Foundation vs. Government Proposals

Both foundation and local, state, and national government agencies provide grant support to nonprofit organizations, but the grant application process is very different.  Nonprofits that are considering applying for government grant support need to know these differences before they apply.

Foundation and corporate contributions programs usually require a 5- to 10-page narrative proposal along with several appendices:  proof of 501c(3) status; a budget; list of the board of directors; and perhaps information about the nonprofit’s sources of support.  Government proposals, especially on the federal level, are far more complex.

Federal grant proposals may require a 25-page narrative proposal along with numerous forms and appendices, which might include resumes, job descriptions, a detailed budget and budget justification, letters of support and commitment, and a logic model.  If nonprofit organizations have not applied to federal agencies before, they may find the grant guidelines and proposal development process daunting because so much more content is required in comparison to foundation and corporate grant applications.

To develop winning proposals to government agencies, nonprofit organizations should take the following steps:

  • Ensure that you have the resources and support of top management before you begin.
  • Begin the proposal development process at least 45 days before the application deadline.
  • Begin by developing a detailed set of Application Instructions that includes essential proposal conventions; an outline of the entire application keyed to the persons responsible for each section and the due dates; and an overall schedule that will guide the proposal team from kick-off meeting to the submission of the application.
  • Assemble a team that includes at least a Proposal Manager/Writer, Subject Matter Expert(s), and the person responsible for developing the budget and budget justification.
  • Establish a Red Team to review a complete first draft of the narrative proposal.

If possible, you should meet with the government Program Officer in person to discuss the grant guidelines prior to beginning your proposal.  If that is not possible, you should communicate with the Program Officer by e-mail or telephone to better understand the grant guidelines.

Applying for government grants is a demanding and highly competitive process, especially in this dire economic climate.  However, if you follow the steps described above, you are likely to put your nonprofit organization in a competitive position.

Especially on the federal level, you should not be discouraged by being turned down by government agencies.  Sometimes in takes several applications to be funded, even if your proposal was rated highly by reviewers.

Use the reviewers’ comments to improve your application.  Sometimes persistence and the ability to learn are as important as the other factors that go into a winning government grant proposal.

1 Comment

  1. Tina
    November 1, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this information! I will use excerpts of this information…


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