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Exceptional Grant Proposals

The first round of our Heritage Support Grants is underway, and we've been thinking about what elements go into a successful proposal. Here are some tips from the coaches and grant management team.

  • Make sure your outcomes match the funding priorities, and watch out for mission creep. Don't try to create programs that aren't part of your strategic plan or aren't clearly within your mission just to chase a grant. Balance objective data and facts with subjective information that tells a story and creates an emotional feeling about the need.
    - Jamie Simek, Fundraising Educator (IHS Local History Services)
  • Find the balance. Take on a project that shows that your organization is pushing itself, but not something so big a granter will worry about the ability to finish within the grant period.
    - Karen Depauw, Grant Coach (Coordinator, IHS Local History Services)
  • Compile key organizational records before starting a grant application as a way to avoid the irritation of digging through papers at every step of the process, and store them in a safe and accessible place. Potential items could be the organization's 501(c)(3) determination letter, articles of incorporation, bylaws, budget, mission statement, strategic plan, visitation data and survey data.
    - Alan Rowe, Grant Coach (Local History Partners Coordinator, IHS Local History Services)
  • Be sure that your organizational budget has a specific line for the project. Funders want to see that you have thought about how you are going to track and report project-related income and expenses.
    - Tamara Hemmerlein, Grant Coach (Director, IHS Local History Services)
  • Make sure the need vs. solution argument is compatible. The solution may be valid, but it may not fit best with the identified need and vice versa. Proofread, but take it one step further and have someone who doesn’t know anything about the project look over your application. Reviewers will have no prior knowledge about your organization or project.
    - Curt Barsic, Grant Manager (Development Associate, IHS)
  • Save your draft early and often, and submit your application early. That way, if there are any technology issues, there’s time to rectify the situation.
    - Marianne Sheline, Grant Coach (Programs Specialist, IHS Public Programs)
  • Remember that you are telling a story. Think about your application as a "pitch" to someone who doesn't know anything about your project. Consider how you will explain who you are, what the project is and why it is necessary, all while getting them excited to be a part of it. 
    - Jeannette Rooney, Grant Coach (Assistant Director, IHS Local History Services)

For more tips for writing grant proposals:

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