Updated: Jul 29, 2019
When you are initiating a big-scale project you will sooner or later find yourself applying for official grants. There are many databases out there that help you find grants that you are eligible for (generally, if you are/work with a registered organization you can choose from a larger pool but there are exceptions).
You may also just want to write a general grant proposal and send it to companies who may want to support you without having advertised a grant.
There are many, many resources online that can give you a lot of details when it comes to grant-writing. But if you are just starting out, here's a list of top 8 things that you absolutely need to know, otherwise you are definitely going to get rejected.
1. Read the requirements (!) ...please...
It sounds silly but many proposals are rejected because they are simply failing to provide the information the grant-provider requests. Even if you are starting the 78th grant application - don't just mindlessly copy and paste. Look for what they want to know and provide that in an organized and concise matter.
2. Why is your program needed?
You may have the best idea for a peace-building program and cannot wait to explain how your initiative is going to bring peace to an the entire world. But first and foremost: establish the need!
The people who are reading your proposal read many hundred others. In order to get funding you need to convince them why your issue is most urgent and needs to be solved right now, using your intervention.
3. Use data
This directly connects to #2 - back up your claims with official, credible sources and cite them! This does not only underline the need for your program but it also shows that you are professional.
(And no. Wikipedia is not a credible source)
4. Connect your program with the mission/values of the grant-providers
Nothing sounds better in the ears of grant readers than "particularly the values of your organization to reconcile communities by empowering young people, deeply align with the mission of our initiative, as we are tackling conflict by teaching (...)".
You haven't only done your homework on your own initiative - you have also gone the extra mile to familiarize yourself with the organization of the grant provider.
P.S If you cannot tie the mission of your initiative to the values of the organization, you may want to consider applying to a different grant.
5. Don't ask for ALL the money.
If your budget says that the entire project will cost 5000 dollars, you may want to say that the volunteers of the program are going to help fund 1000 by themselves and that you have already raised 2000 dollars through crowdfunding. Now you are asking them to close the gap and make the project happen by providing additional 3000 dollars.
This, again, underlines your credibility. It communicates: other people are supporting this program too, but their help is needed to make it happen.
6. How are you going to measure impact?
Unfortunately, there is a tendency in the nonprofit sector to be so occupied with running programs (or well.. crowdfunding for them) that they often fail to assess the impact of the program. If you already have data on the effectiveness of your initiative - great - include that in your application. If you don't - explain how you intend to measure the impact, gather knowledge to improve the program and share it with other organizations!
7. Show that you are sustainable
I love this quote because it's a perfect metaphor for why we have to think critically about our interventions:
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime"
Are we treating the causes or the symptoms? How is this project going to be sustainable, beyond your initiative?
Perhaps you want to explain that you are trying to "work yourself out of business". That means that if your initiative is implemented (with their help) in a few years there will hopefully not longer going to be a need for your program.
8. Show them how they be a part.
People give grants because they want to make the world a better place. But they also want to know that they made the world a better place. Mention how people could get an insight to your work - perhaps by visiting your facility, being a guest of honor at at one of the events... Build a relationship!
As I said - this is a non-exhaustive list and just includes the most important things. There are a lot of things that make common sense: check for spelling mistakes, keep fonts and size consistent, make sure all names are spelled correctly etc. And there are some great tricks that can really enhance your proposal. I encourage you to google, ask friends or family members who have written grants and perhaps even buy a the only grant-writing book you'll ever need.
"Check for spelling mistakes, keep fonts and size consistent,
make sure all names are spelled correctly etc"
Also: don't waste your time. Read the requirements of the grants and if you don't meet them, move on. If you are not sure - contact them!
If you do happen to write one or two grant proposals you will see that it takes a lot of time and thought. It's not something you can do the night before the deadline. Put yourself in the position of the person who will read your proposal - would you put your own money in this?