Journalists know that an effective article tells the reader who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Well-written, interesting grant proposals should do the same for their readers and, in the process, tell a compelling story. Before you start writing, think about how you can combine the 5W’s and the H to write a complete grant proposal that will capture reviewers’ imaginations:
Who:Think about who you are and who you want to serve. This falls into two broad categories:
- Most grant applications will have a section for background information. Give a brief history of your organization, its management structure, and
- Describe who you will serve. What demographic, cultural, educational, and other challenges set your target population apart from society at large?
What:You should be able to describe succinctly what you are going to do.
For example, if you want to run an afterschool program, describe the components of your program:
Project LEAD will offer academic enrichment and life skills training. The academic enrichment will include three hours per week of tutoring and three hours per week of educational games. Life skills training will include…
Where:If you have a target area, define it. “Inner-city Baltimore” might be one designation and “Zip codes 98122 and 98112” another. In addition, describe where project services will take place. To continue the example above, if after school enrichment activities take place in school buildings, say so, and if they take place in a community center, describe the community center, including its facilities and equipment.
When:A project will usually last for a period of time during grant funding. Three years is a typical period for federal funding. In addition, you should describe the hours of operation; for example, our afterschool program might operate from 3 – 7 p.m. during the academic year and from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. during the summer.
Why:Your project should have some rationale behind it. The Request For Proposals (RFP) often gives a rationale that you must follow, but you should be able to explain factors like:
- Why you are targeting who you are targeting?
- Why you have decided on what you will do?
- Why you will provide services in a particular place?
- Why you have decided on particular times?
Take each of the above “W’s” and then ask yourself why you described them in the way you did. The “why” should be emphasized in the needs assessment section and also threaded through other sections.
How:You should decide how your project will be implemented. This incorporates all the previous elements and explains, for example:
- How you will engage the target population
- How will individuals be assessed and admitted?
- How you will provide services?
- How you will make sure participants continue in the project?
- How you will evaluate the project’s effectiveness?
This should be the longest or second longest section of your proposal. It should explain all aspects of the mechanics of how a project will be carried out, and it should also demonstrate that the applicant has thoroughly considered the project and its details. This section will usually be called something like the “Project Description.”
If you can explain the 5W’s and the H to yourself, you’re on your way to writing a winning application!