an extensive database for other opportunities. This includes federal and state grant funding opportunities.

You can search the website’s grant database by focus area, location, or foundation . In addition to its databases, you can leverage Instrumentl’s educational resources to better understand how to use Instrumentl, improve your grant writing, and more.

Visa Everywhere Initiative

The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a grant competition that offers funding to tech-forward startups across five different regions around the globe. Applicants must show how they’ve developed a product or service that creatively involves Visa’s products.

Visa will select the top five finalists in each region — and these businesses will move forward to a global finals event. The overall winner of the competition is awarded a $100,000 small-business grant. Additional grants are awarded to second- and third-place finalists, audience favorites, as well as regional and local winners.

FedEx Small Business Grant

FedEx’s annual grant competition awards more than $250,000 to 10 small businesses. This includes $4,000 in FedEx print and business services and a $50,000 grant to its three grand prize winners. While the 2022 contest has closed, it opens up again each year. Dates are posted to the company’s website once they are finalized.

The FedEx small business grant, as one would expect, is available to US-based, for-profit small businesses that have been in operation for a minimum of six months. Businesses can have no more than 99 employees. You can visit the site’s FAQs to learn more about eligibility requirements and more.


fundsforNGO provides a wide range of resources and services for countless industries . It works to improve access to resources and enable a more sustainable environment. The organization accomplishes this by researching, developing, and curating content that supports the growth and sustainability of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals working specifically in poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

Its many features include business intelligence, training, publications, and networking. However, most importantly for you, it also provides searchable databases of grants, donors, and proposals aimed to help NGOs find the information they need and track funding opportunities. In addition to its databases, fundsforNGOs also assists with grant writing, helping you plan and create your proposals.

Additional Resources

There are additional resources you can rely on to help with your search for grant funding. This includes various organizations that provide free help for your business. Many sources you can find through sba.gov and sbir.gov, however, you can also review the agencies below.

Small Business Development Centers

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) offer support to small businesses and entrepreneurs. There are local, regional, state, and national offices located across the country, so it can help to find one closest to you.

Some SBDCs are associated with local universities or a state’s economic development agency, as well, and can help connect you with small business grants, federal grants, and business financing opportunities. SBDCs generally offer training, counseling, and technical assistance in addition to support with grant funding.

For example, an SBDC can usually help you create a compelling business plan and pitch for your business, and help you understand how you’ll want to use the grant money you’re seeking out.

This also includes navigating the grant process. SBDC advisors have a lot of visibility locally and can help connect you with small business grants.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization supported by the SBA. It provides free entrepreneurship training, tools, and mentorship to US-based small business owners. Like SBDCs, SCORE is a free online resource entrepreneurs can access when they need help.

You can use SCORE to connect with a wide range of experts based on zip code for free. You can also request a match, search for a business mentor, or find your local chapter to get the advice or expertise you’re looking for. The SCORE mentor you’re matched with will hopefully be able to identify local grant opportunities for you and review your pitch or proposal to ensure it’s compelling and well-written.

In addition to mentorship, you can access a variety of workshops online and in-person. Browse through SCORE’s library of webinars , on-demand courses , and local workshops to find a class that can help you improve. Live classes are also available if you can’t attend workshops in person.

Grant Resources Center

The Grants Resource Center (GRC) is part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. This subscription service helps college/university offices secure more funding from federal and private groups.

It provides publications on a fixed schedule, management resources , funding resources , and a database where you can search for grants . Searching for a grant requires an account with GRC.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers

P rocurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide assistance to businesses looking to work with the US government, Department of Defense, and other federal, state, and local government agencies. Most of the assistance provided by your local PTAC is free.

If you need to determine if your business is ready for government contracting, eligible for small business certifications, register in the correct place to begin the process, or assistance with researching past contract opportunities, then your local PTAC can help. You can search the SBA PTAC database to find a center near you.

You can also work with a procurement center representative (PCR) if you need help securing government contracts. Because PCRs are able to see government procurement strategies before they’re announced, they are in a good position to help you in touch with a small business opportunity.

Additionally, PCRs also help carry out SBA policies and programs, assist small businesses with payment issues, conduct market research, and provide counseling with the contracting process.

Small Business Grant Proposal Templates

There are many free online grant proposal templates to choose from. A template can help you put together a visually appealing proposal or give you an idea of how to format your own proposal.

We suggest you use a template as a study guide or reference point rather than your actual proposal only because the grant you are applying for may require different formatting or information. That said, here are some resources that provide small business grant proposal templates:

  • PandaDoc grant proposal template
  • Jot Form grant proposal PDF templates
  • Wise free grant proposal template
  • Sample.net small business grant proposals in PDF
  • Technical Writer HQ grant writing templates
  • SampleTemplates grant proposal samples & small business grant proposal templates
  • Template.net grant proposal word templates

Conclusion: Applying For a Small Business Grant With Confidence

As a small business owner, things can feel pretty daunting at times. Being able to cover costs, push ahead on new programs or initiatives, and keep everything going requires significant cash flow. Luckily, there are a number of grant funding sources available to small businesses in the US.

Knowing what the grant writing process looks like and how to write a grant proposal before you get started can be a great help, reducing the amount of time, energy, and effort required to put together a winning grant proposal. This guide can serve as the first step toward building the knowledge and confidence needed when applying for a grant, and will make it easier to secure the funding you need to bring your idea to light.

Excedr has worked with a number of clients who secured grant funding in order to fund research and development, specific business initiatives, and provide services to the communities around them.

In some cases, that grant funding was available to use to lease lab equipment. By leasing the lab equipment they needed, our clients were able to extend their funding and save more for their research and development efforts.

In other cases, the grant funding was able to cover a client’s R&D or business costs, freeing up more room in their budget for equipment procurement and other initiatives.

Rather than put all that extra money into purchasing a few pieces of equipment, our clients leased instead, saving money on upfront costs and spreading out payments via manageable and consistent payments. If you’re interested in learning more about our leasing program , our team will be happy to provide you with more details. Contact us and let us know how we can help with your leasing needs.

Good luck on your grant writing journey. Securing grant funding can be an amazing moment and opportunity to accomplish great things!

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Grant Writing for Small Business: A Step-by-Step Success Guide

  • Post author By awesome
  • Post date September 5, 2023

how to write a business plan for grant

Grant writing for small businesses involves identifying relevant funding opportunities and crafting compelling proposals that demonstrate the business’s need, viability, and potential impact.

Successful grant applications require a clear understanding of the business’s goals, a well-researched and persuasive narrative, detailed budgets and timelines, and strict adherence to the grant provider’s guidelines and submission requirements.

Understanding Grant Proposals

Proposal components.

Grant proposals are crucial for securing funding. They must include a cover letter, an executive summary, project description, game plan, eligibility requirements, specific programs, and budget. Each component, including specific programs, specific business, team, and technical assistance, serves a unique purpose in making a strong case for support.

The executive summary introduces the business and its goals. The project description outlines how objectives will be achieved. The budget details financial needs and allocations. Tailoring these elements to meet specific funder guidelines, including eligibility for grant funding and formula grants , is essential for success in the grant writing process .

Key Elements

Cover letter.

A personalized cover letter is your first impression. It should introduce your business and outline the grant amount requested, specifying if it’s for formula grants or local grants, and the project’s impact, serving as a game plan for applicants. Keep it concise and aligned with the funder’s mission to make a strong initial connection, following instructions for grant funding support during the grant writing process.

Executive Summary

The executive summary summarizes your proposal’s main points, including objectives, methods, and expected outcomes, vital in the grant writing process for following instructions and securing grant funding. It should be compelling to encourage further reading. Clarity, brevity, and effective use of resources such as information and instructions are key in the writing process of presenting your business case effectively.

Types Explained

Federal grants.

Federal grants, offering resources and information, award significant opportunities for small businesses in need, especially in research and development. Navigating federal grant applications requires understanding of compliance requirements. Use federal databases and their website information to find suitable grants, get help, and ensure alignment with your business goals by following the provided instructions.

Corporate Grants

Corporate grants award funding opportunities for small businesses and startups, with instructions and information available on their website. Understand corporate grantmakers’ goals and align your proposal accordingly. Networking and building relationships with small business corporations can open doors to valuable funding sources , help with grant writing, and award opportunities.

Preparing Your Proposal

Research first.

Before diving into writing, thorough research is crucial . It ensures your proposal aligns with the funder’s mission. Look into past award winners and review their grant funding proposals for valuable insights and information, following the provided instructions. This can help give you a clear idea of what information you need to succeed in grant funding.

Check the eligibility criteria and grant objectives meticulously. Every grant has specific requirements. Meeting these increases your chances of success.

Team Collaboration

Involving a diverse team in the grant writing process brings numerous benefits, including help for small businesses that need information. Different skills contribute to a stronger proposal. Assign roles based on expertise, such as financial planning or project management, to help use information on grant funding.

Hold regular meetings to discuss progress. This ensures everyone stays aligned with the proposal’s objectives. Collaboration fosters creativity and innovation, essential for a standout proposal that can help secure grant funding for a small business with the right information.

Writing Process

Needs statements.

Crafting a compelling needs statement is vital. It should outline the problem clearly, the need for help, and how the grant will address it by using the information. Use data and research to back up your claims.

Link this need directly to the funder’s priorities for a stronger connection, emphasizing how grant funding can help meet this need with information beneficial to small businesses. This shows you understand what they value and how your project aligns with their goals, demonstrating the need for grant funding and how this information can help.

Project Description

Detailing your project’s objectives, methodology, timeline, and personnel involved is next, which will help provide the information small businesses need. Demonstrate its feasibility and potential for success clearly. Funders want to invest in projects that show promise.

Highlight how the project aligns with the funder’s goals. This reinforces your understanding of their mission and how your project contributes to it, by providing information, help, grant, and the need.

Budgeting Strategies

Detailed budget.

A clear and justified budget is crucial in grant writing to help small businesses in need of information. It should outline all project costs and funding sources. Accuracy is key. Make sure your budget aligns with the funder’s guidelines. This shows you understand their requirements.

A budget narrative is equally important. It explains why each cost item is necessary. This transparency builds trust with funders. They see where their money goes.

Financial Planning

After crafting your proposal, focus on the project’s future. A solid financial plan demonstrates sustainability post-grant. It reassures funders that their grant investment has a lasting impact, providing the information and help they need.

Include a plan for future funding or revenue generation . This shows you’re thinking ahead. Detail your financial management practices too. Funders need to know you’ll spend responsibly.

Submission Guidelines

Final review.

A thorough final review of your small business grant proposal is crucial if you need help. It ensures the proposal’s coherence, completeness, and compliance with the submission guidelines, helping small businesses in need to secure grant funding. This step should never be overlooked. It ties directly to the budgeting strategies outlined previously, as any discrepancies between the budget and project description can lead to rejection, especially when the need for a grant to help a small business is involved.

Seeking external feedback is highly beneficial. Reach out to peers or mentors who have experience in grant writing to help your small business if you need it. Their insights can provide invaluable perspectives and help that you might have missed, especially for small businesses seeking to grant opportunities. They can help spot weaknesses in your argument or suggest improvements that make your small business grant proposal more compelling.

Proofreading is another essential step in the final review process. Look for grammatical errors and ensure your ideas are clear and concise. A well-written grant proposal not only communicates professionalism but also makes it easier for reviewers to understand your objectives and how you plan to achieve them, thereby offering help to small business.

Tracking Applications

Once your small business grant proposal is submitted, setting up a system to help track its progress is vital. This helps manage multiple applications efficiently for small business grants, ensuring you meet all deadlines and follow up appropriately.

Maintain detailed records of all grant submissions and correspondence with funders to help small business. This includes dates of submission for grant help, responses received for small business assistance, additional documents requested, and any other relevant interactions. Such records are invaluable for tracking your small business grant application’s status and preparing for future communications with the funder, which can help.

Analyzing unsuccessful small business grant applications offers a golden opportunity for learning and improvement, which can help. Identify areas where your business proposal may have fallen short by comparing it against the eligibility criteria and instructions provided by the grant funders to help you. Use these insights to strengthen future applications.

Enhancing Writing Skills

Strategic game plan.

Developing a long-term strategy for grant seeking is crucial to help your business. It involves targeting specific grant opportunities that align with your business’s needs and planning your submissions well in advance. This approach ensures you’re not just throwing darts in the dark but aiming with precision in your business grant strategy.

Setting realistic goals and timelines for each business grant application can significantly increase your chances of success. It’s important to allocate enough time for research, writing, and revision stages in the business grant process. Rushed applications are rarely successful.

Continuously refining your strategy based on outcomes and feedback is key. If an application is unsuccessful, learn from it. Adjust your approach accordingly for future submissions.

Using Rich Media

Incorporating images, videos, or infographics can make your business grant proposal stand out. These elements should not be added just for the sake of visual appeal but must be directly relevant to the business grant proposal. They should enhance the narrative and help explain complex ideas more simply.

Ensure any media used is professional and high-quality. Poorly presented visuals can harm credibility more than help it. Visuals must complement the written content in a business grant application, providing a cohesive and compelling application.

Research Winners

Studying successful grant proposals offers invaluable insights. It allows you to see what worked for others in the business and grant sectors and how you can adapt those strategies to fit your proposal. Look for patterns or common elements among business grant winners that could be applied to your own strategy.

Reaching out to past grant winners for business tips and advice can also be beneficial. They may offer practical suggestions or highlight pitfalls to avoid in business or grant applications based on their personal experiences.

Analyzing winning strategies isn’t about copying them verbatim but understanding why they were effective. Adapt these strategies to suit your unique business proposition and grant objectives.

Applying Strategically

Local grants first.

Starting with local grant opportunities for your business can be a wise move. These grants often come with less competition and are more accessible to small businesses. By focusing on these business grant opportunities, you increase your chances of success.

It’s beneficial to build relationships with local grantmakers. Understanding their business goals for community impact can give you an edge in grant applications. They look for business projects that align with their vision, making your grant application stand out.

Leverage your local networks and resources for support. Many communities have organizations dedicated to helping small businesses thrive, often through grant assistance. They can offer invaluable business advice and assistance throughout the grant application process .

Grants of All Sizes

Applying for business grants of various sizes is crucial in diversifying your funding sources. It’s a business strategy that balances risk and opportunity, ensuring a steady flow of resources and grant opportunities.

Small grants should not be overlooked. Despite their size, business grants can add up and often come with less competition. They might also require less comprehensive business grant applications, saving you time and effort.

Balancing efforts between large and small grant applications is key. Consider the potential return on investment (ROI) for each business grant opportunity. This approach ensures that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket but rather spreading your efforts wisely in business and grant applications.

After Submission

Common mistakes.

After submitting a grant proposal, many small businesses wait anxiously for a response. However, this period can be used to reflect on the business grant application process and identify any potential errors that could have been made. Common mistakes in business grant applications include missing deadlines , which immediately disqualifies the proposal. It’s crucial to double-check all business grant submission dates in future applications.

Another pitfall in the grant application process for businesses is failing to follow the funder’s instructions or submitting incomplete applications. These oversights can lead to an automatic rejection. Businesses should ensure every question is answered and every required document, including grant applications, is included before submission.

Using overly technical language can also be detrimental. It might obscure the grant proposal’s objectives, making it hard for reviewers to understand the project’s value. Instead, aim for clarity and simplicity in describing your grant project’s goals and how they align with the funder’s priorities.

Lastly, not tailoring the grant proposal to directly address the funder’s criteria is a missed opportunity. Reviewers look for grant proposals that closely match their interests and objectives. Therefore, understanding and reflecting these grant priorities in your application is key.

Requirements Post-Grant

Understanding post-grant requirements is as important as securing the grant itself. Small businesses must prepare for reporting and audits that come with most grants. They should familiarize themselves with these grant requirements early on to ensure compliance throughout the project duration.

Maintaining good communication with the funder cannot be overstated. It builds trust and may pave the way for future grant funding opportunities. Regular updates on project progress demonstrate your commitment and responsibility towards the grant-funded project.

Setting up internal processes for monitoring and reporting on grant project progress is essential. This includes establishing clear roles within your team for who will handle reporting duties and how data on project outcomes will be collected, analyzed, and grant-related information managed. Such measures ensure you meet all post-grant requirements efficiently.

Additional Resources

Finding grants, federal databases.

Federal databases, such as Grants.gov, are treasure troves for finding government grant opportunities. They offer a comprehensive list of available grants across various sectors. Small businesses should dive deep into these resources . Familiarizing oneself with the search features is crucial. It helps in narrowing down the vast options to those most relevant.

The application processes on these platforms can be intricate. Hence, it’s advisable to understand them well ahead of time. Regular checks for updates and new grant announcements are essential. This ensures businesses don’t miss out on timely opportunities.

Corporate Databases

Corporate grant databases and websites are equally valuable for finding private funding opportunities. Many companies run corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that include grants for small businesses. Researching these can open up new avenues for support.

Creating alerts or subscribing to newsletters from these entities can keep you informed about new grant opportunities as soon as they arise. This proactive approach can give businesses an edge in the competitive grant application process.

Grant Proposal Templates

Using templates can significantly ease the process of structuring grant proposals. They serve as a solid starting point for a grant, ensuring all fundamental aspects of a proposal are covered. However, customization is key. Each grant funder has specific requirements and guidelines that your proposal needs to meet.

It’s beneficial to review multiple grant templates to find the one that best suits your proposal’s needs. This not only saves time but also increases the chances of your grant proposal standing out.

Final Remarks

Navigating the world of grant writing for your small business can seem daunting, but armed with the right knowledge on proposal understanding, budgeting strategies, and submission guidelines, you’re set for success. Remember, enhancing your writing skills and applying strategically for grants are key steps. Don’t let the grant process after submission deter you; use it as a learning curve. The resources provided are there to guide you further.

Taking this journey can significantly impact your business’s growth, sustainability, and grant opportunities. It’s all about making smart moves, leveraging available opportunities, and utilizing grants. So, dive in, apply what you’ve learned, and remember—the effort you put in now can lead to substantial rewards down the line. Ready to make your mark? Start crafting that winning proposal today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do i start writing a grant proposal for my small business.

Begin by understanding the grant requirements thoroughly. Then, outline your project’s goals, objectives, and how it aligns with the grantor’s mission. This initial step is crucial for a successful proposal.

What are key elements to include in my grant proposal?

Your grant proposal should clearly articulate your project description, objectives, target population, budget details, and the impact it will have. Transparency and specificity are key to standing out.

How can I create an effective budget for my grant proposal?

Start by itemizing all project costs realistically and justify each expense for the grant. Ensure your budget aligns with the project’s goals and the grant funder’s guidelines. Clarity and accuracy in this section are vital.

What are some tips for submitting a grant proposal?

Carefully follow the grant submission guidelines provided by the funding agency. Double-check your grant proposal for completeness and compliance with all requirements before submitting it on time.

How can I improve my grant writing skills?

Practice regularly, seek feedback from experienced grant writers , and consider attending workshops or courses on grant writing. Reading successful grant proposals can also provide valuable insights.

Is there a strategic approach to applying for grants?

Yes, research extensively to find grants that closely match your business needs and goals. Tailor each grant application to reflect how your project aligns with the funder’s priorities. Applying selectively but thoughtfully increases your chances of success.

What should I do after submitting a grant proposal?

Follow up with the grant funding agency if they allow it, but be patient as grant review processes can take time. Use this period to gather additional data or refine project plans that could strengthen future proposals.

  • Tags Financial and Operational Management , Specialized Industry Strategies

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how to write a business plan for grant

State of Proposals 2024

Distilling the data to reveal our top tips for doing more business by upping your proposal game.

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Step-By-Step Guide to Writing a Grant Proposal

how to write a business plan for grant

Writing a grant proposal is incredibly time-consuming.

No joke. It's one of the most complicated documents you could write in your entire life.

There are different requirements, expectations, and formats—not to mention all the prep work you need to do, like market research and clarifying your project timeline.

Depending on the type of company or organization you represent and which grants you’re applying for, your grant could run anywhere from a dozen to a hundred pages. It’s a lot of work, and we’re here to help.

In this guide to grant proposals, we offer writing steps and examples, as well as resources and templates to help you start applying for funding right away.

Types of grant proposals

Grant proposals typically fall into one of these main categories:

Research grant proposals - Research grant proposals are usually sent by university professors or private research organizations in order to fund research into medical, technological, engineering, and other advancements.

Nonprofit grant proposals - Nonprofits send grant proposals to philanthropic organizations and government agencies to acquire funds for community development, health, education, and similar projects.

Technology grant proposals - Grant proposals can also be sent by technology companies (software, hardware, solar, recycling, environmental, manufacturing, health, and other types of tech companies). These proposals are often sent to large government organizations looking for solutions to current and future problems, as well as VC firms looking to invest in smart startups.

Small business grant proposals - Local governments often give grant awards to small businesses to help them kickstart, market, or expand.

Arts grants - Grants allow artists that would otherwise lack the financial resources to devote extended periods of time to their art. They might need to complete an installation that can be enjoyed by the community as part of the grant.

Grant RFP proposals - There can also be a request for proposals (RFP) for just about anything. From multinational organizations like the UN to family philanthropic grants, you can find RFPs for a variety of projects.

How to prep before you write

Before you can sit down to write your grant proposal, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of:

Existing scientific literature (for research grants) or relevant reports and statistics

Market and competitor landscape

Current available solutions and technologies (and why they’re not good enough)

Expected positive impact of your project

The methods and strategies you’ll employ to complete your project

Project phases and timelines

Project budget (broken down into expense categories)

With these things all buttoned down, you’ll have a much easier time writing the sections that cover those details, as well as the sections that highlight their meaning and importance (such as your statement of need and objectives).

Create a document where you can play around. Take notes, write down ideas, link out to your research, jot down different potential budgets, etc.

Then, when you’re ready to write, create a fresh document for your actual grant proposal and start pulling from your notes as needed.

How to write a grant proposal (ideal format)

Now, let’s get writing.

The ideal outline for a grant proposal is:

Cover Letter

Executive summary, table of contents, statement of need, project description, methods and strategies, execution plan and timeline, evaluation and expected impact, organization bio and qualifications.

If you’re not writing a super formal grant proposal, you might be able to cut or combine some of these sections. When in doubt, check with the funding agency to learn their expectations for your proposal. They might have an RFP or other guidelines that specify the exact outline they want you to follow.

Note: In business proposals, the cover letter and executive summary are the same, and those phrases are used interchangeably. But for grant proposals, the cover letter is a short and simple letter, while the executive summary offers a description of key aspects of the proposal.

In your cover letter, you'll write a formal introduction that explains why you are sending the proposal and briefly introduces the project.

What to include :

The title of the RFP you are responding to (if any)

The name of your proposed project (if any)

Your business or nonprofit organization name

A description of your business or organization, 1-2 sentences

Why you are submitting the proposal, in 1-2 sentences

What you plan to do with the funds, in 2-4 sentences

Dear [Name], The Rockville Community Garden is responding to the city of Rockville’s request for proposals for nonprofit community improvement projects. The Rockville Community Garden is a space for relaxation, healthy eating, exercise, and coming together. We are submitting a proposal to request funding for Summer at the Garden. Every summer, parents are tasked with finding childcare for their children, and we have received countless requests to host a summer camp. We're requesting funding to cover tuition for 100 low-income children ages 5 to 12. The funds will make our summer camp accessible to those who need it most. Thank you for your consideration, [Signature] [Title]

The executive summary of a grant proposal goes into far more detail than the cover letter. Here, you’ll give

Statement of Need overview, in 2 - 5 sentences

Company Bio and Qualifications, in 2 - 5 sentences

Objectives, in 2 - 5 sentences

Evaluation and Expected Impact, in 2 - 5 sentences

Roman architecture stands the test of time until it doesn’t. Roman building techniques can last thousands of years but will crumble to dust instantaneously when earthquakes strike. Meanwhile, our own building techniques of reinforced concrete and steel last only a couple of centuries. Ancient Architecture Research firm is dedicated to modernizing roman building techniques to create new structures that are earthquake safe and sustainable. Our principle investigators hold PhDs from renowned architecture universities and have published in numerous journals. Our objectives for the research grant are to create a prototype structure using Roman building techniques and test it on a shake table to simulate an earthquake. The prototype will pave the way for our application for an amendment to the California building code to permit unreinforced masonry construction. With the success of the prototype, we will prove the safety and viability of this technique. This project will have an enormous potential impact on several crises plaguing the state of California now and in the future: disaster relief, affordable housing, homelessness, and climate migration. Unreinforced masonry construction can be taught and learned by amateur builders, allowing volunteers to quickly deploy temporary or permanent structures.

Next up, you need your Table of Contents! Make sure it matches the names of each of your following sections exactly. After you’ve written, edited, and finalized your grant proposal, you should then enter accurate page numbers to your TOC.

Next up is the statement of need. This is where you sell why you’re submitting your grant request and why it matters.

A description of who will benefit from your proposal

Market and competitive analysis

Statistics that paint a picture of the problem you’re solving

Scientific research into how the problem is expected to worsen in the future

Reasons why your small business deserves funding (founder story, BIPOC founder, female founder, etc.)

While women hold 30% of entry-level jobs in tech, they only make up 10% of C-suite positions. The Female Leadership Initiative seeks to develop women tech leaders for the benefit of all genders. Female leaders have been proven to positively impact work-life balance, fairer pay, creativity, innovation, teamwork, and mentorship.

In this section, you’ll describe the basics of your research project, art project, or small business plan. This section can be kept fairly short (1 - 3 paragraphs), because you’ll be clarifying the details in the next 5 paragraphs.

The name of your project (if any)

Who will benefit from your project

How your project will get done

Where your project will take place

Who will do the project

The Fair Labor Project will seek to engage farm workers in the fields to identify poor working conditions and give back to those who ensure food security in our communities. Trained Spanish-speaking volunteers will visit local farms and speak with workers about their pay and work conditions, helping to uncover any instances of abuse or unfair pay. Volunteers will also pass out new work gloves and canned food. Volunteers will also place orders for work boots and ensure that boots are later delivered to workers that need them.

You should also write out clear goals and objectives for your grant proposal. No matter the type of agency, funding sources always want to see that there is a purpose behind your work.

Measurable objectives tied directly to your proposed project

Why these objectives matter

We seek to boost volunteer turnout for our voter registration efforts by 400%, allowing us to reach an additional 25,000 potential voters and five additional neighborhoods.

Now it’s time to clarify how you’ll implement your project. For science and technology grants, this section is especially important. You might do a full literature review of current methods and which you plan to use, change, and adapt. Artists might instead describe their materials or process, while small business grant writers can likely skip this section.

The names of the methods and strategies you will use

Accurate attribution for these methods and strategies

A literature review featuring the effectiveness of these methods and strategies

Why you are choosing these methods and strategies over others

What other methods and strategies were explored and why they were ultimately not chosen

“We plan to develop our mobile app using React Native. This framework is widely regarded as the future of mobile development because of the shared codebase that allows developers to focus on features rather than create everything from scratch. With a high workload capacity, react native also provides user scalability, which is essential for our plan to offer the app for free to residents and visitors of Sunny County.”

You’ll also need to cover how you plan to implement your proposal. Check the RFP or type or grant application guidelines for any special requirements.

Project phases

The reasoning behind these phases

Project deliverables


In our experience and based on the literature,11,31-33 program sustainability can be improved through training and technical assistance. Therefore, systematic methods are needed to empirically develop and test sustainability training to improve institutionalization of evidence-based programs. This will be accomplished in three phases. In Phase 1, (yr. 1, months 1-6) we will refine and finalize our Program Sustainability Action Planning Model and Training Curricula. As part of this refinement, we will incorporate experiential learning methods3-6 and define learning objectives. The Program Sustainability Action Planning Training will include action planning workshops, development of action plans with measurable objectives to foster institutional changes, and technical assistance. We will also deliver our workshops in Phase 1 (yrs. 1 and 2, months 6-15) to 12 state TC programs. Phase 2 (yrs. 1, 2, and 3) uses a quasi-experimental effectiveness trial to assess the Program Sustainability Action Planning Training in 24 states (12 intervention, 12 comparison). Evaluation of our training program is based on the theory of change that allows for study on how a change (intervention) has influenced the design, implementation, and institutionalization of a program.7,8,11,28 We will collect data on programmatic and organizational factors that have been established as predictors of sustainability9,11 using state level programmatic record abstraction and the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool (PSAT)43 to assess level of institutionalization across intervention and comparison states at three time points. Data will be used to establish the efficacy of the Program Sustainability Action Planning Model and Training Curricula. In Phase 3 (yr. 4, months 36-48), we will adapt our training based on results and disseminate Program Sustainability Action Planning Model and Training materials. - From Establishing The Program Sustainability Action Planning Training Model

A budget table with various expense categories

An explanation of what each category entails

Expenses broken down by month or year (if this fits your proposal)

Here’s an example budget table with expense categories:

Grant proposal budget table

You can then include a brief description of each category and the expenses you expect within them.

A great grant proposal should clarify how you will measure positive outcomes and impact.

Details on the expected impact of your project

Who will benefit from your project and how

Your plan for evaluating project success

How you will measure project success

We will measure the success of the project by monitoring the school district’s math scores. We are expecting an 8% increase in state testing scores from the fall to the spring across grades 1 through 3.

And lastly, finish up your grant proposal with a bio of your organization, your company, or yourself.

Company name

The names of people on your team

Professional bios for everyone on your team

Your educational background

Any relevant awards, qualifications, or certifications

Jane Doe received her masters in fine arts specializing in ceramics from Alfred University. She has received the Kala Fellowship and the Eliza Moore Fellowship for Artistic Excellence.

Successful grant proposal examples

Want to write winning grant applications?

We’ve rounded up examples of successful, awarded grants to help you learn from the best.

Check out these real examples across science, art, humanities, agriculture, and more:

Funded arts and research grants from the University of Northern Colorado

Samples of awarded proposals from the Women’s Impact Network

National Cancer Institute examples of funded grants

Institute of Museum and Library Services sample applications

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program awarded grants examples

Grant application and funding resources

To help you get started writing and sending grant proposals, we’ve found some great application resources.

Research grants:

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants

William T. Grant Foundation grants on reducing inequality

Russel Sage Foundation research grants

Nonprofit grants:

Walmart’s Local Community Grants

Bank of America’s Grant Funding for Nonprofits

Canada GrantWatch’s database of nonprofit grants

Technology grants:

Google Impact Challenges

UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

US Department of Energy Funding

Small business grants:

US Chamber of Commerce Small Business grants

Canada Small Business Benefits Finder

US Small Business Administration (SBA) grants

Arts grants :

National Endowment for the Arts grants

Art Prof Artist Grants

Canada Council for the Arts grants

Get started with our proposal writing templates

The best way to start any proposal is with a template. A template informs your writing, while drastically speeding up the time it takes to design an attractive proposal.

All of our 75+ proposal templates can easily be adapted for any purpose, including grants or requests for funding. Try our project proposal template and make it your own by adding your executive summary, statement of need, project description, execution plan, budget, and company bio.

Start a free trial to check out all of our proposal software features , including reusable content snippets, e-signatures, viewing and signing analytics, and more.

Dayana Mayfield

Dayana Mayfield is a B2B SaaS copywriter who believes in the power of content marketing and a good smoothie. She lives in Northern California. Connect with her on LinkedIn here: linkedin.com/in/dayanamayfield/

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How to Write a Proposal in 10 Easy Steps [Templates Included]

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Start » strategy, how to write a grant application for your organization.

Writing a strong grant application can help your organization receive the funding it needs to fulfill its mission. These tips will help you get started.

 A close-up of two hands reaching across a desk, with one hand giving a check to the other.

For many organizations, grant writing is the most important component of their entire fundraising strategy. In fact, a single grant application can make or break your organization, so if you’re trying to secure funding for your nonprofit, community organization or research group, it’s important to learn how to write a strong, successful proposal. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

[ Read more: 22 Grants, Loans and Programs to Benefit Your Small Business ]

What to consider before writing a grant application

The best grant proposals are clear, organized documents that illustrate why your organization should receive funds from the grantor. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan in advance and get some things in order. Here are three things to know or accomplish before you start writing your proposal:

  • Your audience. First and foremost, get to know the institution that is offering the grant. Consider its goals, values and objectives. Understanding these elements will later help you demonstrate how and why your organization is a good fit.
  • The minimum requirements. Research the eligibility expectations for each specific grantor and make sure you meet the minimum requirements. If you find that your organization does not meet these requirements, contact the grantor directly to discuss your options.
  • Your organization’s credibility. Compile a list of testimonials, recommendations, data sets and success stories to include with your application. Every grantor is different, but they all want to know their money is being used wisely.

Elements of a grant proposal

Grant applications are organized in specific sections that help the reviewer parse through information quickly and find potential grantees. Here are the main elements to include in a grant proposal:

  • Cover letter. Some, but not all, granting organizations ask that you include a cover letter to introduce yourself. This section should establish why you are seeking the available grant, describe your organization or project and illustrate your professionalism.
  • Executive summary. Also known as an abstract or overview, the executive summary should state the most important information from the entire proposal. This section should be concise, yet fully describe your goals, what steps you will take, why you need funding and how you will measure progress. It is often best practice to write this section last.
  • Needs assessment. The needs assessment, also known as the statement of need, problem statement or literature overview, defines the lack in resources, information or opportunities that you are trying to solve. Include as much data and research as possible and show how your organization is the key link between the problem and the solution.
  • Project description. Also known as the project narrative, this section states how you will address the problems described in the needs assessment. The description should include your goals , your projected timeline, how you will measure progress and how you will recognize success. Focus on the impact your work will have on the given issue.
  • Budget. This section should clarify why you are asking for funding. State how each dollar will be spent, and illustrate how the cost of labor, materials or equipment is required to fulfill your mission.
  • Supplemental documentation. Finally, you may need to provide an appendix with all the supporting materials you’ve included in your application. This may include additional data, business records, employment information, letters of reference, organizational qualifications and so on.

[ Read more: How to Get a Grant to Start a Business ]

It’s important to remember that there are so many factors beyond a nonprofit’s control that influence decision-making...

Arianna Maysonave, Director of Development at Herbicide-Free Campus

4 tips for writing a grant application

  • Stick to your mission. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced grant writers to stretch their application too far and create a weak proposal. “Write grants based on your mission,” said Lauren Balkan, Deputy Director of Wellspring Center for Prevention . “Stay true to your mission and then be creative with how to meet that mission within the scope of the grant funding.”
  • Build your network. Even if you’re not actively writing a grant application, start meeting with grantors to build a professional relationship. Networking will help you better understand the mission, values and objectives of specific granting organizations, which will give you a head start when you are ready to prepare a proposal. “Relationship building is the number one key to success in securing a grant,” said Arianna Maysonave, Director of Development at Herbicide-Free Campus . “Identify the interest of the grantor long before their grant deadline, and begin connecting with relevant partners months or even years before you expect to receive a grant.”
  • Expect to receive rejection letters. Learning how to craft solid grant applications takes time and experience. If your organization doesn’t earn a grant, use it as a learning opportunity. “It’s important to remember that there are so many factors beyond a nonprofit’s control that influence decision-making,” said Maysonave. “Do your best and don’t be afraid to follow up and ask why you weren’t chosen.”
  • Learn from your community. Finally, learn from other organizations within your community or industry to better understand what funders are looking for. “Connect to many community groups where organizations come together,” Balkan said. “Workgroups or committees usually provide information about possible funding opportunities, [so] pay attention when similar organizations are talking about their funding and where they get it.”

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Blog Business How to Write a Grant Proposal [Templates Included]

How to Write a Grant Proposal [Templates Included]

Written by: Tobi Ojenike Feb 28, 2024

how to write a grant proposal

If you work for a nonprofit organization or are a researcher, you’ll know that a grant proposal is a document submitted to a funding agency.

Grant proposals are also known as a request for application, notice of funding opportunity, or request for quotes and qualifications.

Grant proposals are your chance to convince grantmaking bodies (agencies that distribute funds) to hand over money. Generally, grant proposals include information such as an organization’s mission and budgetary needs.

In this post, I’ll show you how to write a successful grant proposal (tips and templates included!) and then teach you how to make a grant proposal using a Proposal Maker and grant proposal templates .

Click to jump ahead:

  • Factors to consider before writing a grant proposal

How to write a grant proposal

Sample grant proposal templates.

  • How to create a grant proposal with Venngage

Here are some things to consider before writing a grant proposal

  • Audience:  Consider your target audience and tailor your copy to their interests and needs.
  • Funding:  Choose your funder carefully. Always have an alternative list of potential funders and know the long-term sustainability of your project.
  • Understand the grant requirements: Every grantmaking body sets its own rules regarding goals, application deadlines, and guidelines, so make sure you understand them and can differentiate between them.
  • Have a plan :  Create a specific, actionable plan for what you want to do and why. Make sure you know how your plan will achieve positive results.
  • Write a draft : Research and write down each request in an outline. Plan how you’ll add visuals to give your grant proposal an extra edge.
  • Be clear and concise:  Avoid writing in the past tense and use action verbs. Again, visuals can sometimes be a better option over words.
  • Include supporting materials : Provide a budget of how you’ll use the funds and include evidence to substantiate any claims you make.

Other helpful tips to consider

Here are some extra tips to help you write a grant proposal that stands out.

  • Start early
  • Apply early and often
  • Get feedback and revise your proposal accordingly
  • Be brief, concise and clear
  • Be organized and logical
  • Be explicit and specific
  • Be realistic in designing the project
  • Follow up after the proposal

Grant writing can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be if you understand the basics.

In this section, I’ll give you tips on how to write grant proposals that’ll impress prospective funders (grant writers take note!).

Include a cover letter

The cover letter is not technically part of a grant proposal but they’re core to a successful grant application because it helps funders understand who you are.

Busy decisionmakers want to know who they’ll be funding and look for clues in your cover letter after reading through your proposal.

In your cover letter, don’t be afraid to bring out your personality, but also make sure you cover the basics like how your project fits with the funder’s objective.

Minimalist Blue Gray Small Business Grant Proposal

Include an executive summary

The executive summary is probably the first (and maybe only) part of a grant proposal read by a funding organization.

It needs to be concise and summarize key points such as goal, strategy, people involved, expected results, and budgetary needs.

Here’s an example executive summary for some inspiration.

Grant Proposal

Provide organizational information

Providing organizational information in a grant proposal helps build credibility and establishes trust.

More importantly, this section allows funders to assess the alignment between their funding priorities and your organization’s goals and activities.

Therefore, make sure to answer questions like: What is your mission? Do you have an organizational history? What will be the impact of this project? What other programs or services do you render? 

Here’s an example of background organizational information you can make your own.

Grant Proposal

State your objective(s)

Early in your grant proposal, you should state the objectives of your project, the target audience, and expected results.

This underscores the feasibility of your project within a grant timeframe and can influence funders’ decision on a project’s worthiness (i.e.; the difference between a yes and no).

Here’s a great example of a grant proposal that nails this section.

Grant Proposal

Describe the statement of needs

The statement of needs section is used to build strong case for your project.

In this section, use data, facts and figures to back statements. This will be more meaningful than just words alone.

But make sure your data is accurate. There’s nothing worse than misleading information which can lead to rejections and damage your reputation.

Here’s a grant proposal template that has a customizable statement of needs.

Minimalist Blue Gray Small Business Grant Proposal

Explain your methods and strategies

You’ve identified a problem and solution, but how are you going to achieve what you plan to do?

That’s what the methods and strategies section is for. Here, potential funders want to see how you’ll use their funds to determine if the project is viable.

For example, maybe your objective is to enhance community health through a mobile clinic initiative.

Detail each step of this process from procurement of medical equipment and vehicles, recruitment and training process for healthcare professionals, and logistics for deploying mobile clinics.

Here’s an example of a grant proposal that first lists goals and objectives and immediately provides an overview of the path to success.

Minimalist Blue Gray Small Business Grant Proposal

Include an evaluation plan

When funders hand out money, they have certain conditions, like making sure you are held accountable of project progress. Often, you’ll only get more money to continue as you complete milestones.

The evaluation plan section is where you show funders how you’ll spend money as described in your grant proposal to ease their fears and doubts.

This section also shows funders that you have a realistic timeline for the project and that you’re not using the funds for any other purposes.

Grant Proposal for Education Initiatives

Include a project budget

Perhaps the most part of your grant proposal is the project budget. This is where you reveal exactly how you’ll be using funds.

Be transparent and provide a full overview of expenses and detail where and how it’ll be spent.

A great way to do this is to use an itemized table or financial plan.

When presenting an overall sum, make sure you don’t overstate or understate your needs. You don’t want funders to doubt your true intent or doubt project viability.

Here’s a grant proposal with a budget section you can use.

Grant Proposal

Include a financial sustainability plan

Most grant writers overlook including a long-term financial sustainability plan.

Most funders view grants as a long-term investment and want to back projects that can be sustainable even after the money stops rolling in.

Demonstrating a clear understanding of these factors shows funders that you have thoroughly considered the project’s financial trajectory and are prepared to manage it responsibly.

What should you include here? Total cost of future ownership, maintenance costs, inflation, ongoing, and future growth potential are a few ideas.

Sign off with your team information

Treat grant proposals as official documentation.

At the end of your grant proposal, include your (or your company’s) contact details. This makes it easier for the funders to reach out to you and do their research on you and your team.

Here’s an example of a grant proposal with a great ‘about us’ section.

Grant Proposal

Now that you understand the basics of a grant proposal, it’s time to get to work and create your own.

But you don’t need to start from scratch. Instead, edit these grant proposal templates and convert them into your own winning proposal

(Hint: visit the links to see the entire template).

Olive Green and White Simple Modern Minimalist Grant Proposals

How to create grant proposals with Venngage

If you want to create grant proposals that grab attention, look no further than Venngage.

With Venngage, you can you communicate boring technical info with engaging visuals and customize our professionally-designed grant proposal templates.

You don’t need to be a designer to use Venngage. If you know how to work Microsoft Word or Google Slides or similar tools, you can use Venngage.

Step 1 – Sign up for a Venngage account (it’s free!)

Sign up for a Venngage account for free using your email, Gmail or Facebook.

venngage sign up

Step 2 – Go to the “Templates” page and select “Proposals”

Venngage already has grant proposal templates you can edit to suit your idea and vision.

To find them, go to our templates page and choose the “Proposals” category. After selecting it, this screen should load.  

proposal templates venngage

Note :  Some of our grant proposal templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee. Sign-up is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.

Step 3 – Select the “grant proposal” subcategory

Look for the grant proposals subcategory in the proposals template page and select it.

grant proposal templates venngage

Step 4 – Customize your grant proposal

Browse our selection of grant proposal templates. Once you find one you like, click on it to launch the editor tool.

Here, you’ll be able to add your own text, change the design, and customize the template as you like.

Some of your customization options include:

  • Add engaging visuals and symbols 
  • Change color scheme
  • Change the fonts and text to match your brand or style
  • Move elements around with a drag and drop interface

For example, let’s pretend I chose this grant proposal template to customize.

Let’s edit this together.

education grant proposal template

For example, I want to replace the logo to reflect my company. Well, just select it and click the “ Replace ” feature on the top left. 

education grant proposal edited

Once you click “ Replace “, a tab will open where you can select visuals from our library of icons. You can also upload an image (your logo).

By the way, our in-editor library has thousands of free, professional icons, plus diverse icons.

education grant proposal icon change

Now, let’s say I want to change the background color of some of my template.

That’s easy as well! Just select the text or background and select the “Replace” feature again. This time, you’ll be prompted with another pop-up where you can select a different color.

education grant proposal background change

If you sign up for a Business Plan, you’ll also get access to My Brand Kit . With this, you can apply your brand colors to any design with one click. 

Step 5 – Save, share, or download your grant proposal

When your grant proposal is complete, you can save it as a PDF or PNG file if you’re on a Business Plan.

However, all users will always have access to shareable link that they can send potential funders.

venngage download page

Final thoughts: Create grant proposals with Venngage and secure funding today

A well-structured grant proposal with appealing visuals can make a lasting impression on funders and tip the balance in your favor.

Don’t waste your time with tools like Word, Google Docs where you’ll get limited design flexibility and visuals that don’t engage.

Instead, head over to Venngage’s grant proposal templates to give yourself a winning edge.

Frequently asked questions

How long is a grant proposal? 

The length of a grant proposal depends on the funder but a typical grant proposal is usually between 5-20 pages. The funding body might request additional documents as well, so it’s important to know funding guidelines.

What is the writing style for a grant proposal?

The writing style for a grant proposal is formal. You want to be concise and objective, so focus on clarity, impact and your alignment with the priorities of the funder.

What is the lifecycle of a grant proposal?

The grant proposal lifecycle begins with research, planning and development, followed by drafting, revising and editing the narrative and budget. Applications are then submitted before funders review and make decisions. If successful, negotiations may occur to finalize details, after which the funded project is implemented according to the approved plan. Finally, progress and final reports are submitted to the funder. This cyclical process ensures accountability and project success.

What is the difference between a proposal and grant proposal?

Proposal is a broader term encompassing various applications for funding, resources, or partnerships whereas a grant proposal specifically refers to an application for grant funding from a foundation, government agency, or other organization.

What is the difference between a grant proposal and a grant letter?

A grant proposal is a detailed document that includes the project description, methodology, financial plan, and financing rationale. A grant letter, on the other hand, can be a more straightforward request or statement of interest.

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Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Grant Proposal Writing is Exciting, Imaginative Work

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Overview Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal Common Elements of Grant Proposals General Tips Successful Sample Proposals

So, you want to write a grant proposal? This is exciting! This means that you have valuable research to do or a particular nonprofit to build or a community resource you’re passionate about developing. You have a distinct vision for how something could be improved or advanced, and you’re ready to ask for funding or other support to help this vision become a reality.

how to write a business plan for grant

As you reach toward this unrealized vision by developing a grant proposal, you should think about successful grant writing as an act of imagination. Professor Kate Vieira, a Curriculum and Instruction professor at UW-Madison with considerable grant writing experience, describes grant proposal writing as a creative process akin to fiction writing—these are works of imagination. Professor Vieira recommends approaching the task of writing a grant proposal with an attitude of wonder and excitement as you strive to turn your ideas into something real. You have a great idea, and you think that you’re the best person to achieve a specific goal. Now you just need to convince others to get excited about this vision as well.

On this page, we offer some ways of thinking about grant proposals and advice about the process of planning and writing a proposal. We consider grant proposals; overall purposes, audiences, and expectations in order to make this information applicable across a range of contexts. However, this general approach has important limits . First, you will need to get more tailored advice about grant writing within your specific discipline or sphere. Second, you’ll need to follow very carefully the exact instructions about proposals from the granting agencies to which you are applying.

Talk with professors, mentors, previous grant recipients, the funding agency/group you are applying to, and trusted advisers in your field to learn more about what successful grant proposals look like in your situation and to get feedback on your plan and on your drafting process.

Before you start writing your grant proposal, you’ll want to make sure that you:

  • develop a specific, meaningful, actionable plan for what you want to do and why you want to do it;
  • consider how your plan will achieve positive results;
  • locate a granting organization or source that funds projects like the one you have in mind;
  • research that organization to make sure that its mission aligns with your plan;
  • review the organization’s proposal guidelines; and
  • examine sample proposals from your department, peers, and/or the organization.

When you’ve done all of this, you’re ready to start drafting your proposal!

Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing

For students, faculty, or staff at UW–Madison, a great place to learn more about grants, grant proposal writing, and granting institutions is the Grants Information Collection at UW–Madison’s Memorial Library. Check out their website and our review of some of their materials as well as links to other useful grant resources here.

Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal

A grant proposal is a very clear, direct document written to a particular organization or funding agency with the purpose of persuading the reviewers to provide you with support because: (1) you have an important and fully considered plan to advance a valuable cause, and (2) you are responsible and capable of realizing that plan.

As you begin planning and drafting your grant proposal, ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience? Think about the people from the agency offering this grant who will read this proposal. What are the agency’s mission and goals? What are its values? How is what you want to do aligned with what this agency is all about? How much do these readers know about what you are interested in? Let your answers to these questions inform how you present your plan, what vocabulary you use, how much background you provide, and how you frame your goals. In considering your audience, you should think about the kind of information these readers will find to be the most persuasive. Is it numbers? If so, make sure that you provide and explain your data. Is it testimonials? Recommendations from other collaborators? Historical precedent? Think closely about how you construct your argument in relationship to your readers.
  • What are the particular expectations for this grant? Pay attention to everything the granting organization requires of you. Your proposal should adhere exactly to these requirements. If you receive any advice that contradicts the expectations of your particular situation ( including from this website ), ignore it! Study representative samples of successful proposals in your field or proposals that have received the particular grant you are applying for.
  • How do you establish your credibility? Make sure that you present yourself as capable, knowledgeable, and forward thinking. Establish your credibility through the thoroughness of your plan, the intentional way that you present its importance and value, and the knowledge you have of what has already been learned or studied. Appropriately reference any past accomplishments that verify your ability to succeed and your commitment to this project. Outline any partnerships you have built with complementary organizations and individuals.
  • How can you clearly and logically present your plan? Make sure that your organization is logical. Divide your proposal into predictable sections and label them with clear headings. Follow exactly the headings and content requirements established by the granting agency’s call for proposals.Grant proposals are direct and to–the–point. This isn’t a good place for you to embroider your prose with flowery metaphors or weave in subtle literary allusions. Your language should be uncluttered and concise. Match the concepts and language your readers use and are familiar with. Your readers shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what you are communicating. For information about writing clear sentences, see this section of our writer’s handbook. However, use a vivid image, compelling anecdote, or memorable phrase if it conveys the urgency or importance of what you are proposing to do.

Common Elements of Grant Proposals

General Tips

Pay attention to the agency’s key interests..

As mentioned earlier, if there are keywords in the call for proposals—or in the funding organization’s mission or goal—be sure to use some of those terms throughout your proposal. But don’t be too heavy–handed. You want to help your readers understand the connections that exist between your project and their purpose without belaboring these connections.

Organize ideas through numbered lists.

Some grant writers use numbered lists to organize their ideas within their proposal. They set up these lists with phrases like, “This project’s three main goals are . . . ” or, “This plan will involve four stages . . . ” Using numbers in this way may not be eloquent, but it can an efficient way to present your information in a clear and skimmable manner.

Write carefully customized proposals.

Because grant funding is so competitive, you will likely be applying for several different grants from multiple funding agencies. But if you do this, make sure that you carefully design each proposal to respond to the different interests, expectations, and guidelines of each source. While you might scavenge parts of one proposal for another, never use the exact same proposal twice . Additionally when you apply to more than one source at the same time, be sure to think strategically about the kind of support you are asking from which organization. Do your research to find out, for example, which source is more likely to support a request for materials and which is more interested in covering the cost of personnel.

Go after grants of all sizes.

Pay attention to small grant opportunities as well as big grant opportunities. In fact, sometimes securing a smaller grant can make your appeal for a larger grant more attractive. Showing that one or two stakeholders have already supported your project can bolster your credibility.

Don’t give up! Keep on writing!

Writing a grant proposal is hard work. It requires you to closely analyze your vision and consider critically how your solution will effectively respond to a gap, problem, or deficiency. And often, even for seasoned grant writers, this process ends with rejection. But while grant writers don’t receive many of the grants they apply to, they find the process of carefully delineating and justifying their objectives and methods to be productive. Writing closely about your project helps you think about and assess it regardless of what the grant committee decides. And of course, if you do receive a grant, the writing won’t be over. Many grants require progress reports and updates, so be prepared to keep on writing!

Successful Sample Grant Proposals

One of the best ways to learn how to write grant proposals is to analyze successful samples. We’ve annotated and uploaded three very different kinds of successful proposals written by colleagues associated with UW–Madison. We encourage you to carefully read these samples along with the annotations we’ve provided that direct your attention to specific ways each one is doing the work of a strong proposal. But don’t stop with these! Find additional samples on your own of successful proposals like the one you’re writing to help guide and further your understanding of what has worked and been persuasive.

  • Sample Grant Proposal 1 (PDF) Fellowship Proposal for UW–Madison’s Center for the Humanities’ Public Humanities Exchange (HEX)
  • Sample Grant Proposal 2 (PDF) Proposal for a 3–Year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Sample Grant Proposal 3 (PDF) Madison Writing Assistance’s grant proposal to the Evjue Foundation

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The Ultimate Grant Writing Guide (and How to Find and Apply for Grants)

Securing grants requires strategic planning. Identifying relevant opportunities, building collaborations, and crafting a comprehensive grant proposal are crucial steps. Read our ultimate guide on grant writing, finding grants, and applying for grants to get the funding for your research.

Updated on February 22, 2024

The Ultimate Grant Writing Guide (and How to Find and Apply for Grants)

Embarking on a journey of groundbreaking research and innovation always requires more than just passion and dedication, it demands financial support. In the academic and research domains, securing grants is a pivotal factor for transforming these ideas into tangible outcomes. 

Grant awards not only offer the backing needed for ambitious projects but also stand as a testament to the importance and potential impact of your work. The process of identifying, pursuing, and securing grants, however, is riddled with nuances that necessitate careful exploration. 

Whether you're a seasoned researcher or a budding academic, navigating this complex world of grants can be challenging, but we’re here to help. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps of applying for grants, providing expert tips and insights along the way.

Finding grant opportunities 

Prior to diving into the application phase, the process of finding grants involves researching and identifying those that are relevant and realistic to your project. While the initial step may seem as simple as entering a few keywords into a search engine, the full search phase takes a more thorough investigation.

By focusing efforts solely on the grants that align with your goals, this pre-application preparation streamlines the process while also increasing the likelihood of meeting all the requirements. In fact, having a well thought out plan and a clear understanding of the grants you seek both simplifies the entire activity and sets you and your team up for success.

Apply these steps when searching for appropriate grant opportunities:

1. Determine your need

Before embarking on the grant-seeking journey, clearly articulate why you need the funds and how they will be utilized. Understanding your financial requirements is crucial for effective grant research.

2. Know when you need the money

Grants operate on specific timelines with set award dates. Align your grant-seeking efforts with these timelines to enhance your chances of success.

3. Search strategically

Build a checklist of your most important, non-negotiable search criteria for quickly weeding out grant options that absolutely do not fit your project. Then, utilize the following resources to identify potential grants:

  • Online directories
  • Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Foundations

4. Develop a tracking tool

After familiarizing yourself with the criteria of each grant, including paperwork, deadlines, and award amounts, make a spreadsheet or use a project management tool to stay organized. Share this with your team to ensure that everyone can contribute to the grant cycle.

Here are a few popular grant management tools to try: 

  • Jotform : spreadsheet template
  • Airtable : table template
  • Instrumentl : software
  • Submit : software

Tips for Finding Research Grants

Consider large funding sources : Explore major agencies like NSF and NIH.

Reach out to experts : Consult experienced researchers and your institution's grant office.

Stay informed : Regularly check news in your field for novel funding sources.

Know agency requirements : Research and align your proposal with their requisites.

Ask questions : Use the available resources to get insights into the process.

Demonstrate expertise : Showcase your team's knowledge and background.

Neglect lesser-known sources : Cast a wide net to diversify opportunities.

Name drop reviewers : Prevent potential conflicts of interest.

Miss your chance : Find field-specific grant options.

Forget refinement : Improve proposal language, grammar, and clarity.

Ignore grant support services : Enhance the quality of your proposal.

Overlook co-investigators : Enhance your application by adding experience.

Grant collaboration 

Now that you’ve taken the initial step of identifying potential grant opportunities, it’s time to find collaborators. The application process is lengthy and arduous. It requires a diverse set of skills. This phase is crucial for success.

With their valuable expertise and unique perspectives, these collaborators play instrumental roles in navigating the complexities of grant writing. While exploring the judiciousness that goes into building these partnerships, we will underscore why collaboration is both advantageous and indispensable to the pursuit of securing grants.

Why is collaboration important to the grant process?

Some grant funding agencies outline collaboration as an outright requirement for acceptable applications. However, the condition is more implied with others. Funders may simply favor or seek out applications that represent multidisciplinary and multinational projects.

To get an idea of the types of collaboration major funders prefer, try searching “collaborative research grants” to uncover countless possibilities, such as:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • American Brain Tumor Association

For exploring grants specifically for international collaboration, check out this blog:

  • 30+ Research Funding Agencies That Support International Collaboration

Either way, proposing an interdisciplinary research project substantially increases your funding opportunities. Teaming up with multiple collaborators who offer diverse backgrounds and skill sets enhances the robustness of your research project and increases credibility.

This is especially true for early career researchers, who can leverage collaboration with industry, international, or community partners to boost their research profile. The key lies in recognizing the multifaceted advantages of collaboration in the context of obtaining funding and maximizing the impact of your research efforts.

How can I find collaborators?

Before embarking on the search for a collaborative partner, it's essential to crystallize your objectives for the grant proposal and identify the type of support needed. Ask yourself these questions: 

1)Which facet of the grant process do I need assistance with:

2) Is my knowledge lacking in a specific: 

  • Population?

3) Do I have access to the necessary:

Use these questions to compile a detailed list of your needs and prioritize them based on magnitude and ramification. These preliminary step ensure that search for an ideal collaborator is focused and effective.

Once you identify targeted criteria for the most appropriate partners, it’s time to make your approach. While a practical starting point involves reaching out to peers, mentors, and other colleagues with shared interests and research goals, we encourage you to go outside your comfort zone.

Beyond the first line of potential collaborators exists a world of opportunities to expand your network. Uncover partnership possibilities by engaging with speakers and attendees at events, workshops, webinars, and conferences related to grant writing or your field.

Also, consider joining online communities that facilitate connections among grant writers and researchers. These communities offer a space to exchange ideas and information. Sites like Collaboratory , NIH RePorter , and upwork provide channels for canvassing and engaging with feasible collaborators who are good fits for your project. 

Like any other partnership, carefully weigh your vetted options before committing to a collaboration. Talk with individuals about their qualifications and experience, availability and work style, and terms for grant writing collaborations.

Transparency on both sides of this partnership is imperative to forging a positive work environment where goals, values, and expectations align for a strong grant proposal.

Putting together a winning grant proposal

It’s time to assemble the bulk of your grant application packet – the proposal itself. Each funder is unique in outlining the details for specific grants, but here are several elements fundamental to every proposal:

  • Executive Summary
  • Needs assessment
  • Project description
  • Evaluation plan
  • Team introduction
  • Sustainability plan 

This list of multi-faceted components may seem daunting, but careful research and planning will make it manageable. 

Start by reading about the grant funder to learn:

  • What their mission and goals are,
  • Which types of projects they have funded in the past, and
  • How they evaluate and score applications.

Next, view sample applications to get a feel for the length, flow, and tone the evaluators are looking for. Many funders offer samples to peruse, like these from the NIH , while others are curated by online platforms , such as Grantstation.

Also, closely evaluate the grant application’s requirements. they vary between funding organizations and opportunities, and also from one grant cycle to the next. Take notes and make a checklist of these requirements to add to an Excel spreadsheet, Google smartsheet, or management system for organizing and tracking your grant process.

Finally, understand how you will submit the final grant application. Many funders use online portals with character or word limits for each section. Be aware of these limits beforehand. Simplify the editing process by first writing each section in a Word document to be copy and pasted into the corresponding submission fields.

If there is no online application platform, the funder will usually offer a comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP) to guide the structure of your grant proposal. The RFP: 

  • Specifies page constraints
  • Delineates specific sections
  • Outlines additional attachments
  • Provides other pertinent details

Components of a grant proposal

Cover letter.

Though not always explicitly requested, including a cover letter is a strategic maneuver that could be the factor determining whether or not grant funders engage with your proposal. It’s an opportunity to give your best first impression by grabbing the reviewer’s attention and compelling them to read further. 

Cover letters are not the place for excessive emotion or detail, keep it brief and direct, stating your financial needs and purpose confidently from the outset. Also, try to clearly demonstrate the connection between your project and the funder’s mission to create additional value beyond the formal proposal.

Executive summary

Like an abstract for your research manuscript, the executive summary is a brief synopsis that encapsulates the overarching topics and key points of your grant proposal. It must set the tone for the main body of the proposal while providing enough information to stand alone if necessary.

Refer to How to Write an Executive Summary for a Grant Proposal for detailed guidance like:

  • Give a clear and concise account of your identity, funding needs, and project roadmap.
  • Write in an instructive manner aiming for an objective and persuasive tone
  • Be convincing and pragmatic about your research team's ability.
  • Follow the logical flow of main points in your proposal.
  • Use subheadings and bulleted lists for clarity.
  • Write the executive summary at the end of the proposal process.
  • Reference detailed information explained in the proposal body.
  • Address the funder directly.
  • Provide excessive details about your project's accomplishments or management plans.
  • Write in the first person.
  • Disclose confidential information that could be accessed by competitors.
  • Focus excessively on problems rather than proposed solutions.
  • Deviate from the logical flow of the main proposal.
  • Forget to align with evaluation criteria if specified

Project narrative

After the executive summary is the project narrative . This is the main body of your grant proposal and encompasses several distinct elements that work together to tell the story of your project and justify the need for funding. 

Include these primary components:

Introduction of the project team

Briefly outline the names, positions, and credentials of the project’s directors, key personnel, contributors, and advisors in a format that clearly defines their roles and responsibilities. Showing your team’s capacity and ability to meet all deliverables builds confidence and trust with the reviewers.

Needs assessment or problem statement

A compelling needs assessment (or problem statement) clearly articulates a problem that must be urgently addressed. It also offers a well-defined project idea as a possible solution. This statement emphasizes the pressing situation and highlights existing gaps and their consequences to illustrate how your project will make a difference.

To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  • What urgent need are we focusing on with this project?
  • Which unique solution does our project offer to this urgent need? 
  • How will this project positively impact the world once completed?

Here are some helpful examples and templates.

Goals and objectives

Goals are broad statements that are fairly abstract and intangible. Objectives are more narrow statements that are concrete and measurable. For example :

  • Goal : “To explore the impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance in college students.”
  • Objective : “To compare cognitive test scores of students with less than six hours of sleep and those with 8 or more hours of sleep.”

Focus on outcomes, not processes, when crafting goals and objectives. Use the SMART acronym to align them with the proposal's mission while emphasizing their impact on the target audience.

Methods and strategies

It is vitally important to explain how you intend to use the grant funds to fulfill the project’s objectives. Detail the resources and activities that will be employed. Methods and strategies are the bridge between idea and action. They must prove to reviewers the plausibility of your project and the significance of their possible funding.

Here are some useful guidelines for writing your methods section that are outlined in " Winning Grants: Step by Step ."

  • Firmly tie your methods to the proposed project's objectives and needs assessment.
  • Clearly link them to the resources you are requesting in the proposal budget.
  • Thoroughly explain why you chose these methods by including research, expert opinion, and your experience.
  • Precisely list the facilities and capital equipment that you will use in the project.
  • Carefully structure activities so that the program moves toward the desired results in a time-bound manner.

A comprehensive evaluation plan underscores the effectiveness and accountability of a project for both the funders and your team. An evaluation is used for tracking progress and success. The evaluation process shows how to determine the success of your project and measure the impact of the grant award by systematically gauging and analyzing each phase of your project as it compares to the set objectives.

Evaluations typically fall into two standard categories:

1. Formative evaluation : extending from project development through implementation, continuously provides feedback for necessary adjustments and improvements. 

2. Summative evaluation : conducted post-project completion, critically assesses overall success and impact by compiling information on activities and outcomes.

Creating a conceptual model of your project is helpful when identifying these key evaluation points. Then, you must consider exactly who will do the evaluations, what specific skills and resources they need, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.


Presenting a solid plan that illustrates exactly how your project will continue to thrive after the grant money is gone builds the funder's confidence in the project’s longevity and significance. In this sustainability section, it is vital to demonstrate a diversified funding strategy for securing the long-term viability of your program.

There are three possible long term outcomes for projects with correlated sustainability options:

  • Short term projects: Though only implemented once, will have ongoing maintenance costs, such as monitoring, training, and updates.

(E.g., digitizing records, cleaning up after an oil spill)

  • Projects that will generate income at some point in the future: must be funded until your product or service can cover operating costs with an alternative plan in place for deficits.

(E.g., medical device, technology, farming method)

  • Ongoing projects: will eventually need a continuous stream of funding from a government entity or large organization.

(E.g., space exploration, hurricane tracking)

Along with strategies for funding your program beyond the initial grant,  reference your access to institutional infrastructure and resources that will reduce costs.

Also, submit multi-year budgets that reflect how sustainability factors are integrated into the project’s design.

The budget section of your grant proposal, comprising both a spreadsheet and a narrative, is the most influential component. It should be able to stand independently as a suitable representation of the entire endeavor. Providing a detailed plan to outline how grant funds will be utilized is crucial for illustrating cost-effectiveness and careful consideration of project expenses. 

A comprehensive grant budget offers numerous benefits to both the grantor , or entity funding the grant, and the grantee , those receiving the funding, such as:

  • Grantor : The budget facilitates objective evaluation and comparison between multiple proposals by conveying a project's story through responsible fund management and financial transparency.
  • Grantee : The budget serves as a tracking tool for monitoring and adjusting expenses throughout the project and cultivates trust with funders by answering questions before they arise.

Because the grant proposal budget is all-encompassing and integral to your efforts for securing funding, it can seem overwhelming. Start by listing all anticipated expenditures within two broad categories, direct and indirect expenses , where:

  • Direct : are essential for successful project implementation, are measurable project-associated costs, such as salaries, equipment, supplies, travel, and external consultants, and are itemized and detailed in various categories within the grant budget.
  • Indirect : includes administrative costs not directly or exclusively tied to your project, but necessary for its completion, like rent, utilities, and insurance, think about lab or meeting spaces that are shared by multiple project teams, or Directors who oversee several ongoing projects.

After compiling your list, review sample budgets to understand the typical layout and complexity. Focus closely on the budget narratives , where you have the opportunity to justify each aspect of the spreadsheet to ensure clarity and validity.

budget example

While not always needed, the appendices consist of relevant supplementary materials that are clearly referenced within your grant application. These might include: 

  • Updated resumes that emphasize staff members' current positions and accomplishments. 
  • Letters of support from people or organizations that have authority in the field of your research, or community members that may benefit from the project.
  • Visual aids like charts, graphs, and maps that contribute directly to your project’s story and are referred to previously in the application. 

Finalizing your grant application

Now that your grant application is finished, make sure it's not just another document in the stack Aim for a grant proposal that captivates the evaluator. It should stand out not only for presenting an excellent project, but for being engaging and easily comprehended . 

Keep the language simple. Avoid jargon. Prioritizing accuracy and conciseness. Opt for reader-friendly formatting with white space, headings, standard fonts, and illustrations to enhance readability.

Always take time for thorough proofreading and editing. You can even set your proposal aside for a few days before revisiting it for additional edits and improvements. At this stage, it is helpful to seek outside feedback from those familiar with the subject matter as well as novices to catch unnoticed mistakes and improve clarity.

If you want to be absolutely sure your grant proposal is polished, consider getting it edited by AJE .

How can AI help the grant process?

When used efficiently, AI is a powerful tool for streamlining and enhancing various aspects of the grant process.

  • Use AI algorithms to review related studies and identify knowledge gaps.
  • Employ AI for quick analysis of complex datasets to identify patterns and trends.
  • Leverage AI algorithms to match your project with relevant grant opportunities.
  • Apply Natural Language Processing for analyzing grant guidelines and tailoring proposals accordingly.
  • Utilize AI-powered tools for efficient project planning and execution.
  • Employ AI for tracking project progress and generating reports.
  • Take advantage of AI tools for improving the clarity, coherence, and quality of your proposal.
  • Rely solely on manual efforts that are less comprehensive and more time consuming.
  • Overlook the fact that AI is designed to find patterns and trends within large datasets.
  • Minimize AI’s ability to use set parameters for sifting through vast amounts of data quickly.
  • Forget that the strength of AI lies in its capacity to follow your prompts without divergence.
  • Neglect tools that assist with scheduling, resource allocation, and milestone tracking.
  • Settle for software that is not intuitive with automated reminders and updates.
  • Hesitate to use AI tools for improving grammar, spelling, and composition throughout the writing process.

Remember that AI provides a diverse array of tools; there is no universal solution. Identify the most suitable tool for your specific task. Also, like a screwdriver or a hammer, AI needs informed human direction and control to work effectively.

Looking for tips when writing your grant application? 

Check out these resources:

  • 4 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Grant Proposal
  • Writing Effective Grant Applications
  • 7 Tips for Writing an Effective Grant Proposal
  • The best-kept secrets to winning grants
  • The Best Grant Writing Books for Beginner Grant Writers
  • Research Grant Proposal Funding: How I got $1 Million

Final thoughts

The bottom line – applying for grants is challenging. It requires passion, dedication, and a set of diverse skills rarely found within one human being.

Therefore, collaboration is key to a successful grant process . It encourages everyone’s strengths to shine. Be honest and ask yourself, “Which elements of this grant application do I really need help with?” Seek out experts in those areas.

Keep this guide on hand to reference as you work your way through this funding journey. Use the resources contained within. Seek out answers to all the questions that will inevitably arise throughout the process.

The grants are out there just waiting for the right project to present itself – one that shares the funder’s mission and is a benefit to our communities. Find grants that align with your project goals, tell your story through a compelling proposal, and get ready to make the world a better place with your research.

The AJE Team

The AJE Team

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How to write a grant proposal: a step-by-step guide

How to write a grant proposal

What is a grant proposal?

Why should you write a grant proposal, format of a grant proposal, how to write a grant proposal, step 1: decide what funding opportunity to apply for, and research the grant application process, step 2: plan and research your project, preliminary research for your grant proposal, questions to ask yourself as you plan your grant proposal, developing your grant proposal, step 3: write the first draft of your grant proposal, step 4: get feedback, and revise your grant proposal accordingly, step 5: prepare to submit your grant proposal, what happens after submitting the grant proposal, final thoughts, other useful sources for writing grant proposals, frequently asked questions about writing grant proposals, related articles.

You have a vision for a future research project, and want to share that idea with the world.

To achieve your vision, you need funding from a sponsoring organization, and consequently, you need to write a grant proposal.

Although visualizing your future research through grant writing is exciting, it can also feel daunting. How do you start writing a grant proposal? How do you increase your chances of success in winning a grant?

But, writing a proposal is not as hard as you think. That’s because the grant-writing process can be broken down into actionable steps.

This guide provides a step-by-step approach to grant-writing that includes researching the application process, planning your research project, and writing the proposal. It is written from extensive research into grant-writing, and our experiences of writing proposals as graduate students, postdocs, and faculty in the sciences.

A grant proposal is a document or collection of documents that outlines the strategy for a future research project and is submitted to a sponsoring organization with the specific goal of getting funding to support the research. For example, grants for large projects with multiple researchers may be used to purchase lab equipment, provide stipends for graduate and undergraduate researchers, fund conference travel, and support the salaries of research personnel.

As a graduate student, you might apply for a PhD scholarship, or postdoctoral fellowship, and may need to write a proposal as part of your application. As a faculty member of a university, you may need to provide evidence of having submitted grant applications to obtain a permanent position or promotion.

Reasons for writing a grant proposal include:

  • To obtain financial support for graduate or postdoctoral studies;
  • To travel to a field site, or to travel to meet with collaborators;
  • To conduct preliminary research for a larger project;
  • To obtain a visiting position at another institution;
  • To support undergraduate student research as a faculty member;
  • To obtain funding for a large collaborative project, which may be needed to retain employment at a university.

The experience of writing a proposal can be helpful, even if you fail to obtain funding. Benefits include:

  • Improvement of your research and writing skills
  • Enhancement of academic employment prospects, as fellowships and grants awarded and applied for can be listed on your academic CV
  • Raising your profile as an independent academic researcher because writing proposals can help you become known to leaders in your field.

All sponsoring agencies have specific requirements for the format of a grant proposal. For example, for a PhD scholarship or postdoctoral fellowship, you may be required to include a description of your project, an academic CV, and letters of support from mentors or collaborators.

For a large research project with many collaborators, the collection of documents that need to be submitted may be extensive. Examples of documents that might be required include a cover letter, a project summary, a detailed description of the proposed research, a budget, a document justifying the budget, and the CVs of all research personnel.

Before writing your proposal, be sure to note the list of required documents.

Writing a grant proposal can be broken down into three major activities: researching the project (reading background materials, note-taking, preliminary work, etc.), writing the proposal (creating an outline, writing the first draft, revisions, formatting), and administrative tasks for the project (emails, phone calls, meetings, writing CVs and other supporting documents, etc.).

Below, we provide a step-by-step guide to writing a grant proposal:

  • Decide what funding opportunity to apply for, and research the grant application process
  • Plan and research your project
  • Write the first draft of your grant proposal
  • Get feedback, and revise your grant proposal accordingly
  • Prepare to submit your grant proposal

5 steps for writing a grant proposal.

  • Start early. Begin by searching for funding opportunities and determining requirements. Some sponsoring organizations prioritize fundamental research, whereas others support applied research. Be sure your project fits the mission statement of the granting organization. Look at recently funded proposals and/or sample proposals on the agency website, if available. The Research or Grants Office at your institution may be able to help with finding grant opportunities.
  • Make a spreadsheet of grant opportunities, with a link to the call for proposals page, the mission and aims of the agency, and the deadline for submission. Use the information that you have compiled in your spreadsheet to decide what to apply for.
  • Once you have made your decision, carefully read the instructions in the call for proposals. Make a list of all the documents you need to apply, and note the formatting requirements and page limits. Know exactly what the funding agency requires of submitted proposals.
  • Reach out to support staff at your university (for example, at your Research or Grants Office), potential mentors, or collaborators. For example, internal deadlines for submitting external grants are often earlier than the submission date. Make sure to learn about your institution’s internal processes, and obtain contact information for the relevant support staff.
  • Applying for a grant or fellowship involves administrative work. Start preparing your CV and begin collecting supporting documents from collaborators, such as letters of support. If the application to the sponsoring agency is electronic, schedule time to set up an account, log into the system, download necessary forms and paperwork, etc. Don’t leave all of the administrative tasks until the end.
  • Map out the important deadlines on your calendar. These might include video calls with collaborators, a date for the first draft to be complete, internal submission deadlines, and the funding agency deadline.
  • Schedule time on your calendar for research, writing, and administrative tasks associated with the project. It’s wise to group similar tasks and block out time for them (a process known as ” time batching ”). Break down bigger tasks into smaller ones.

Develop a plan for your research project.

Now that you know what you are applying for, you can think about matching your proposed research to the aims of the agency. The work you propose needs to be innovative, specific, realizable, timely, and worthy of the sponsoring organization’s attention.

  • Develop an awareness of the important problems and open questions in your field. Attend conferences and seminar talks and follow all of your field’s major journals.
  • Read widely and deeply. Journal review articles are a helpful place to start. Reading papers from related but different subfields can generate ideas. Taking detailed notes as you read will help you recall the important findings and connect disparate concepts.

Notetaking for a grant proposal

  • Writing a grant proposal is a creative and imaginative endeavor. Write down all of your ideas. Freewriting is a practice where you write down all that comes to mind without filtering your ideas for feasibility or stopping to edit mistakes. By continuously writing your thoughts without judgment, the practice can help overcome procrastination and writer’s block. It can also unleash your creativity, and generate new ideas and associations. Mind mapping is another technique for brainstorming and generating connections between ideas.
  • Establish a regular writing practice. Schedule time just for writing, and turn off all distractions during your focused work time. You can use your writing process to refine your thoughts and ideas.
  • Use a reference manager to build a library of sources for your project. You can use a reference management tool to collect papers , store and organize references , and highlight and annotate PDFs . Establish a system for organizing your ideas by tagging papers with labels and using folders to store similar references.

Organize your library with a reference manager when writing a grant proposal

To facilitate intelligent thinking and shape the overall direction of your project, try answering the following questions:

  • What are the questions that the project will address? Am I excited and curious about their answers?
  • Why are these questions important?
  • What are the goals of the project? Are they SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely)?
  • What is novel about my project? What is the gap in current knowledge?
  • What methods will I use, and how feasible is my approach?
  • Can the work be done over the proposed period, and with the budget I am requesting?
  • Do I have relevant experience? For example, have I completed similar work funded by previous grants or written papers on my proposed topic?
  • What pilot research or prior work can I use, or do I need to complete preliminary research before writing the proposal?
  • Will the outcomes of my work be consequential? Will the granting agency be interested in the results?
  • What solutions to open problems in my field will this project offer? Are there broader implications of my work?
  • Who will the project involve? Do I need mentors, collaborators, or students to contribute to the proposed work? If so, what roles will they have?
  • Who will read the proposal? For example, experts in the field will require details of methods, statistical analyses, etc., whereas non-experts may be more concerned with the big picture.
  • What do I want the reviewers to feel, and take away from reading my proposal?
  • What weaknesses does my proposed research have? What objections might reviewers raise, and how can I address them?
  • Can I visualize a timeline for my project?

Create an actionable plan for your research project using the answers to these questions.

  • Now is the time to collect preliminary data, conduct experiments, or do a preliminary study to motivate your research, and demonstrate that your proposed project is realistic.
  • Use your plan to write a detailed outline of the proposal. An outline helps you to write a proposal that has a logical format and ensures your thought process is rational. It also provides a structure to support your writing.
  • Follow the granting agency’s guidelines for titles, sections, and subsections to inform your outline.

At this stage, you should have identified the aims of your project, what questions your work will answer, and how they are relevant to the sponsoring agency’s call for proposals. Be able to explain the originality, importance, and achievability of your proposed work.

Write first draft grant proposal

Now that you have done your research, you are ready to begin writing your proposal and start filling in the details of your outline. Build on the writing routine you have already started. Here are some tips:

  • Follow the guidelines of the funding organization.
  • Keep the proposal reviewers in mind as you write. Your audience may be a combination of specialists in your field and non-specialists. Make sure to address the novelty of your work, its significance, and its feasibility.
  • Write clearly, concisely, and avoid repetition. Use topic sentences for each paragraph to emphasize key ideas. Concluding sentences of each paragraph should develop, clarify, or summarize the support for the declaration in the topic sentence. To make your writing engaging, vary sentence length.
  • Avoid jargon, where possible. Follow sentences that have complex technical information with a summary in plain language.
  • Don’t review all information on the topic, but include enough background information to convince reviewers that you are knowledgeable about it. Include preliminary data to convince reviewers you can do the work. Cite all relevant work.
  • Make sure not to be overly ambitious. Don’t propose to do so much that reviewers doubt your ability to complete the project. Rather, a project with clear, narrowly-defined goals may prove favorable to reviewers.
  • Accurately represent the scope of your project; don’t exaggerate its impacts. Avoid bias. Be forthright about the limitations of your research.
  • Ensure to address potential objections and concerns that reviewers may have with the proposed work. Show that you have carefully thought about the project by explaining your rationale.
  • Use diagrams and figures effectively. Make sure they are not too small or contain too much information or details.

After writing your first draft, read it carefully to gain an overview of the logic of your argument. Answer the following questions:

  • Is your proposal concise, explicit, and specific?
  • Have you included all necessary assumptions, data points, and evidence in your proposal?
  • Do you need to make structural changes like moving or deleting paragraphs or including additional tables or figures to strengthen your rationale?
  • Have you answered most of the questions posed in Step 2 above in your proposal?
  • Follow the length requirements in the proposal guidelines. Don't feel compelled to include everything you know!
  • Use formatting techniques to make your proposal easy on the eye. Follow rules for font, layout, margins, citation styles , etc. Avoid walls of text. Use bolding and italicizing to emphasize points.
  • Comply with all style, organization, and reference list guidelines to make it easy to reviewers to quickly understand your argument. If you don’t, it’s at best a chore for the reviewers to read because it doesn’t make the most convincing case for you and your work. At worst, your proposal may be rejected by the sponsoring agency without review.
  • Using a reference management tool like Paperpile will make citation creation and formatting in your grant proposal quick, easy and accurate.

Get feedback on grant proposal.

Now take time away from your proposal, for at least a week or more. Ask trusted mentors or collaborators to read it, and give them adequate time to give critical feedback.

  • At this stage, you can return to any remaining administrative work while you wait for feedback on the proposal, such as finalizing your budget or updating your CV.
  • Revise the proposal based on the feedback you receive.
  • Don’t be discouraged by critiques of your proposal or take them personally. Receiving and incorporating feedback with humility is essential to grow as a grant writer.

Check requirements of granting agency

Now you are almost ready to submit. This is exciting! At this stage, you need to block out time to complete all final checks.

  • Allow time for proofreading and final editing. Spelling and grammar mistakes can raise questions regarding the rigor of your research and leave a poor impression of your proposal on reviewers. Ensure that a unified narrative is threaded throughout all documents in the application.
  • Finalize your documents by following a checklist. Make sure all documents are in place in the application, and all formatting and organizational requirements are met.
  • Follow all internal and external procedures. Have login information for granting agency and institution portals to hand. Double-check any internal procedures required by your institution (applications for large grants often have a deadline for sign-off by your institution’s Research or Grants Office that is earlier than the funding agency deadline).
  • To avoid technical issues with electronic portals, submit your proposal as early as you can.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when all the work is done, and take time to celebrate submitting the proposal! This is already a big achievement.

Now you wait! If the news is positive, congratulations!

But if your proposal is rejected, take heart in the fact that the process of writing it has been useful for your professional growth, and for developing your ideas.

Bear in mind that because grants are often highly competitive, acceptance rates for proposals are usually low. It is very typical to not be successful on the first try and to have to apply for the same grant multiple times.

Here are some tips to increase your chances of success on your next attempt:

  • Remember that grant writing is often not a linear process. It is typical to have to use the reviews to revise and resubmit your proposal.
  • Carefully read the reviews and incorporate the feedback into the next iteration of your proposal. Use the feedback to improve and refine your ideas.
  • Don’t ignore the comments received from reviewers—be sure to address their objections in your next proposal. You may decide to include a section with a response to the reviewers, to show the sponsoring agency that you have carefully considered their comments.
  • If you did not receive reviewer feedback, you can usually request it.

You learn about your field and grow intellectually from writing a proposal. The process of researching, writing, and revising a proposal refines your ideas and may create new directions for future projects. Professional opportunities exist for researchers who are willing to persevere with submitting grant applications.

➡️ Secrets to writing a winning grant

➡️ How to gain a competitive edge in grant writing

➡️ Ten simple rules for writing a postdoctoral fellowship

A grant proposal should include all the documents listed as required by the sponsoring organization. Check what documents the granting agency needs before you start writing the proposal.

Granting agencies have strict formatting requirements, with strict page limits and/or word counts. Check the maximum length required by the granting agency. It is okay for the proposal to be shorter than the maximum length.

Expect to spend many hours, even weeks, researching and writing a grant proposal. Consequently, it is important to start early! Block time in your calendar for research, writing, and administration tasks. Allow extra time at the end of the grant-writing process to edit, proofread, and meet presentation guidelines.

The most important part of a grant proposal is the description of the project. Make sure that the research you propose in your project narrative is new, important, and viable, and that it meets the goals of the sponsoring organization.

A grant proposal typically consists of a set of documents. Funding agencies have specific requirements for the formatting and organization of each document. Make sure to follow their guidelines exactly.

how to write a business plan for grant

Ownr Blog  > Ownrship 101  > Business Stages  > Growing Your Business  > Getting Funded  > Grant Writing 101: How to Write the Best Grant Proposal

Grant Writing 101: How to Write the Best Grant Proposal

Ownr Author

Do you want to start a new business or side hustle , but you just don’t have the funds? Don’t let a lack of capital stop you from pursuing your dreams. There are a ton of organizations out there that offer grants to help entrepreneurs at all stages of their business, but it can be challenging to get your grant proposals approved. We’ll take a look at the different types of funding proposals and what you need to write an effective grant proposal.

  • Benefits of Obtaining Funding Through a Grant Proposal

If you’re not familiar with how grants work, you may be wondering why you would choose grant writing as your method of obtaining capital to fund your new business . There’s one main difference (and it’s a big one) between obtaining money from a grant as opposed to a loan: you don’t have to pay the money back. This is huge for an entrepreneur who is just starting out, as it will mean you don’t have a cloud hanging over your head, knowing that you need to start paying your loan back with interest. In addition, your project will have the clout of being associated with whatever organization granted you funding, which can convince potential clients or investors of your validity.

  • Types of Grant Proposals

Depending on the grant you are applying for, funding proposals can come in a few main formats. Always make sure that your grant proposal includes everything the grant requires, exactly as written. If the proposal doesn’t meet all of the requirements, it may be disqualified automatically, even if your idea is sound. Here are three of the most common types of grant proposals you will see in your search.

Letter of Inquiry (LOI)

A letter of inquiry is the most direct way to reach out to a foundation with a grant proposal and find out if they are interested before investing your time in creating a full proposal. It is usually two or three pages and summarizes the project you want to be funded. When writing an LOI, you should go into enough detail that the organization can understand exactly what you intend to do, how you will achieve it, and why they should be interested, but don’t get into the nitty-gritty at this stage.

Once they have received your LOI, if they are interested, they will request a more in-depth funding proposal. This saves your time and that of the funder and lets you know right away where to focus your grant writing attention. Make sure to check the website of the foundation to see if they have any requests for proposals listed before sending in your grant proposal to ensure it fits their guidelines. Remember to customize your LOI for each specific grant you apply for, and adjust the details according to what each is looking for.

Letter Proposal

Although they sound similar, an LOI and a letter proposal are not interchangeable when it comes to grant writing. Whereas an LOI is simply introducing your grant proposal to an organization, a letter proposal is a more succinct version of a full funding proposal. Some corporations aren’t interested in soliciting a lengthy grant proposal and instead, choose to request a letter proposal. These are usually three or four pages and should cover everything included in a full grant proposal, including the amount of money you’re asking for.

Full Proposal

A full proposal is what you probably immediately associate with grant writing. Depending on the detail required by each grant proposal, they can be up to 25 pages. It is a more formal approach to grant writing and goes into detail about your project, the amount of money you’re requesting, what you intend to do with the funds and how you plan to make it happen. It’s important that whatever form of grant proposal you are writing, you make an effort to convince the reader that they should give the grant to you. You are pitching yourself and your business, and you need to show them why your project is more worthy than the rest of the funding proposals they will receive.

  • How to Write a Grant Proposal

Grant proposals are similar to business plans: they need to clearly outline the structure of your business, including budgets , marketing strategy, logo design and branding, and so much more. They also need to showcase a strong understanding of the numbers, going into detail about the money you need, what you intend to do with it, and how exactly it will be used, broken down to the last dollar. This is where you need to convince the organization that you are responsible and have a thorough grasp of how their money will be put to good use in your business.

You should also look at the grant writing process from the other side. Organizations want to fund projects that have impacts beyond you as an individual. If you are able to show the good that your project will do for the organization, the community or the world, you may have a better chance of getting your grant proposal noticed. Each grant proposal request will differ to some degree, so make sure you read the request closely and adhere to the specific guidelines for each of your submissions. Have a look at some funding proposal templates or grant proposal examples to see how others have written their grant proposals, so you understand the basic structure.

  • Grant Proposal Templates

If the prospect of grant writing still feels daunting, don’t worry. There are lots of organizations that offer funding proposal templates and assist you with the full process of applying for funding. Here are a few free grant proposal examples to get you started.

  • Kurtzweil Educational Systems has a sample grant proposal that walks you through all the information you need to apply their template to your funding proposal.
  • If your grant proposal is for a nonprofit organization, Snowball Fundraising has a grant proposal template as well as a more in-depth guide to grant writing .
  • PandaDoc goes over how to write each section of your grant proposal and explains them all in simple terms.
  • Dos and Don’ts of Grant Proposal Writing

To sum it up:

  • Do research the organization in detail before writing your grant proposal.
  • Don’t send a form letter of inquiry – they need to be customized for each funding proposal.
  • Do look for requests for funding proposals online.
  • Don’t send in a grant proposal without checking the organization’s submission requirements.

Now that you’ve got a handle on what you need to write a great grant proposal, get out there and get started on your entrepreneurial journey!


This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

how to write a business plan for grant


Home » Grants » Business Grants

11 Steps to Writing a Grant Proposal for Small Business Funding

Do you want to apply for startup grants but don’t know how to write a proposal? If YES, here are 11 steps to writing a grant proposal for small business funding. Starting a business is not easy feat especially for people who are considered disadvantaged like Veterans, the disabled or people who are in minority.

For this reason, certain nonprofit organizations, agencies and foundations have been set up by government and even private individuals to provide these people grants to start their small businesses. If a new small business is struggling financially or if the business operates within a certain field, like agriculture or nonprofit charities, a grant may be the best way to obtain funding.

What is a Grant?

Grants are typically a donation of a set amount of money made by foundations, other businesses, government agencies or nonprofit organizations to companies or individuals that meet specific requirements and qualify for the grant.

Grants are given to businesses for free, so they are not to be paid back. This is one of the major or even the only lure of grants. A grant differs from small business loans in that loans must be paid back, typically with interest. Because they offer free money, grant giving organizations are usually quite strict in their requirements.

How Easy Is It to Access Grants?

The truth is that there is a lot of free money out there begging to be spent on businesses that are ready to advantage of it. That’s grant money. Several organizations, foundations, and government bodies provide grants for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. If you are looking for grant money for an existing or new business, you are more than likely to encounter difficulties finding grant funding, but it’s not impossible.

If anything makes grant funding similar to bank loans and equity funding ( by investors and venture capitalists ), that would be the fact that you need to write a proposal to get it. And as with proposals meant for lenders and equity funders, your proposal for a grant funding must be downright compelling. Even though the grant issuer isn’t taking any gains from your profits, they don’t want their funds to go down the drain.

So, you need to send a proposal to convince them that your idea or business is viable. This explains why such a proposal needs to include many of the elements in your business plan—the same elements that make your business plan compelling. While business plans and grant proposals serve nearly the same purpose, the two are different from each other.

What Do You Need to Access Small Business Grants?

Organizations that provide grants have a vision they want to use that grant to accomplish, so you need to find this vision, read through it, and tailor your grant application to align with it. Typically, you get one shot at a grant proposal, so you need to make the best out of it. You should know that businesses of different sizes and types have different kinds of grants and they are different organizations that offer these grants.

Projects relating to medicine, agriculture or research, will all qualify for separate grants. So the first step in applying for a grant is to determine which one is best for your business. In the united states, the new business will need to register with a federal grant program before they can apply for a grant.

You would need to obtain things like a DUNS number, and an employer identification number (EIN) should be included in your form before you can complete your grant registration. Once the business has been registered, the next step is to write a proposal for the grant and fill out the application form.

Herein then lies the problem, writing the grant proposal. It should be noted that many people have been deprived of grants because their proposal was never at par with what the organization’s needs. Even if you are the best person for the grant but you have a poorly written proposal, the only thing your proposal would see is the trash. This is why you need to take time when writing your proposal.

You will greatly increase your chances of getting grant funding for your business if you really know how to write a compelling business proposal for grant funding. Writing such a proposal isn’t as difficult as you think. Here are the steps involved in writing a winning proposal.

  • How to Write a Fundraising Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can be quite challenging for the small business owner as it is an art that takes time and practice to master. This is because grant writing is quite technical in its requirements, but that does not mean that it is the most difficult task in the world. Each grant is different in its requirements, but most of them ask for the same basic things. You only need to follow this general guideline and you are on your way to getting the perfect grant proposal.

Grant proposals are different from business plans, but include many of the same elements and serve nearly the same purpose. The grant proposal is usually divided into various parts; you need to be careful and as detailed as possible when writing each so your proposal does not appear shallow. Here is an outline you can use to write your small business grant proposal;

1. Know what the grant issuer wants

Before writing your business proposal for grant funding, you must bear in mind that your proposal must be tailored to each individual grant issuer that you seek grant funds from. So, you need to really understand the requirements of each grant issuer if you want your proposal approved for funding.

Find out the requirements of the grant issuer you are sending your proposal to. This will help you know what to include in your proposal and what not to include.

2. Your cover page

To start, you need to create a cover page for your proposal to make it look professional. Your cover page should include your company or Business Name, the date of submission, and the name and contact information of the company representative assigned to work with the grantor. This of course comes first but it is usually written or created at the end of the proposal.

3. Cover Letter

The cover letter introduces the business to the grant organization. It is the first part the grantor goes through so you need to describe your business clearly, but keep it short and preppy because your cover letter is not supposed to be lengthy. Here, you should let the organization know why your business is perfect for this grant and what you aim to accomplish with it.

Make sure to cater to the specific grant and not speak in generalities as if you are applying to every financing source in the United States. Use the cover letter to state the needs your organization serves, how you address these needs, and how your mission fits with the goals of the grantor. Include your contact information in the cover letter too.

Here are a few tips for writing a good cover letter;

  • Address your cover letter to an individual—making sure they are the correct person.
  • Limit your cover letter to one page with three or four paragraphs at most.
  • Include a statement of support from your board of directors.
  • Do not include a cover letter in federal or state grant applications, unless they specifically request one.

4. Table of Contents

This is where you outline the sub-heads of the various chapters and where they can be found. It makes it easy for the reviewer to jump to whatever section they wish with ease. It also displays some professionalism on your part. Again, funding organizations usually receive high volumes of grant proposals; the more reader-friendly your proposal is, the easier it is to fully understand your organization, its mission, and its needs. Place the table of contents immediately after your executive summary.

5. Compare your proposal to the funder’s requirements

Remember that each grant issuer is very specific in what they are looking for and will rarely deviate from their requirements. (The fact that there is a lot of money available doesn’t mean they will fund just anything).

So, you have to ensure that your proposal’s outline and summary really matches what they expect from you. Even if your business idea is brilliant and promising, the funder will never bend their rules to fund your business if your proposal doesn’t play by their rules.

6. Write the first draft

After having ensured that the content of your proposal matches the requirements of the grant issuer, start writing your first draft by expanding each point in your outline. This first draft doesn’t have to look good or perfect—it’s a draft and you can polish it later. You must emphasize the aspects of your business that the funder will like best (their requirements/guidelines will give you clues).

7. Executive Summary

The executive summary of a document summarizes the rest of it. In this document you should pinpoint the main reasons the grant is needed and how it will solve the problems of the granting organization. While you explain this, the amount of funding as well as information about the venture should also be listed.

Use this part of the document to convince the grantor that funding your business is the greatest idea ever. Describe how your organization and its mission match the philosophy and specialization of the grantor in the executive summary.

An executive summary is similar to a cover letter in many respects, but it is usually longer. Make certain that your summary clearly describes the contents of your grant proposal. If you manage to get their attention, they will continue reading the rest of the proposal. Here are Tips for writing an executive summary:

  • Identify your organization.
  • Include your mission statement.
  • Emphasize the key points of your grant proposal.
  • Clearly communicate the need for your business.
  • State the cost of the project and the amount you are requesting.
  • State the time period for the project.
  • State the results that are expected from your business.

8. Your Statement of Need/Problem Statement

In this section of the document, you have to provide in great detail the needs and problems that the business, project or venture is fulfilling and solving. Conduct research and show that you have done your homework. Answer key questions like, what is the scope of the problem? What will your business do that someone hasn’t or can’t easily do in the future? Show that you fill a void in the market and that you need the grant to do so.

Fully conveying the nature of the unmet or underserved needs that your organization can fulfill is vital to gaining funding. Also, adding hard statistics and quotes from people impacted by your organization add weight and credibility to the proposal. Be concise and to the point. Here are some tips for writing statement of needs;

  • Make sure your statement of need is well-written and reader-friendly.
  • Use quantitative data: statistical analysis, trends and expert views that support your argument.
  • Reference reputable research, literature and comparative data to support your argument.
  • Explain your time frame, and why securing funding is critical now

9. Project Description

The project description section is the main section of your grant proposal. This section is written best by separating different issues and ideas in separate sections. This will make it easier for you to write the section by focusing on one idea at a time, and make it easier on the reader as well since the section won’t be all scattered.

10. Objectives of your business

This section would contain the goals you aim to achieve with your business. You may not have to list anything in intense detail; just give the reviewer a highlight of the objectives of your business. The objectives section includes measurable aspirations of the venture such as achieving a hold of a certain percentage of the estimated market. Break down your objectives in a bulleted list so it is easier to read.

Tips for writing your proposal’s objectives:

  • Use quantifiable terms.
  • Identify who or what your objectives will serve.
  • Make sure your objectives are measurable and realistic.
  • Objectives should be consistent with your statement of need.

11. Methods/Project Management Plans/Timelines of the business

This section will show the reader how you intend to achieve your objectives. The methods, plans, and timeline of implementation for those methods and plans will also be shown. Visual timelines are best to show the reader exactly where everything fits into the scheme of things as well as when. This section shows the reader you not only have goals and objectives but that you also know how to achieve them using a detailed well thought out plan.

12. Number of staff you need

Many government grants will have stringent personnel requirements because they want you to create employment with the money that they are giving you in order to alleviate poverty and want. If the grant requires a certain number of personnel, make sure your personnel planning matches those requirements.

Also make sure that your objectives match personnel planning. Provide an overview of your organization’s top leadership, including its founder and board of directors. Include short professional biographies, focusing on the experience and resources each leader brings to the organization. Then you can write briefly on all the roles required to be filled in your business.

13. Your Financial Projections/budget

This is where you tell how you’ll use the money you receive. It should be within the amount you are asking for, be realistic and include only eligible expenses. Grant amounts are generally determined by the funding organization. Use the dollar amount anticipated and set up a budget for your project.

Make it detailed enough to satisfy anyone’s curiosity on the question of how the money will be spent, and make sure everything adds up. The financial section is your opportunity to convince the grant organization that you have a firm understanding of managing finances and budgeting your anticipated grant money.

Use realistic numbers in your budget, remembering to include all the costs that might be associated with your project. For example, if your project includes the need for printed marketing materials, you might need the services of a graphic artist and a professional printing company, as well as postage for mailing the materials.

Here are some tips for writing this section;

  • Make sure all figures are 100% accurate.
  • Specify direct costs—the expenses for which the requested grant funding will be used. Direct costs include personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, and supplies.
  • Specify all sources of income and contributions, including volunteer services calculated at “market value.”
  • State all indirect costs and overhead associated with administrative expenses.

14. Polish your draft

After completing your draft, go through it carefully and polish it up. Edit sentences where necessary to make your ideas clear and concise. Read it aloud to yourself to hear how it flows. You will probably do a lot of rewriting here—and that’s okay.

Look for strong words to replace any weak ones. Eliminate fancy or difficult words for simpler ones. Correct all typographical, spelling, grammar, and style errors. And ensure that your completed proposal goes well in line with your original summary and outline.

15. Conclusion

Write the conclusion section, which should be about one paragraph to reiterate your request and need in just one sentence and explain how your non-profit will sustain the project when funding ends. Thank the foundation for the opportunity and include a final appeal for assistance.

In conclusion, grant awarding organizations usually prepare an application package that lists what they’re looking for in a grant proposal and you should do well to follow their guidelines. Typically a grant package will require specific information that must appear in the grant.

To effectively respond and create a grant proposal, it helps to follow the grant application requirements in order. Answer each question that is asked using the same “voice” as that found in the documents. Mirroring the verbiage in the document helps to let the organization providing the grant know that you understand the organization’s purpose.

8 Things to Avoid When Writing a Small Business Grant Proposal

A. flowery language.

If your grant proposal is too confusing or too difficult to understand, it may have less of a chance of being accepted. Focus on conveying information in a clear, concise way and avoid giving it a lot of embellishments. The proposal should first address what impact the business will have on the surrounding community. Identify what the business aims to do, and make an outline of projected goals the business intends to accomplish.

b. Editing and proofreading mistakes

A simple error can wreak havoc on your proposal and may even cost you the grant because there are lots of other people applying for the same grant as you are. Special attention should be paid when reviewing the content of the proposal. A misplaced period or misspelled word can mean the end of a proposal’s consideration.

c. Beware of misplaced priorities

When writing your proposal, make sure you tailor our content correctly to what was demanded for by the grant organization. Asides that, your business’ outline needs to be specific and provide information on every step of the plan for growth and development. For instance, if the proposal focuses more on the existing problem than the solution the business will provide, it may not pass muster.

d. Accounting fails

Budget and accounting are other things that may prevent your grant from sailing through. Make sure all the accounting work is presented accurately and in a way that makes logical sense. Review your budget to make sure it tallies with the kind of business you are proposing. Make sure that you do not overask or underask because doing each would not make you successful. Just stick with the reality.

e. Eliminate jargon

Every industry has its own jargon and businesses are no different. However, use of these jargons will not convince your reviewer that you are smart or you are the most qualified candidate to receive the grant. As such, it is best to eliminate all internally used acronyms and jargon. Tell your story simply, from your heart.

f. Not paying attention to details

Some foundations can be very choosy. They may demand that your grant proposal must have a certain page length, page margins, typeface, et al., be sure to follow these specifications. Even if these minor details do not seem important to you as an individual, you should know that the grant makers have their reason for making such specifications and as such, you should respect them else you run the risk of having your application tossed into the trash. Don’t go to all that work just to have your proposal rejected because of logistics.

g. Waiting too long

A common mistake new entrepreneur’s make is waiting until the last minute to write and submit the proposal. Aim to finish the first draft three or four days before the deadline. This will allow plenty of time for proofreading. When submitting, make sure the proposal and application adhere to all guidelines set by the grant provider.

h. Sending unnecessary attachments

Most grant makers will tell you exactly what to send. Sending a lot more attachments that was demanded of you will not increase our chances of winning the grant. Again, it’s important to follow the rules. Grant makers are reading a lot of proposals, and they may view extraneous materials as an annoyance.

More on Business Grants

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How to Write a Grant Proposal for a Small Business

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Like a business plan, it is a challenge to complete a winning grant proposal, but if you are passionate about your business, then it is a small hurdle to overcome. Each grant is different in its requirements, but most of them ask for the same basic things as follows.

What is a Grant Proposal?

A grant proposal is a formal written request that someone, typically a potential donor willing to give grant money to an organization or cause based on merit, gives you financial assistance. There are many kinds of small business grants: for social service organizations by local and state government agencies and private organizations, for research projects and public health initiatives, and even for business ventures.  

Steps To Write a Grant Proposal for Small Business

Below are the steps to guide you through the process:

1. Research Grant Opportunities:

Start by researching available grant opportunities that align with your small business’s industry, goals, and needs. Look for grants from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private foundations that support businesses like yours.

2. Read Guidelines and Requirements:

Once you’ve identified potential grants, thoroughly read and understand their guidelines and requirements. Each grant may have specific eligibility criteria, funding amounts, application formats, and deadlines.

3. Define Your Project or Business Need:

Clearly articulate the purpose of your grant proposal. Describe the project or business need that the grant will support and how it aligns with your company’s mission and objectives.

4. Craft a Compelling Executive Summary:

Write an engaging executive summary that succinctly summarizes your grant proposal. This section should highlight the most critical points of your project, emphasizing its significance and potential impact.

5. Outline Project Goals and Objectives:

Outline the specific goals and objectives of your project. Clearly state what you aim to achieve through the grant funding and how it will benefit your small business and the community.

6. Explain the Methodology:

Detail the methods and strategies you plan to use to accomplish your project goals. Provide a step-by-step explanation of how you will execute the project and measure its success.

7. Create a Budget:

Develop a detailed budget for your project, including all the expenses you anticipate. Be thorough and realistic in your estimates. Some grants may have specific budget formats that you must follow.

8. Demonstrate Sustainability:

Show how your small business plans to sustain the project’s impact beyond the grant period. Grant providers often look for initiatives that can continue making a difference even after the funding ends.

9. Include a Strong Organizational Profile:

Highlight your small business’s history, achievements, and expertise in the field. Demonstrate your business’s capability to successfully implement the proposed project.

10. Emphasize the Impact:

Clearly communicate the potential positive impact of your project on your small business, the community, or the industry. Use data and evidence to support your claims.

11. Review and Edit:

Go through your grant proposal multiple times to check for errors, consistency, and clarity. Consider having someone else review it as well to get a fresh perspective.

12. Submit the Proposal on Time:

Submit your grant proposal before the deadline. Late submissions are generally not accepted, so make sure you allow enough time for any unforeseen delays.

13. Follow Up:

After submitting the proposal, follow up with the grant provider if you don’t receive a response within the expected timeframe. Some grants may have a specific review process, and it’s essential to stay informed.

Why Write a Grant Proposal?

Grant funding can be a great way to get the money you need to start or expand your business. They are typically less restrictive than small business loans, and the application process is usually simpler. In addition, if your grant proposal is accepted, you may have access to other resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and workshops.

Who Can Apply For a Grant?

Not every cause will be eligible for grant funding. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements outlined in the grant proposal guidelines, which means that they must fit into a certain category.

For example, an organization offering free job training to people who are physically or mentally disabled would be instantly eligible for grants by many granting agencies if it could prove its work ethic, validity, and financial stability. However, a new business start-up would not be as easily funded, since it is difficult to judge the potential success or failure of a company that has yet to go into operation.

What Are the Requirements?

Every grant proposal has different requirements, but most ask for the same basic information. These typically include:

  • The organization’s history and mission
  • What the grant money will be used for
  • A detailed budget
  • The impact the grant will have
  • The organization’s financial stability
  • A cover letter

It is important that your plan clearly states the specific purposes for which grant funds were requested, along with all the details about how they will be used and how much money will be required. Your proposal should also contain some personal information about yourself or your company, as well as your contact information.

What is the Grant Proposal Process?

  • Your first step is to identify the grant you want to apply for and read the guidelines carefully.
  • Gather all the necessary information – this will typically include your business plan, financial statements, resumes, and letters of recommendation.
  • Complete the grant application and make sure you submit everything on time.
  • Wait to hear back – if you are successful, congratulations! If not, don’t be discouraged and reapply the next year.

Types of Small Business Grants Available

There are many different types of grants that small businesses can apply for. The most common are federal grants, state grants, and local grants.

Federal Grants : These grants are awarded by the United States government to eligible organizations and individuals to support specific programs and projects. There are many different types of federal grants, and the application process is typically very competitive.

State Grants : State grants are awarded by state governments to eligible organizations and individuals to support specific programs and projects. The grant application process for state grants is typically less competitive than for grants from the federal government, but the awards are typically smaller in size.

Local Grants : Local grants are awarded by local governments to eligible organizations and individuals to support specific programs and projects. These grants typically have less stringent qualifications than federal or state grants, but the application process is typically more intensive due to the smaller number of available funds.

How Can I Find Grants for My Business?

There are many ways you can find grants for your business. The first step is to conduct an internet search for “grants for small businesses.” This will yield a variety of results, including government websites, private grant-making organizations, and online directories.

The next step is to identify which grants are best suited for your business. The most important factor to consider is the eligibility criteria of the grant. Each grant has its own set of qualifications, so take the time to review these guidelines carefully.

The final step is to complete and submit your grant application form before the deadline has passed. Although it may seem intimidating, completing a grant requires only a few hours of work and can have substantial benefits for your business down the road.

How to Write a Grant Letter for Small Business?

Although there is no set standard for a successful grant proposal, it usually includes a combination of all or most of the same elements. Here are some tips for writing a grant proposal for your nonprofit or small business.

To write an effective grant proposal, you should include the following elements:

Cover Letter

Table of contents, executive summary.

  • Needs Statement & Problem Statement

Project Description

  • Methods, Project Management Plans & Timelines

A good cover letter introduces the grantor to the business and extols its virtues about why the business is ideal for the grant. Make sure to cater to the specific grant and not speak in generalities as if you are applying to every financing source under the sun (even if you are).

This section helps the grantor flip right through to the specific section he wants to see. Make the grantor’s life easier and display your professionalism and courtesy at the same time. Our non-profit business plan template includes each of the items to include in your Table of Contents.

The executive summary of a document summarizes the rest of it. In this document, you should pinpoint the main reasons the grant is needed and how it will solve the problems of the grantee. The amount of small business funding, as well as information about the venture, should also be listed. Use this part of the document to convince the grantor that funding your business is the greatest idea ever and they’ll continue reading the rest of the proposal.

Needs Statement & Problem Statement

In this section of the document, detail the needs and problems that the project or venture is fulfilling and solving. Conduct research and show that you have done your homework. Answer key questions: What is the scope of the problem? What will your business do that someone hasn’t or can’t easily do in the future? Show that you fill a void in the market and that you need the grant to do so. Be concise and to the point.

The project description section is the main section of the small business grant proposal. This section is written best by separating different issues and ideas into separate sections. This will make it easier for you to write the section by focusing on one idea at a time and make it easier on the reader as well since the section won’t jump all over the place.

Goals & Objectives

The project goals section doesn’t list anything in intense detail but gives the reader an idea of what the potential grantee is trying to achieve.

The objectives section includes measurable aspirations of the venture such as achieving a hold of a certain percentage of the estimated market. Break down objectives in a bulleted list so it’s easier to read.

Methods, Project Management Plans, & Timelines

This section will show the reader how objectives will be achieved. The methods, plans, and timeline of implementation for those methods and plans will also be shown. Visual timelines are best to show the reader exactly where everything fits into the scheme of things as well as when. This section shows the reader you not only have goals and objectives but that you also know how to achieve them using a detailed well thought out plan.

Many government grants will have stringent personnel requirements because they want you to create employment with the money that they are giving you. If the grant needs specific information or provisions regarding personnel, make sure your personnel planning matches those requirements. Also, make sure that your objectives match personnel planning. Aggressive objectives might have to be matched with substantial growth in employment in certain industries.

The process of writing a grant proposal can seem daunting, but with careful preparation and organization, it can be a relatively easy task. By following these simple steps, you can increase your chances of being awarded the grant money you need to help your small business grow.  

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How to Write a Grant Proposal for Your Nonprofit Organization + Template & Examples

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In order to get funding for your nonprofit corporation, you may find yourself writing a grant proposal to secure nonprofit grants . A great proposal can make all the difference in whether or not your nonprofit receives the money it needs. In this article, we’ll outline what should be included in your grant proposal and we’ll give you a sample template with an example of how to be successful in your proposal.

What Is a Grant Proposal?

A grant proposal is a document that requests funding from a government agency or private foundation. The proposal outlines the nonprofit’s mission and goals, as well as how the funding will be used. A grant is similar to a business plan; the key difference is that a business plan is typically presented to a private party who will fund your organization in return for debt or equity. If creating a business plan, we suggest using an AI business plan generator or a business plan builder . If creating a grant, use the nonprofit grant proposal template below.

What Should Be Included In Your Grant Proposal?

There are several key elements that should be included in your grant proposal:

-Cover Letter/Letter Of Intent: This is a letter that introduces your nonprofit and outlines its mission. It should also explain why you are requesting funding and how the money will be used.

-Executive Summary: This is a brief overview of your nonprofit and what it does. It should include information on your target population, as well as the goals of your nonprofit and how the funding will be used.

-Needs Statement: This is a statement that outlines the problems your nonprofit is trying to solve. It should include data and statistics to back up your claims.

-Program Description: This is a description of the programs and services your nonprofit offers. It should include information on who the programs serve, as well as how they are operated.

-Budget: This is a detailed budget of how the funding will be used. It should include information on salaries, overhead costs, and any other expenses.

-Evaluation Plan: This is a plan for the evaluation process that determines the success of your nonprofit programs. It should include information regarding who will be responsible for conducting the evaluation, as well as how often it will be conducted.

-References: This is a list of references that can attest to the successful work or services offered by the nonprofit organization. References can be provided by individuals, businesses, or other organizations.

-Proof Of 501(c)3 Status: Some organizations may require proof that your nonprofit is a 501(c)3 organization. The designation as a “501(c)3” nonprofit organization certifies the exemption of federal taxes for your nonprofit.

Step By Step Process of Writing a Grant Proposal

Now that you know what should be included in your proposal, it’s time to start writing. Follow these steps to ensure that your proposal is well-written and accurate:

Identify The Problem/Program That Needs Funding

The first step in writing your proposal is to identify the problem or program that needs funding. What are you trying to solve with this grant money? Be specific and use data and statistics to back up your claims.

Research Grant Options

Before you start writing your proposal, it’s important to do your research. You should have a good understanding of the organization you are applying to and what their requirements are. Additionally, you should be familiar with the grant process and what is required of you.

Gather the Required Documents

Once you have a good understanding of the grant process, it’s time to start gathering the required documents. This will vary depending on the organization you are applying to, but may include things like your nonprofit’s 501(c)3 status, financial statements, and program evaluations.

Write a Cover Letter/Letter of Intent

The cover letter or letter of intent is your nonprofit’s introduction. In this letter, you will want to explain the mission and goals of your nonprofit organization. You should also explain why you are requesting funding and how the money will be used.

Write the Rest of the Grant Proposal

Now it’s time to start writing the rest of your proposal. Begin with an executive summary that outlines your nonprofit and what it does. Then, include a needs statement that outlines the problems you are trying to solve, followed by a program description that outlines the programs and services you offer. Next, include a detailed budget of how the funding will be used. Finally, include an evaluation plan of how you will evaluate the success of your nonprofit’s programs.

Proofread and Edit Your Proposal

Once you have finished writing your proposal, it’s time to proofread and edit it. Make sure that there are no errors and that all of the required information is included. Additionally, you may want to have someone else read it over to make sure that it is clear and concise.

Finalize and Submit

After you have proofread and edited your proposal, it’s time to submit it. Follow the instructions of the organization you are applying to and submit your proposal by the deadline.

After you have submitted your proposal, it’s important to follow up. This shows that you are interested in the grant and that you are committed to the process. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to clarify any questions or concerns that the organization may have.

Grant Proposal Template & Example

If you need some help getting started, you can use the following template as a guide. Keep in mind that this is just a general outline and you will need to tailor it to the specific organization you are applying to.

Name of Organization:

Phone Number:

Contact Name:

We are pleased to submit our grant proposal for your consideration. Our organization, (name of organization), is a non-profit (or for-profit) corporation that is dedicated to (mission statement). We are requesting funding in the amount of $ (requested amount) for our programs and services.

The money we receive from this grant will be used to fund our (program name) program. This program provides (services offered). Last year, we served a total of (number of clients served). We are expecting to serve an increased number of (clients/patients/students, etc.) this year.

Our program is unique because (explain what makes your program special or different from others). We have been in operation for (length of time) and our track record shows that we are successful at (outcomes achieved).

Our organization is run by a board of directors who are committed to our mission. We have a staff of qualified professionals who are experienced in working with (population served). Our programs are accredited by (name of accrediting body, if applicable).

Attached to this proposal, you will find our non-profit exemption status, financial statements, program evaluations, and other supporting materials. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We thank you for your time and consideration.

(Your name)

(Your title)

how to write a business plan for grant

How to Create a Startup Funding Proposal: 8 Samples and Templates to Guide You

how to write a business plan for grant

Being a founder is difficult. Managing the day-to-day as a founder while trying to secure capital for your business can almost feel impossible. Thankfully, there are different tools and techniques that founders can use to systemize their fundraise to focus on what truly matters, building their business.

One of those tools is a startup funding proposal. In this guide, we’ll break down what a startup funding proposal is and how you can leverage it to build momentum in your fundraise.

What Is a Startup Funding Proposal?

A startup funding proposal is a document that helps startup founders share an overview of their business and make the case for why they should receive funding. A startup funding proposal can be boiled down to help founders layout 3 things:

  • What — what does your startup do
  • How — how does your startup or product help customers accomplish what they are seeking
  • Why — why does your startup need funding and why should an investor fund your business

Related Resource: How to Write a Business Plan For Your Startup

Types of Startup Funding Proposals

Like any business document, there are many ways to approach a startup funding proposal. Ultimately it will come down to pulling the pieces and tactics that work best for your business. Investors are seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of deals a month so it is important to have your assets buttoned up to move quickly and build conviction during a raise. Check out a couple of popular types of funding proposals below:

Traditional Startup Funding Proposal

The most traditional or “standard” standard funding proposal is generally a written and visual document that is created using word processing software and/or design tools.

A traditional proposal is great because it allows you to share context with every aspect of your business. For example, if you include a chart of growth you’ll be able to explicitly write out why that was and what your plan is for future growth.

This document is generally designed to fit your brand and will hit on the key components of your business is structured and predictable way. We hit on what to include in your proposal below.

Startup Funding Proposal Pitch or Presentation

The most common approach we see to a fundraise or proposal is the pitch deck. Pitch decks take the same components as any proposal and fit them into a visual pitch deck that can be easily navigated and understood by a potential investor.

Pitch decks are not required by investors by are generally expected and are a great tool that can help you efficiently close your round. To learn more about building your pitch deck, check out a few of our key resources below:

  • Tips for Creating an Investor Pitch Deck
  • 18 Pitch Deck Examples for Any Startup
  • Our Teaser Pitch Deck Template

1-on-1 Proposals (Elevator Pitch)

A 1 on 1 proposal or an elevator pitch is the quickest version of any proposal. Every founder should have an elevator pitch in their back pocket and is a complementary tool to any of the other funding proposals mentioned here.

As the team at VestBee puts it, “Elevator pitch” or “elevator speech” is a laconic but compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride an elevator, usually around 30 seconds. It can serve you for fundraising purposes, personal introduction, or landing a prospective client.”

Email Proposal

Another common way to share a startup funding proposal via email. While the content might be similar to what is seen in a “traditional” funding proposal this allows you to hit investors where they spend their time – their inbox.

The format will follow a traditional proposal with less emphasis on visual aspects and more emphasis on the written content. Check out an example from our Update Template Library below:

Related Resource: How to Write the Perfect Investment Memo

Investor Relationship Hub

Lastly, there is an investor relationship hub or data room that can be used to share your proposal with potential investors. A hub is a great place to curate multiple documents or assets that will be needed during your fundraise. For example, you could share your funding proposal and your financials if they are requested by a potential investor.

Related Resource: What Should be in an Investor Data Room?

What to Include in Your Startup Funding Proposal

How you share your funding proposal might differ but ultimately the components are generally closely related from one proposal to the next. However, be sure that you are building this for your business. There is no prescriptive template that will work for every business.

how to write a business plan for grant

Project Summary

First things first, you’ll want to start with a summary of your project or your business. This can be a high-level overview of what your proposal encompasses and will give an investor the context they need for the rest of the proposal. A couple of ideas that are worth hitting on:

  • What your company does and how it’s different from existing solutions to pressing problems.
  • Existing market gaps and how your product covers them.
  • The importance of your product in your industry and how it improves the industry.
  • Existing resources and manpower, investment requirements, and potential limitations.

Current Performance and Financial Report

Of course, investors want to see how your business has been performing. The data and metrics around your business are generally how an investor builds conviction and further interest in your business. We suggest using your best judgment when it comes to the level of metrics or financials that you’d like to share. A couple examples of what you might share:

  • Current assets and liabilities
  • MVP presentation for companies still in the ideation stage
  • Appendix with financial reports

Related Resource: ​​ Building A Startup Financial Model That Works

Existing Investors and Partners

Inevitably investors will want to know who else you have raised capital from and partnered with in the past. Include a brief description of the different investors you have on your cap table and be ready to field additional questions if they have any.

Pro tip: The first place an investor will go to when performing due diligence is your current investors. Make sure you have a strong relationship and good communication with your current investors.

Market Study and Sales Goals

Investors will also care about your customer acquisition efforts and want to make sure you can repeatably find and close new customers. A couple of things that might be important to include in this section:

  • Product pricing and information
  • Revenue targets and goals
  • Customer acquisition model and efforts
  • Sales and marketing related KPIs
  • Stories or testimonials from happy customers

Current Valuation, Investment Requirements, and Expected Returns

This is an opportunity to lay out your cap table and explain your current valuation, investment requirements, and what future valuations could look like. As always, we suggest using your best judgment when it comes to what level of detail you’d like to share about your cap table.

Potential Pitfalls and Solutions

There is an inherent risk when investing in any startup. It is important to make sure potential investors are aware of this. Layout the common pitfalls your startup might face and stop you from achieving your goals. Next, lay out the solutions to these problems and how you plan to tackle them if/when they arise.

8 Startup Funding Proposal Samples and Templates

Below are 8 proposal templates to help you kick off your next fundraise. Note that some of these are technically investor updates and not designed for first-time fundraising. Keep in mind that a startup funding proposal could also be utilized for additional funding after the first round of funding.

1. An Investment Summary Template by Underscore VC

how to write a business plan for grant

Underscore VC is a seed-stage venture fund based out of Boston. As the team at Underscore writes :

“As part of this, we strongly recommend you write out a pitch narrative before you start to build a pitch deck. “Writing the prose forces you to fill in the gaps that can remain if you just put bullets on a slide,” says Lily Lyman, Underscore VC Partner. “It becomes less about how you present, and more about what you present.”

This exercise can help you synthesize your thoughts, smooth transitions, and craft a logical, compelling story. It also helps you include all necessary information and think through your answers to tough questions.

Check out the template here .

2. The Visible “Standard” Investor Update Template

Our Standard investor update template is great for communicating with existing investors. If you are regularly sending Updates to their investors they should know when you are beginning to raise capital again and can almost be treated as an investment proposal.

Check out the template for our standard investor update template here .

3. Sharing a Fundraising Pitch via Video

how to write a business plan for grant

Videos are a great way to give the right context to the right investors in a concise and quick way. Video is a great supporting tool for any other information or documents you might be sending over. For example, you can include a few charts or metrics and some company information and use the video to further explain the data and growth plans. Check out the template here .

4. Financial Funding Proposal

The team at Revv put together a plug-and-play financial funding proposal. As they wrote, “A funding proposal must provide details of your company’s financials to obtain the right amount of funding. Check out our funding proposal template personalized for your business.” Check out the template here .

5. Investor Proposal Template for SaaS Companies

The team at Revv put together a template to help founders grab the attention of investors. As they wrote, “With so many Investing Agencies, this Investor proposal will surely leave an impact on your company in the long run.” Check out the template here .

6. Startup Funding Proposal Sample

Template.net has created a downloadable funding proposal template that can be edited using any tool. As they wrote, “Get your business idea off the ground by winning investors for your business through this Startup Investment Proposal. Fascinate investors with how you are going to get your business into the spotlight and explain in vivid detail your goals or target for the business.” Check out the template here .

7. Simple Proposal Template

Best Templates has created a generic proposal template that can be molded to fit most use cases. As they wrote, “Use this Simple Proposal Template for any of your proposal needs. This 14-page proposal template is easily editable and fully customizable using any chosen application or program that supports MS Word or Pages file formats.”

8. Sample Investment Proposal for Morgan Stanley

Another example is from the team at Morgan Stanley. The template is commonly used by their team and can be applied to most proposal use cases.

Connect With More Investors and Tell Your Story With Visible

Being able to tie everything together and build a strategy for your fundraise will be an integral part of your fundraising success. Check out how Visible can help you every step of the way below:

Visible Connect — Finding the right investors for your business can be tricky. Using Visible Connect, filter investors by different categories (like stage, check size, geography, focus, and more) to find the right investors for your business. Give it a try here .

Pitch Deck Sharing — Once you’ve built out your target list of investors, you can start sharing your pitch deck with them directly from Visible. You can customize your sharing settings (like email gated, password gated, etc.) and even add your own domain. Give it a try here .

Fundraising CRM — Our Fundraising CRM brings all of your data together. Set up tailored stages , custom fields , take notes, and track activity for different investors to help you build momentum in your raise. We’ll show how each individual investor is engaging with your Updates, Decks, and Dashboards. Give it a try here .

how to write a business plan for grant

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How to Write a Successful Government Grant Proposal

how to write a business plan for grant

While there is an abundance of direct funding opportunities in the wake of COVID-19, how do you put together a standout application with more public-sector entities vying for competitive funding opportunities?

Below are some best practices to write a successful government grant proposal.

Align Your Project with the Awarding Agency’s Purpose

Too often, grant proposals miss the mark because they miss the requirements and goals spelled out in an awarding agency’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s critical that you carefully review eligibility requirements, estimated program funding, and cost-sharing or match requirements to check if the grant is even a viable opportunity for your agency.

Many governments are digitizing the process of searching and tracking grant opportunities, which is saving time and effort. Reading over a NOFO can take an average of at least 2 hours. Having a curated search tailored to your agency’s needs can save you much time and hassle, so you can quickly weed out opportunities that aren’t relevant while ensuring you spell out your agency’s goals as well as speak to those of the awarding agency.

Make Your Proposal Easy to Read

A well-formatted proposal should include all of the following:

  • Introduction : Two to three sentences that summarize your agency’s goals and why your agency should be selected for a grant award.
  • Organization description: A summary of your agency, any previous grants you have won and the work your agency does.
  • A statement of need: This is essentially the “problem statement” of the grant proposal. You’ll need to explain who will benefit and how the funds will be implemented.
  • Project narrative (methodology): A clear description of the methods that will be used to accomplish your project objectives.
  • Goals and objectives: These are details of desired outcomes of your project and how success will be measured so the awarding agency can better picture how funds will be put to use.
  • Personnel/resources: Provide a summary of how many will be working on the project and their roles as well as tools that will be required (i.e., technology, equipment or facilities).
  • Timeline: When do you expect to start the project and when is the expected end date? Go into as much detail as possible for each phase of the project (i.e., how many weeks or months before next phase).
  • Budget Summary : This should be a breakdown of anticipated costs to complete the project (justifying your ask for the amount of funding). Provide full justification for all expenses.
  • Reporting: The awarding agency may already spell out some of these requirements but you will want to be proactive in your own summary. How will the performance and success of the grant be measured? How will the reports be delivered (i.e., virtual vs. paper)? What steps will your agency take to ensure compliance and transparency?

Double Down on Your Methodology

Having a clear description of your methods in your grant proposal that shows how you will accomplish your project objectives will make your application much more competitive. Developing a methodology is not only helpful for the awarding agency but also allows you to address how you expect to use awarded funds.

The bulk of your methodology – as part of the proposal narrative – should contain detailed descriptions of what project activities will be conducted and how they will be carried out. For example, if your agency is applying for community development grants to provide more emergency hospitals for COVID-19 patients, the methodology should detail how you plan to acquire shelter facilities, offer services and reach out to those in need of the facilities.

You will also want to demonstrate external approval to support the viability of the project, i.e., studies related to feasibility, market analyses, site control and data collection. Additionally, you need to demonstrate the resources that you have available to achieve your project objectives such as personnel and how they will be selected.

Demonstrate How You Will Measure Results

This goes hand in hand with developing your methodology but demonstrating previous performance on grant projects as well as how you plan to measure success on an award application will go a long way. Data visualization dashboards can come in handy for synthesizing this data and presenting it to awarding agencies.

You’ll want to show measurable indicators like:

  • Number of active grants
  • Total grant portfolio
  • Spending health
  • Task and files health
  • Performance health
  • Overall health

Many grants management solutions also help you score grant performance, so you can demonstrate previous success with grants to strengthen your application.

Writing a grant proposal can be especially daunting if you don’t know where to start. For a successful government grant proposal, research, preparation and doing your due diligence in determining methodology as well as focusing on outcomes will make your application more competitive.

As Chief Customer Officer for eCivis,  Merril Oliver  leads the company’s key business strategies, product development and growth initiatives. Having served four governors, both Democratic and Republican, Merril served as the Director of the Maryland Governor’s Grants Office, where she revolutionized an enterprise approach to full lifecycle grants management during 2015-2017. Merril is a past president of the National Grants Management Association (NGMA), having served three consecutive terms (2009-2012). During her presidency, Merril launched the industry-recognized standard professional certification of Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS®) and participated on the credentialing exam development team as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). 

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How to Write a Successful Grant Application

  • April 18, 2023

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Steve Dowling

Home » Insights » How to Write a Successful Grant Application

Writing your first government grant application, or looking to improve on a previous attempt? It can be a daunting task—gathering information and writing while under considerable time pressure.

But with the right approach and some time-saving tips, the grant writing process becomes easier.

Here’s how to write a grant application that’s high quality and more likely to succeed.

Confirm your organisation is eligible for the grant

Every grant has eligibility criteria which you need to meet as a first step. Always read the eligibility criteria carefully before commencing any grant application. You must be certain that you meet all criteria, so if you are unsure, speak to a grants consultant to confirm whether it’s worth applying. 

Start with ‘why?’

One of the first questions worth asking before starting a grant application is ‘why?’. This will help you to create a strong application because you’ll be thinking about the benefits of your project.

There are two parts to the question of ‘why’:

The first ‘why’: rational

Consider the following:

  • Why is your project a good investment for your business?
  • Why are you seeking funding for your project?
Element Details

(a.k.a. "abstract" or
Here you present the most important elements of your
proposal in as few sentences as possible. For longer
proposals, you might be able to use a full page for this
overview, but for other proposals, you might have to condense
it to just one paragraph. Either way, make sure that you
• What is the purpose or goal of your project, the need you’re
addressing, or the problem you’re solving?
• What are the expected outcomes of your project, and how
will you achieve them?
• How will you assess or verify the success of your project?
• Why is your project important?
• Briefly, who are you?

Some granting institutions may also want you to clarify in this
summary the kind and amount of funding or other support you
are asking for. Let the mission and purpose of the granting
agency inform your abstract. You might even want to
incorporate key terms and concepts from the organization’s
mission statement into your summary. While the summary or
abstract may be the first element of your finished proposal, it’s
often best to write it last. Wait to tackle this abbreviated
version of your project until after you’ve written all the other
(a.k.a. “statement
of need,” “problem
“statement of
problem,” “needs
assessment,” or
“literature review”)
Your project is important because it is responding to a gap in
resources, knowledge, or opportunity that really needs to be
filled. In order to establish the value of your project, you need
to clarify the need or problem that your project responds to.
Early in your proposal, make sure that you establish the
context of this problem (i.e., the background). If this problem
affects a particular population, describe that group of people.
Include data if appropriate. Particularly for academic grants,
this examination may take the form of a short literature review
clarifying that you’ve read extensively on this topic and
understand your project’s scholarly context and significance.
But even for academic grants it's important to clarify why this
project will make a wider, positive impact and not just how it
will answer a specific academic question.
(a.k.a. “project
narrative”; “project
goals, objectives,
and methodology”;
or “strategies and
Now that you’ve established a need for your project, you have
to describe your project. Make sure you answer these questions:
• What are the goals of your project or your research
• What are the goals of your project?
• What will your project’s outcomes be?
[As with many other kinds of outcomes, grant proposal
outcomes should be SMART—specific, measurable,
achievable, realistic, and timely.]
• How are you going to achieve those outcomes? What
methods will you use?
• How will you measure or recognize your project’s
• How can you be sure that your project will productively
respond to the need or problem you have identified?
• What will the timeline for your project be?

Several of these questions focus on the impact your project
will have. Delineating the impact is important because funders
want to see that you’ve clearly established the realistic
benefits of your work along with how you plan to verify and
assess your achievements.
(a.k.a. “resources”)
Since you are asking for funding or other support, you need to
clarify just what you’re asking for and why you are asking for
particular amounts. Budgets are often formatted in tables and
figures. Each amount should be clearly labeled, and you might
need to directly follow your budget with a justification
statement explaining why each cost, material, and equipment
is valid, reasonable, and important for your project.

Sometimes grant proposals are preceded by a cover letter.
These often serve to personally introduce you as the grant–
seeking individual/organization, establish your ethos and
professionalism, briefly describe your proposed project, and
convey enthusiasm for the project and appreciation for the
readers' consideration
of your request.

When you are representing a nonprofit organization,
sometimes you need to devote a full section to describing the
nature, mission, and function of your organization. Often this
comes near the section where you examine a problem.

You may need to provide a range of supporting materials at
the end of your proposal—usually in the form of appendices.
These might consist of additional records, endorsements, tax
status information, personnel bios for your organization’s
employees, letters of support from allied organizations or
groups partnering with you in your project, etc. All of this
documentation should be clearly related to your proposal and
may be requested by the granting institution.

The other ‘why’: opportunity cost

It’s also important that you consider the opportunity cost . That’s because applying for a grant is going to eat up time, resources, and money that might otherwise be spent on improving other areas of your business.

  • How much time and resources are required to complete your grant application?
  • Are you well prepared enough to win the grant?
  • Are your project plan and business plan complete?

If you’re unprepared, you may be better off waiting for another opportunity. You are better off applying for a grant when you have an investment-ready project idea that is supported by a clearly documented plan.

Think of it this way: every grant is an exciting opportunity, but you also need to consider the costs associated with applying. Do the benefits outweigh those costs? Perform this simple cost vs. benefit analysis to ensure that applying for the grant is the right move for your business.

Mindset: think of the application as a project in itself

A great way to ensure you submit a strong application is to treat it as its own project. This ensures you adopt the correct mindset and give your application the time and attention it needs.

Like your grant project, your application has key timings and vital components you must include.

If a critical element of your grant project was missing, you wouldn’t be able to move forward until you rectified the issue. It’s the same with your application; a poor quality or incomplete application won’t win support, so give yourself time to do a good job with your application.

Engage a grant writer

Some business owners are hesitant to invest in a professional grant writer . Their logic being that there’s no certainty of winning a grant just because you hired a grant writer. That may be true, but the reality is, your chances of winning will always improve when you hire someone with expertise and experiences in applying for grants. This is especially true with competitive government grants where there will be many other applicants all chasing the same prize. A professional grant writer will bring ideas on how to make your application more competitive and attractive to the grant body investment committee.

Grant writers know how to create attention-grabbing submissions that make a strong case for investment. And that is the difference between a winning application, and one that misses the mark.

Review previous awardees and their grant-winning projects

Want to know what sort of projects and project attributes are likely to win funding? Checking previous awardees and funded projects is a great reference point. Grant administrators often post the results of previous funding rounds online, so you can explore previous winners and the amount of funding they received.

This is an easy way to get insights into the grantors and the types of projects they are comfortable investing in. You will identify some patterns as you scan through the list of winners and their project titles and overviews.

Keep in mind that often grant programs evolve to support changing government-led priorities as they shift over time. An example is Victoria’s long-running Regional Jobs & Infrastructure Fund , which has included many different grant streams over the years. Ensure your project aligns to the latest grant objectives and reach out to your grant consultant if you aren’t sure.

Plan, plan, plan, then plan some more!

The biggest lever you can pull in your grant application is to give yourself time. That starts with planning and preparation. The most competitive submissions already have a project plan, application strategy, and some supporting information ready to go, by the time the grant opens for applications.

Don’t hesitate to start organising resources and supplier quotes early. The sooner this work is done, the more time there will be to work on a great application. You want to give yourself more time than you need to allow for contingencies—expect some delays with gathering critical information.

It’s also a good time to review and firm up your project goals. Read through the grant criteria and confirm that your project aligns to them.

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’. Solid advice for any grant application!

Work out your project costs and create a budget

Once you have a clear picture of what’s involved in your project, it’s best to spend some time creating your budget. The grant assessors will review the budget with intent, so the better it looks, the stronger your project will appear in their eyes. Numbers create a clear picture that can’t be masked with language or storytelling.

Simply put, if the numbers don’t stack up, it’s unlikely the assessors will select your project for investment. It’s their job to review and compare many submissions then approve only the most thoroughly-planned and financially viable ones. They’re looking for the stand-out, rock-solid applications that align to government policy.

Your budget should outline all the sources of income used to fund the project and include quotes for plant and equipment, contractors, prototyping, labour, travel, supplies and infrastructure. You must also indicate where grant funding will be used in the budget so there’s no uncertainty. Any cost estimates should be supported by quotations or at least clearly calculated, realistic, and most importantly, not inflated.

Enjoying this grant-winning content? Download our Guide to Winning Grants today to discover dozens more exclusive tips from an experienced professional grant consultant.

Gather support

You may be required to submit letters of support with your application. You might want to review and discuss with the relevant parties before submitting, so reach out to them before you start your application.

Each piece of supporting evidence you present acts as verification for your project, a vote of confidence and validation.

Write a stand-out application

One of the key challenges to any grant application is the write up. It’s critical to your chances of success that you include the right information and present it in a clear and engaging way.

You need to be methodical when you write the application. There are usually word counts that can’t be exceeded, so the writing needs to be free of fluff, while also including the key facts and building a story. It’s not an easy task, because word count limits can make it feel like there isn’t enough room to explain everything as you’d like to.

Whether you plan to write your application yourself, or you are hiring a professional grant writer, don’t underestimate the time needed to craft the application—remember that to win, it needs to be strong, not just satisfactory.

When it comes to grant writing, consistency is key.

A good way to guarantee consistency is to have one person only responsible for the writing task—an experienced grant writer is ideal. This ensures the responses display one tone of voice, one writing style that is easy to follow.

‘Too many cooks’, as the saying goes, will lead to disjointed writing and variations in tone that can be distracting for the reader, and make the the project story less convincing.

A grant application consists of several aspects:

  • The sales pitch: introducing your project, the key benefits, explaining where the demand is coming from and why it’s a good and sustainable investment
  • The evidence: the facts and figures that validate your sales pitch
  • The relevance: demonstrating how your project aligns with and helps to achieve the grant program’s objectives

Stay focussed on the question

When you’re answering questions or pitching your business, it can be easy to veer off on a tangent and forget to fully address the question at hand. This is a major pitfall I’ve encountered many times working with business owners on grant submissions.

As a business owner or director, it’s sometimes difficult to think objectively about your business and your project. But that’s what you must do to write a great application. Each response should be laser-focussed on the question and communicate the benefits of your project within the context of the grant program and its objectives .

Anything else is secondary—grant assessors aren’t looking for long backstories about your business, your processes, or your key people. In fact, providing too much secondary information will dilute the effectiveness of your responses! Tie your responses back to the question at every opportunity.

Allow plenty of time for the review

The review stage is where you’ll strengthen your application and prepare it for submission. Allow plenty of time for the review—you might be surprised at some of the errors you will pick up that could impact your chances of success. The best results usually come when you review and refine the content several times, which could take a couple of days or longer.

It’s always worth getting a fresh set of eyes to look over your application. This could be your grants consultant or writer, or failing that, somebody not directly involved in your business.

If you give your application to someone for a read through and they can’t understand what your project is about, your application needs more work.

Remember the person assessing your application doesn’t know your business or your project, and they may not be expert in the topic at hand. You need to make it easy for them to understand your project, your goals, and why they are important to the grant program.

Key information to include in your project plan

A solid project plan acts as the foundation of your application. It supports the narrative being told in your grant responses with hard facts and figures that solidify your case for investment.

Your project plan should:

  • Provide an overview of your project, what’s involved and the key people
  • Show when key project milestones will be completed on a timeline
  • Explain how your project will come to life, including the necessary resources and funding
  • Include a detailed budget showing all costs and how grant funding will be used
  • Introduce your business capability, project demand drivers and economic rationale

Resources and help to get a grant

There are many more grants available—check out our  finding grants  article if you want to get better at discovering grants.

Our  Insights  showcase some of the grant-winning methods we employ at GrantHelper, and they will help you create a stronger grant application. But no matter how well prepared you are, winning grants takes time—something we know many business owners and directors just don’t have. And that’s why we’re here to help.

GrantHelper can assist with your organisation’s next grant application, no matter what stage of the funding journey you’re at.

I need help applying for grants

Check out our How to Prepare Before You Apply insight to help you reduce the stress levels when you apply for a grant.

Check out our Working with a Grant Writer to learn the benefits of hiring a grant writer and the secrets to winning a grant application.

Our in-depth eBook is the single most valuable resource you will find that helps organisations to truly understand how to win government grants.

A person holding a tablet device displaying the GrantHelper Guide to Winning Grants eBook on its screen.

Download our eBook to discover grant-winning secrets

Our free eBook features 10 chapters of expert advice, professional tips and more to help you do better with grants, whether you’re new to the process or you’ve applied before.

Get your copy of the  Guide to Winning Grants  now.

Is your business eligible for this government grant? Or perhaps you’re not sure and want to know more?

GrantHelper offers a range of government grant services , helping businesses of all sizes to discover, apply for, and win the best grant opportunities. We can help you with anything from finding the right grants, to writing your application, formulating an ongoing grant strategy, and more.

Get started now by filling in the form below, or tap the ‘Book a Discovery Call’ button to schedule a no-obligation virtual meeting with an experienced government grants consultant.

Check out some of the clients we’ve helped and what they had to say about us.

Are You Ready to Unlock Your Business Potential with Grant Funding?

Take the first step to uncover grant opportunities, get help with an application, or simply receive some initial guidance — it only takes 3 minutes.

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How to Find Grants

A grant can significantly aid business growth but finding suitable ones is challenging. Discover search strategies to ease the process.

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Are You Grant Ready

Grant Readiness is primarily about your organisation’s relevant capabilities and how convincingly you can demonstrate them within a business case.

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What is a Grant?

Discover everything you need to know about the different types of government grants and how they work.

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How to Write a Business Plan for Grants

How to Get Start-Up Capital Grants for Cosmetology Schools

How to Get Start-Up Capital Grants for Cosmetology Schools

Writing a business plan to get grants to start a new business can be a huge challenge. There are small business grants in federal and state governments, and nearly every small business has an opportunity to apply for grants for their business. From grants for technology to grants for women-owned businesses, there are thousands of grants available, but knowing how to write a business plan for grants is challenging--and places you above the others when it comes to decision time to hand out the grant awards. In this article you will learn how to structure a grant application to get a grant for your new business, and be on your way to starting or expanding your new business. Whether you are creating a new division or just starting out, grants for business will help you.

Search online for a business plan template. Enter the phrase "business plan template" into the search engine of your choice. You need to create a business plan before you even begin to think about the grant aspect of your application process.

Write a business plan. You want to be as thorough as possible, and write your objectives, description of the business, and financial statements with clarity and conviction. Have someone proofread your business plan carefully.

Search for grants. Locate the grant you want to apply for with your business plan. Be very careful when searching for grants. You want to pick a grant for which your business is fully qualified.

Tailor the business plan to the grant application. Go through the grant foundation's mission and purpose. Make sure to add some buzzwords from the grant's mission statement in your grant application.

Follow the grant application step by step. Be thorough and answer every question. Revise your business plan throughout the entire process. The business plan is a work in progress; it's never done until the day you mail out the application.

Finalize the grant application. Make sure the application answers every question, that it's well-written and error-free.

Mail the application certified mail, return receipt, or overnight via FEDEX or UPS, so that you get a receipt showing they received it.

Wait for a response. Don't call the grant agency; they'll contact you to let you know whether you received the grant.

  • Always call, email or write grant administrators if you have questions. Never guess--always ask--if you have a question about the grant application.
  • Don't waste time applying for grants that your business isn't qualified for. You waste your valuable time, the grant committee's time, and you also lose out on other grants that are more in line with your business.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration. "Grants." Accessed July 2, 2020.
  • Grants.gov. "The Grant Lifecycle." Accessed July 2, 2020.
  • Grants.gov. "Community Connect Grants." Accessed July 2, 2020.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Community Development." Accessed July 2, 2020.

Seliger + Associates Grant Writing

How to write grant proposal work plans

In addition to the ever-present requirement for a project narrative, some RFPs require a “work plan.” For many novice grant writers, confronting the work plan raises a sense of dread similar to having to prepare a logic model . Unlike logic models, which involve a one-page diagram that displays project elements in a faux flow-chart format, work plans are usually structured as multi-column tables, like the simple illustration in this PDF (or try here for the Word version ).

(Note: if you don’t want to write your proposal’s work plan, contact us , and we’ll do it.)

As the attached file shows, the work plan usually contains a blank for goals, with blanks for objectives under each goal and activities for each objective. Other columns may include timeframes, responsibilities, deliverables, data to be collected, and so on.

While it’s possible to create a 10- or even 20-page work plan (the work plan is usually not not counted against the project narrative page limit), there’s little reason to do so, unless you’re required to by the RFP. Instead, one overarching goal statement is generally enough. A goal statement might be, for example:

The project goal is to improve employment and life outcomes for formerly incarcerated cyclops by providing a range of culturally and linguistically appropriate wraparound supportive services.

Use that goal to develop three or four specific and measurable objectives, along with three or four activities for each objective. This will result in a work plan ranging from one to five pages. Each additional goal will (probably pointlessly) increase the page count and the chance to create continuity errors . A compact work plan will clearly summarize why and how the project will be implemented and it will be easy for readers/scorers to understand. That’s enough for a work plan.

It’s easy to introduce continuity errors between the workplan and narrative because goals, objectives, activities, timelines, etc., may be sprinkled throughout the narrative, budget, logic model, and/or forms, depending on the RFP requirements. Details in the work plan must be precisely consistent with all other proposal components. The more you edit each proposal draft, the less you will be able to spot internal inconsistencies within the narrative or between the narrative and the work plan. Inconsistencies will, however, stand out in neon to a reviewer reading the entire proposal for the first time.

We’re experienced grant writers, so we draft work plans after the second proposal draft is completed. But novice grant writers will find it useful to draft the work plan before writing the first draft, as this will help you organize the draft. Novices should also read differences among goals, objectives and activities before tackling the work plan.

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More From Forbes

How To Start A Business Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Creating a business plan is a critical first step for any entrepreneur. Knowing how to start a business plan will help you create a roadmap, guiding your business from startup to growth and beyond. Whether you're looking for investment, trying to set clear goals, or simply organizing your thoughts, a solid business plan can make all the difference.

Here is a guide to help you get started on your business plan:

1. executive summary.

What It Is: This section summarizes your business plan as a whole and outlines your company profile and goals.

What to Include:

  • Business name and location
  • Products or services offered
  • Mission statement
  • The purpose of the plan (e.g., seeking funding, guiding the startup process)

Tip: Keep it concise. Although it's the first section, it's often best to write it last, after you’ve detailed everything else.

2. Company Description

What It Is: This section provides detailed information about your company, including who you are, what you do, and what markets you serve.

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  • Your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation)
  • The industry and marketplace needs your business meets
  • Your business’s objectives and how you stand out from competitors

Tip: Use this section to highlight your company’s strengths and what makes you unique.

3. Market Research

What It Is: Market research demonstrates your understanding of the industry and target market.

  • Market size and growth potential
  • Target customer demographics
  • Market trends and outlook
  • Competitive analysis, including strengths and weaknesses of competitors

Tip: Include data and statistics to back up your findings and show that you’ve done your homework.

4. Organization and Management

What It Is: This section outlines your business’s organizational structure and management team.

  • Organizational chart
  • Information about the ownership of the company
  • Backgrounds and qualifications of the management team
  • Roles and responsibilities within the company

Tip: Highlight the skills and experiences of your team that will help the business succeed.

5. Products or Services Line

What It Is: Here, you detail the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

  • A description of each product or service
  • The lifecycle of products or services
  • Research and development activities, if applicable
  • Intellectual property, such as patents or trademarks

Tip: Focus on the benefits your products or services bring to your customers.

6. Marketing and Sales Strategy

What It Is: This section explains how you will attract and retain customers.

  • Marketing strategies, including advertising, promotions, and public relations
  • Sales strategies, including sales processes, channels, and tactics
  • Pricing strategy and how it compares to competitors

Tip: Ensure your marketing and sales strategies are aligned with your market research findings.

7. Funding Request

What It Is: If you’re seeking funding , this section outlines your requirements.

  • Your current funding needs
  • Future funding requirements over the next five years
  • How you intend to use the funds
  • Potential future financial plans (e.g., selling the business, repaying debt)

Tip: Be specific and realistic about how much funding you need and how it will be used.

8. Financial Projections

What It Is: Financial projections provide a forecast of your business’s financial future.

  • Income statements
  • Cash flow statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Break-even analysis

Tip: Use realistic and conservative estimates. Consider hiring a financial professional to help with this section if needed.

9. Appendix

What It Is: The appendix includes any additional information that supports your business plan.

  • Resumes of key management team members
  • Permits and leases
  • Legal documents
  • Detailed market research data
  • Product photos

Tip: Only include essential information that adds value to your business plan.

Final Tips for Creating a Business Plan

Creating a business plan requires clarity and precision. First and foremost, keep your business plan clear and concise. Avoid using jargon or complex language that could make the plan difficult to read or understand. Your aim should be to communicate your ideas effectively and efficiently.

Next, be realistic in your approach. Ensure that your goals and financial projections are attainable based on your research and understanding of the market. Overly ambitious projections can undermine your credibility and potentially lead to unrealistic expectations.

It's also essential to remember that a business plan is a dynamic document. As your business grows and market conditions change, you should revisit and revise your plan regularly. This helps you stay aligned with your goals and adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

Finally, seek feedback from experienced business professionals. Having someone with business experience review your plan can provide valuable insights and help identify any potential issues or areas for improvement. Their feedback can enhance the overall quality and effectiveness of your business plan.

By following these tips, you'll be better equipped to create a robust and effective business plan that can guide your business towards success.

The bottom line is that starting a business plan may seem challenging, but with careful planning and attention to detail, you can create a comprehensive guide to steer your business toward success. Use this step-by-step guide to ensure that all essential components are covered, giving your business the best possible start.

Melissa Houston, CPA is the author of Cash Confident: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Profitable Business and the founder of She Means Profit . As a Business Strategist for small business owners, Melissa helps women making mid-career shifts, to launch their dream businesses, and I also guide established business owners to grow their businesses to more profitably.

The opinions expressed in this article are not intended to replace any professional or expert accounting and/or tax advice whatsoever.

Melissa Houston

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How to Write a Business Plan Outline in 9 Steps (Example Included!)

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Starting a business often begins with writing a business plan , especially if you need funding . It acts as a roadmap, guiding you through each stage of launching and managing your company, and it presents a clear, compelling case to potential investors and partners. But here's the thing: not everyone finds this step intuitive. That's where a business plan outline can be incredibly helpful.

Creating a detailed business plan outline helps you organize your thoughts and ensure you cover all the key aspects of your business strategy. Plus, it might be just what you need to overcome that blank page and start typing.

Below, you'll find an easy-to-follow guide on how to craft your business plan outline, and an example to show you what it should look like.

​​ Build your dream business with the help of a high-paying job—browse open jobs on The Muse »

What is an outline of a business plan?

Think of a business plan outline as the skeleton of your entire business plan. It gives a high-level overview of the main sections you'll need to flesh out later. It's not the final document but a crucial step in getting you there.

Simply put, it's like creating a detailed table of contents for your business plan, showing you exactly what information to include and how everything fits together. A well-structured business plan outline also helps you plan things ahead, saving time and effort.

Writing a business plan outline in 9 steps

Follow these steps to build your business plan outline and learn exactly what each section should include.

(Bear in mind that every business plan is unique, tailored to the specific needs and goals of the business. While the structure below is common, the order of sections may vary—only the executive summary will always come first.)

1. Executive summary

Imagine you have just 60 seconds to convince someone to invest in your business. That's the essence of a strong executive summary. Although it appears first on your business plan, this section is often written last because it sums up the entire plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch . This section gives a quick overview of your entire business plan, highlighting key points that grab the reader's attention.

Keep it clear and concise. Start with a brief overview of your business, including its name and what it offers. Summarize your mission statement and objectives, and don’t forget to mention crucial aspects like financial projections and competitive advantages.

2. Company description

Here's where you provide detailed information about your company. Begin with the business name and location. Describe the legal structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation) and ownership. If your business already exists, share a brief history.

For new ventures, explain the business's nature and the problems you aim to solve. Go into more detail about your vision and mission statements, outlining your goals and the principles guiding your business. This section helps potential investors and stakeholders grasp your company’s identity and purpose.

3. Market research and analysis

This section shares insights into your company’s industry. Start with a landscape analysis to give an overview of the market, including its size, growth rate, and key players.

Next, define your target market and customer demographics—age, location, income, and interests—detailing who your ideal customers are. Identify market needs and trends your business will address, and highlight customer pain points your product or service aims to solve.

Consider conducting a SWOT analysis to evaluate your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and gain a strategic view of where your business stands in the competitive landscape.

4. Organization and management

Describe how your business is structured and who runs it. Outline the organizational structure, and if helps, include a chart. Introduce the leadership team and key personnel, highlighting their qualifications and roles. If you have a board of directors, mention them and briefly explain their involvement.

Then, outline your production processes, detailing how your product or service is (or will be) created—from sourcing materials to delivery—to give a comprehensive view of your operational capabilities.

5. Products and services

This section of your business plan outline is crucial for showing potential investors what makes your products and services unique and valuable.

Clearly describe what your business offers, emphasizing your unique selling propositions (USPs) and the benefits and features that set you apart from the competition. Talk about the product life cycle, including any plans for future updates.

If your business holds any intellectual property or proprietary technologies, detail them here to underscore your competitive advantages.

6. Marketing strategy

Having a fantastic product or service is just half the battle. The marketing plan section should outline how you'll reach your target market and convert them into customers.

Begin with market positioning and branding, explaining how you want your brand perceived. Detail your marketing and promotional strategies, including specific tactics to reach your target audience.

Discuss your sales strategy, focusing on how you'll convert leads into customers. Lastly, include your pricing strategy and provide a sales forecast, projecting your expected revenue over a certain period.

7. Operations plan

Here, the goal is to give a detailed overview of the physical and logistical aspects of your company. Start with the business location and facilities, describing where it operates and any significant physical assets. Detail the technology and equipment needed for daily operations.

Briefly describe your supply chain and logistics processes to illustrate how you manage inventory, procurement, and distribution. Finish it by outlining your production process and quality control measures to ensure your products or services consistently meet high standards.

8. Financial plan

Use this section of the business plan to show how your company will succeed financially. Include financial projections like income statements and cash flow statements. Specify how much capital you need and how you plan to use it, discussing funding sources.

Conduct a break-even analysis to estimate when your business will become profitable. Be transparent and address any financial risks and assumptions, outlining how you plan to mitigate them.

9. Appendices and exhibits

In this section, include any additional information that supports your business plan. This might be resumes of key personnel to highlight your team's expertise and experience, or even legal documents and agreements.

Include market research data and surveys to back up your market analysis. Add financial statements for a detailed look at your financial plan. Also, provide detailed product specifications to give a clear understanding of your products and services.

Here's a business plan outline example

Not quite there yet? Take a look at this business plan outline example—it will make everything clear for you.

3.1 Executive Summary

  • Overview of the business
  • Key points of the business plan

3.2 Company Description

  • Business name and location
  • History and nature of the business
  • Legal structure and ownership
  • Vision and mission statement

3.3 Market Research and Analysis

  • Industry analysis
  • Target market and customer demographics
  • Market needs, trends
  • Customer pain points
  • SWOT analysis

3.4 Organization and Management

  • Organizational structure
  • Leadership team and key personnel
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Board of directors (if applicable)
  • Production processes

3.5 Products and Services

  • Description of products or services offered
  • Unique selling propositions, benefits, features
  • Product lifecycle and development plans
  • Intellectual property and proprietary technologies

3.6 Marketing Strategy

  • Market positioning and branding
  • Marketing and promotional strategies
  • Sales strategy and tactics
  • Pricing strategy and sales forecast

3.7 Operations Plan

  • Business location and facilities
  • Technology and equipment
  • Supply chain and logistics
  • Production process and quality control

3.8 Financial Plan

  • Financial projections (income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements)
  • Funding requirements and sources
  • Break-even analysis
  • Financial risks and assumptions

3.9 Appendices and Exhibits (if applicable)

  • Supporting documents and additional information
  • Resumes of key personnel
  • Legal documents and agreements
  • Market research data and surveys
  • Financial Statements
  • Detailed Product Specifications

Bonus tips on how to write a winning business plan

Once you've done your business plan outline, it's time to fill in the gaps and craft a winning business plan. Here are some bonus tips to keep in mind:

  • Tailor it to fit your business : Customize sections to meet industry-specific needs and highlight what makes your business unique.
  • Keep it clear and concise : Use straightforward language and support your points with data to ensure easy understanding and avoid any confusion.
  • Set actionable and realistic goals : Define measurable objectives with clear timelines and milestones to track your progress.
  • Update regularly : Keep your plan dynamic by making regular updates to reflect changes in goals, market conditions, and strategies.
  • Seek feedback : Gain insights from mentors and advisors to refine your plan.

Read this next: How to Start a Business in 8 Steps: A Comprehensive Guide from Concept to Launch

how to write a business plan for grant

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  • Small Business

3 Little-Known Grants and Loans for Small Businesses

Updated July 2, 2024 - First published on June 30, 2024

Jordi Lippe-McGraw

By: Jordi Lippe-McGraw

  • Explore federal innovation grants designed for high-impact tech and research projects.
  • Access specialized microloans and grants tailored for minority and underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • Utilize local grants to address specific community needs and boost your business growth.

In the vast ocean of funding opportunities, small businesses might find themselves adrift. However, some specific grants and loans cater to various niches and needs, often overlooked but potentially game-changing for the right business. Here, we explore three categories of such financial aids, providing examples and guidance on how to identify the best fit for your business.

1. Federal innovation grants for technology and research

  • Blueprint Medtech Small Business Translator Grant : This grant supports small businesses creating medical devices to treat nervous system disorders, covering activities from prototype development to FDA approval processes.
  • National Institute of Health Grants : Tailored for small businesses involved in biomedical technology, especially those addressing challenges like COVID-19.
  • Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) : These programs encourage small businesses to engage in federal research/R&D with the potential for commercialization. STTR sets itself apart by requiring small businesses to collaborate with research institutions.

To find the right federal innovation grant, start at Grants.gov, which provides a comprehensive database of available funds. It's crucial to match your project's focus with the grant's objectives and ensure your application details how the project aligns with the federal goals. Read more: Looking for a business loan? Here's a short list of our top recommendations

2. Microloans and grants for minority and underrepresented entrepreneurs

Microloans and grants tailored for minority and underrepresented entrepreneurs aim to level the playing field by providing necessary financial assistance and support to those who may face barriers entering the mainstream economic landscape. These funding opportunities are crucial for promoting diversity and inclusivity within the small business community. Here are some examples:

  • Amber Grant Foundation : Established by WomensNet in 1998, this foundation offers grants to women entrepreneurs. It includes monthly grants of $10,000, two annual grants of $25,000, quarterly startup grants of $10,000, and quarterly nonprofit grants of $10,000. Plus, there are 12 Business Category Grants of $10,000 each month, providing a wide range of opportunities for women in various industries.
  • Accion Opportunity Fund : This fund provides loans and resources to underserved entrepreneurs, including minorities, women, and those from low-income communities. The fund focuses on microloans that can help purchase inventory, fund operational expenses, or expand the business.
  • Kiva U.S. : Kiva offers crowdfunded microloans to entrepreneurs who lack access to traditional banking systems. Loans on Kiva have zero interest, which is a significant advantage for startups and small businesses trying to minimize costs.

Entrepreneurs seeking microloans should connect with local nonprofit lenders and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that administer these programs. These organizations often provide additional business development services, helping borrowers grow and manage their businesses effectively.

3. Specialized local grants for targeted community needs

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  • San Francisco Accessibility Grant : This grant offers financial assistance for businesses to improve facility accessibility and meet ADA compliance needs.
  • Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) : Aims to attract new business projects to Texas, offering grants based on job creation and capital investment that benefit the state's economic landscape.

Small business owners should start by checking with their local chamber of commerce, city or county government, and economic development corporations to explore localized grant opportunities. These entities often have information on grants tailored to specific local challenges or objectives.

When searching for the right grants or SBA loans , it's essential to understand the specific requirements and objectives of each funding source. Tailor your application to highlight how your business aligns with these goals.

Keep an eye on the deadlines and prepare your applications well in advance. By carefully selecting and applying for these funding opportunities, small businesses can secure the crucial support needed to propel their growth and achieve their strategic objectives.

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Jordi Lippe-McGraw

Jordi Lippe-McGraw is a freelance personal finance writer who has appeared in publications such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TODAY, and Saving for College. In addition to personal finance, Jordi has a passion for travel. She's visited all 7 continents and over 55 countries, writing for outlets such as Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.

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  1. 40+ Grant Proposal Templates [NSF, Non-Profit, Research] ᐅ TemplateLab

    how to write a business plan for grant

  2. How To Write A Business Plan For A Small Business Grant

    how to write a business plan for grant

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    how to write a business plan for grant

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    how to write a business plan for grant

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    how to write a business plan for grant

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    how to write a business plan for grant


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  6. Determine the Purpose of your Business Plan


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