Tips for Creating a Strong Grant Application

This resource explains why we ask specific questions on the MaineCF application to help you present the best possible proposal. It includes question-by-question information and a sample budget. 

Section 1: Organization Information

Mission
Describe, in 100 words or less, your organization’s mission or purpose and the primary populations you serve.

This is a simple description of the purpose of your organization and the communities you serve. It helps reviewers understand your organization and how the proposed project fits into your current work. Be sure your mission description is easy to understand and simple. Describe the people who are most often served  or participants in your programs. Include characteristics such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, and region.

Programs or Services
Describe, in 100 words or less, one or two of your organization’s most important programs.
This is a simple description of programs that exemplify the work you do. It gives reviewers a sense of your organization’s experience and expertise. Select programs that best fit with your mission.

Section 2: Project Information

One-Sentence Project Description
Complete the following sentence in 25 words or less: We request support to…
This is a very short and clear statement of your project. We use this description in our database, in communications, and for posting grant awards on the website. It is important to be concise and include the purpose of the project (the “what”) and the population served (the “who”). Example: To expand the FUN program to provide after-school leadership training to 30 additional middle school girls.

Narrative Section: Use up to 200 words for each of the following unless otherwise specified.
Overview
Provide a description of your project, including the overall goal, and community need(s) you will address.

This short paragraph provides an overview of your project and what you hope to achieve. What is the compelling need in the community that the project addresses? Reviewers will consider whether the project seems like an effective way to address that need.

Outcomes

List up to three specific results you hope to achieve. Include a brief explanation of how you will track your progress and/or measure your results.
This is a description of the specific results or outcomes you want to achieve with this project. Reviewers will consider how these specific results or outcomes align with your stated overall goal.  How will you know if these results were achieved? This evaluation plan can range from something as simple as counting the number of people who attend your programs to more complex measures of impact, such as how much participants learned or changed their behavior. Be sure your plan is realistic for the project. If you receive a grant, you’ll be asked to report on your progress toward these results in your progress report.

Impact
For project requests: Explain how this project will make the community stronger
For capacity building requests: Explain how this project will make your organization stronger
Describe specifically how the results you listed above will make your community or organization stronger. We know the results of a project may impact a community or an organization in many different ways. What is the connection you see between the specific results you want to achieve and how the community or organization will be improved?

Activities
List up to five specific activities you will do to achieve the results and impact you described above.
This question helps us better understand the specific project activities or implementation plan. What steps will you take to produce your planned results?  If your project includes many activities, just focus on the most important ones. Reviewers also will consider whether the specific activities you plan are eligible for funding within the eligibility rules of the grant program (for example, grant funds cannot be used for expenses that have occurred).

Partnerships and Collaboration
List any organization that you will partner with to make this project successful. Include a brief description of what each partner organization will do in this project.
How will other organizations help with any aspect of the project? This information helps reviewers know how community resources are being used and what expertise and resources your partners will contribute to your project.

Population Served
Describe the people who will most benefit from this project. (If this is a capacity-building request, describe the people your organization serves.) Include an estimate of the number of people who will directly benefit from or participate in your project.
MaineCF seeks to fund projects that will have positive impact on Maine communities or organizations. We want to be sure that MaineCF’s overall grantmaking provides a range of support to the people of Maine. Be sure to include any important characteristics, such as the age range of participants, their gender, racial or ethnic identity, or geographic region. If you receive a grant, you’ll be asked to report on the actual number of people served.

Key Project Personnel
List the specific roles, responsibilities, and qualifications of key personnel for this project.
Describe what each staff person will specifically do with this project and any training, education, and/or experience they have related to the work they will perform. This helps reviewers assess the capacity of an organization to carry out the project as proposed.

Section 3: Project Funding

In this section we ask you to list all potential funding sources for your project. This can include funding that you have already secured, such as a grant you have already received or fees you have collected. It may also include funding that you hope to get but have not yet secured. This funding is considered pending. Be sure to include the amount you are currently requesting from MaineCF and any in-kind donations that you expect. Reviewers will see this as your funding plan for this project. They will consider the likelihood of whether you will secure the funding and the diversity of funding sources, including if the organization is contributing to the project.

We also ask you to fill out a budget form to see exactly how you plan to spend the grant funding in the context of the overall project budget. Reviewers consider if the proposed expenses seem both adequate and reasonable for carrying out the work.

Budget Narrative

Describe how you plan to use the grant funds if you receive them in 200 words or less. Please check the grant program guidelines for a list of what is eligible for support.
This is your opportunity to explain in simple language your plan for using the funds. You also may include information that you think is important to consider when evaluating your budget, such as fundraising plans, potential changes in costs, and explanation of the expense items.

Section 4: Organization Financial Information

Organizational Financials
We ask for information on revenues, expenses, and assets from the most recent completed fiscal year. The format closely resembles the IRS 990 reporting. You can find the information we request on your 990 Form in Part I, Revenue and Expenses, and Part IX, Statement of Functional Expenses.

The information helps reviewers assess the financial health and management of the organization and be sure it will be in operation through the life of the project. MaineCF gives grants to organizations of varying sizes, without preference to large or small budgets.  

Board Members or Advisory Committee
The board list helps reviewers assess the strength of an organization by considering the expertise and skills of the board.

Sample Project Budget for the MaineCF Application

ABC nonprofit seeks $9,600 in a grant from Maine Community Foundation to support a new program to provide support to 10 new teen mothers during the first 10 weeks of their babies’ lives. The goal of this program is to improve the health and wellness of teen mothers and their newborn infants. This program is focused on giving new teen mothers respite time, and providing resources to help them care for themselves and their families. It will include free babysitting for four hours per week, delivery of two nutritious dinners per week, a peer support group, and low-cost transportation to health care appointments or to grocery stores. The entire project will cost $26,600 to implement. Of that, $15,000 has been secured so far from other sources. Major expenses include project coordination staff time, babysitting services, transportation, and food. 

For a PDF version of this sample budget, please click here.