Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Perfect Grant Proposal

Last Updated: 01 January 2023

how to write an award-winning grant proposal

If you are a graduate student or a postdoc, you will most likely need to consider writing a grant proposal at some point, especially if you are seeking grants. Of course, if you are lucky enough to get direct funding for your project or to join a research project that is already funded, you will not need to write a grant proposal.

However, this is usually not the case for most research students. The overwhelming majority typically need to write a grant proposal to get funds. And they need to make it suitable to succeed in getting funds.

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about writing grant proposals, including the steps you need to follow to create a successful one. The insights and tips are from our top 10 writers who have written proposals that have put us on the map as the best proposal writing website.

Let’s begin.

What is a Grant Proposal?

A grant proposal is a written request for funds. When written perfectly, it can help the author to get all the funds they need for their research project.

To write a successful grant proposal, the author must outline the project to be funded, its significance & goals/benefits, the total funds needed, how the funds will be used, and the timelines.

Most funding organizations require written grant proposals, some require video grant proposals, while others require a mix of written and video grant proposals.

The most important thing to remember when writing a grant proposal is the significance of the project to be carried out. You must convince the granting organization that your project is more significant than all the other projects they have received funding requests for.

This will set your proposal apart and make it an award-winning one.

Related Read: Dissertation Proposal Outline.

Structure of a Grant Proposal

Even though different funding agencies have their own proposal requirements, some aspects of a grant proposal are usually standard. These are:

1. Title Page

The title page features a brief but clear title of the research project, the principal investigators’ names, the applicant’s institutional affiliation (i.e. the university and the department), the name and address of the specific granting agency, date of the projects, the funding amount being requested, and the signatures of university staff approving the proposal.

Remember that most funding agencies have specific title page requirements, and ensuring those instructions are followed is vital.

2. Abstract

This is one of the most important parts of a grant proposal, and it provides the readers with an overview of your project. In addition, to remind themselves about your proposal, your readers might take another look at the abstract when making their recommendations. That said, your abstract should be well-written and easy to understand.

A good abstract explains the main elements of the research project. It should state the project’s general purpose, specific objectives, research design, methodology, and significance of the project. Aim to be as clear as possible in your abstract. Use statements like “the objective of this project is to….”

3. Introduction

The introduction covers the main elements of the proposal, which include the problem statement, the aim of the study, the study objectives or goals, and the significance of the study. The problem statement should offer a rationale and background of the project and establish the relevance of the study. How does your project differ from past studies on the topic? Will you be utilizing new research techniques or focusing on unique theoretical views?

The study objectives should identify the study’s anticipated results and measure up to the needs recognized in the problem statement.

4. Literature Review

Most grant proposals have a literature review requirement. Your readers will want to know whether you have conducted the required preliminary study needed to commence your project. Note that a good literature review is critical and selective, not extensive. Readers want to see your understanding of relevant works.

5. Project Narrative

This is the meat of your research proposal and requires several parts. Your project narrative should feature all the research details, including a detailed and well-explained problem statement, study objectives, hypothesis, methodology, procedures, deliverables, and assessment and dissemination of the study.

To write a good project narrative, you should pre-empt and answer all the questions of the reviewers. Do not leave the reviewers of your proposal with unanswered queries. For instance, if you intend to have unstructured interviews with open-ended queries, clarify why this technique is best suited for those research queries in your grant proposal.

In addition, if you choose to apply item response theory instead of the classical test theory when verifying the validity of your study instrument, you should explain the pros of this groundbreaking methodology. Most importantly, clearly describe the connection between your study objectives, hypothesis, study questions, methods, and outcomes.

6. Personnel

Explicitly explain staffing needs and ensure that everything makes sense. Be clear about the skill sets of the personnel already present (include their CVs in your proposal). Go ahead and clarify the skill sets and responsibilities of the personnel you will need to recruit. To reduce expenses, get rid of those individuals not needed for later phases of the research.

7. Budget

The purpose of the budget is to outline the costs related to the project. It usually comprises a table or spreadsheet featuring the budget broken down as line items accompanied by a budget narrative, also referred to as the budget justification, which explains the different expenses. And even when the proposal instructions do not particularly mention a budget narrative, include a page or two clarification of the budget.

Include a comprehensive budget for your research, even if it surpasses the grant size of the funding organization. Clearly, you are also seeking additional funding from other sources. This method will make it simpler for you to merge awards later in case you receive several grants.

Ensure that all your budget items meet the requirements of the funding agency. For instance, all American government agencies have stringent requirements for air travel. For that purpose, ensure that your cost of air travel meets the set requirements. If any line item falls outside the agency's requirements, clarify in the budget narrative that other grant sources will pay for that item.

Most universities mandate that any indirect costs, also known as overhead, be added to the grants they administer. Confirm with the proper offices to check what the standard rates are for any overhead. Create and pass a draft budget by the university personnel in charge of grant administration for assistance with indirect costs.

Moreover, ensure that you also factor in the applicable estimate taxes. The tax rates might differ depending on the expense categories and your personal circumstances. For further clarification, you should consult respective university services or departmental personnel.

8. Time Frame/Schedule

Here, the timeframe of the research project is explained in detail. When will each step be commenced and completed? It can be helpful to develop a visual version of your project’s timeframe. If your project is not complicated, use a table to summarize the project’s timeline.

Also Read: How to make a paper longer.

Steps for Writing a Great Grant Proposal

Writing a grant proposal can be quite time-consuming. It is, however, essential to make sure that all the important points for your plan are well-covered.

A good and effective grant proposal includes essential details about the applicant, why they should be awarded the grant funds, and what they intend to do with the money.

That said, if you are looking to write a winning grant proposal, ensure to include the following:

Step 1: Begin with the Cover Letter

A cover letter should only be included if your proposal is intended for a corporation or foundation and not if you are looking for a federal or state grant.

Government funders hardly mandate you to include a cover letter, and you should only send what has been requested.

Introduce your main points in the cover letter, but be careful not to parrot the information in the body of your proposal.

Your cover letter should be 2-3 paragraphs maximum. You should be precise and avoid fluff. Mention how the funding will be used and why you are seeking it. Besides, do not repeat yourself and show that you understand the funder by connecting the funding request to their mission.

Step 2: Write a catchy Executive Summary

Every award-winning grant has a brief executive summary or proposal summary, and it features a brief explanation or synopsis of your request as a grantee.

It is simply a short paragraph describing the project objectives and grant requests, providing the potential funding organization with an overview of what to expect and how they will contribute.

The executive summary should be two pages long. It should provide adequate information that the grantee can read and get a snapshot of the entire document. You should include the resources by explaining your methodology when spending the money. It is also the best place to briefly introduce your organisation so the grantee can know about your history, mission, and objectives.

An effective grant proposal features an executive summary that efficiently and clearly outlines the basic requirements and impacts of the research project. While writing it, avoid addressing the funder directly and giving out too much information.

Your executive summary should contain the following:

Step 3: Write the Statement of Need

For your grant proposal to be successful, it should contain a solid and convincing statement of need, otherwise referred to as the problem statement (statement of need or needs statement) section.  

The statement of need should identify the issue and not just be a general observation. Your problem statement, therefore, needs supporting data and evidence highlighting why you or your organization are the best solution for that problem.

To write a comprehensive needs statement, ensure that you comprehensively research the history of the problem, previous solutions, and the failures experienced, then explain why your solution is perfect.

The need statement should also convey urgency, and every winning grant proposal contains such. The funding organization should know that the identified problem needs all the help it can get for it to be efficiently and effectively solved.

It is important to include quantitative data to show the urgency of addressing the need. Ensure you use comparable data to show why your solution is the best. You should focus on the main problem.

Step 4: Note down the Goals and Objectives

Your grant proposal should highlight the research’s specific goals as well as their desired outcomes. You should also include a clear outline of the project design strategies. The following questions should be answered:

Failing to include the goals and objectives can lead to the failure of a grant proposal. Therefore, ensure that you make your objectives SMART. You should also connect the goals and objectives to the audience by showing how they will impact the community and how they will be measured.

Explain why and how your solution will address the issue you intend to solve. As you write this section, avoid being too ambitious or mistake the goals for the processes. Goals are optimistic and abstract, whereas the objective is measurable and direct to the point.

Step 5: Write about the Project Design

With the goals and objectives specified, you need to let the grantee or funding agency know how you plan to achieve them. Here is the section where you detail the skills, facilities, services, and other aspects that you need to facilitate the achievement of the project and measure the goals.

You should indicate the requirements, the individual tasks, or the project schedule. Ensure that you include the tasks, deliverables, and results.

When writing this section, connect them to the objectives and the needs statement. You should give examples where the same methods have been successful. Finally, demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the methodology so that your grantee knows the methods are rational, effective, and practical.

Step 6: Explore the Assessment/ Evaluation

Most funding agencies will undoubtedly want to know how the success of your goals will be measured. If the program's design is not meant to continue indefinitely, when will it end? What exactly will show that the project has indeed met its intent?

When writing a grant proposal, specify how you measure the project's outcomes. This will help determine when success has been realized, so those funding will know what to expect.

The assessment part is the most critical part of a grant proposal. All the funders or grantees will need to know the evaluation or how you will track the project's success.

Evaluation is expensive, and you need entry and exit criteria focused on the activities. If activities are out of scope, ensure that they are specified as part of this section, and this is not the place for vagueness or forgetfulness. Ensure that you obtain feedback and decide between internal and external evaluations.

Step 7: Mention Other Funding Sources

If the project is meant to carry on indefinitely, clarify how you will acquire future funding or how the project will sustain itself long-term. Do not forget to include non-financial contributions such as donations or community support.

Step 8: Highlight your Personal Information

It is essential to provide prospective funders with some information about yourself. Give a brief description of yourself and what your organization is all about. Mention your organization’s vision, mission, track record, and the community that you serve. Also, mention if you have ever previously applied for a grant program from that agency. This information is critical to include; do not just assume that you will be automatically remembered.

Additionally, include all other documentation that is required for the application. These might consist of tax documents and a list of your organization’s or university’s board of directors.

Step 9: Give an Overview of the Project Budget

List all the expected project expenditures, how much will be needed, and how the funds will be spent. Include the amount that will be directed towards overhead (indirect costs), involved personnel, and any money received or earned through contribution. To effectively do this, use a list of line items to display your budget narrative that is easy to view, giving the prospective funders a better look at what is involved.

Also Read: Words to use when writing a Proposal Paper.

Tips and Advice to Write a Winning Grant Proposal

An individual can write a grant proposal for their funding, or an individual or group requesting investment for either a profit or non-profit project. You can write a grant proposal requesting funding if the investment changes positively. Here are some valuable tips and tricks to consider when writing a grant proposal.

1. Carefully Read the Provided Instructions

The most important thing you should do to ensure that your grant proposal is successful is to go through the guidelines provided by the funding agency carefully. Note that the top reason most grant proposals are rejected is simply that the funder’s instructions were not followed during submission.

2. Arrange Your Ideas Through Well-Numbered Lists

Make use of numbered lists to organize your ideas within the proposal. You can set up your lists using phrases like “The three main goals of this project are…” or “The discussed plan will entail five stages…” Using numbers in this manner is an easy and efficient way of presenting your information in a clear and easy-to-read way.

3. Create A Realistic and Well-Detailed Project Management Plan

Writing a grant proposal is much simpler when you develop a detailed plan for the what, who, where, when, and why of your proposal submission. Work together with your team to determine who will be responsible for which section/task of the grant and +settle on a deadline for that task as you collaboratively work towards the ultimate goal.

4. Write Customized Proposals

Given that grant funding is quite competitive, you will most likely apply for grants from different funding agencies or organizations. If this is the case for you, ensure that you carefully customize each proposal to appropriately respond to each funding agency's different expectations, interests, and requirements.

Even though you may use some parts of one proposal for another grant proposal, never use any proposal twice. In addition, when you are applying to more than one funding agency simultaneously, make sure that you strategically think about the type of support you request from each organization. Conduct thorough research and find out, for instance, which funding source often supports a request for project materials, and which agency usually covers the personnel cost.

5. Look for Grants of All Sizes

Keep an eye out for both big grants as well as small grant opportunities. Securing smaller funding sometimes makes your request for a larger grant more appealing. Showing prospective funders that one or two stakeholders have already supported your project can boost your credibility.

6. Make Use of Current Data

The more up-to-date your data is, the more credible and efficient your proposed project seems. For instance, do not use American census data from as back as 2010 when 2020 American census data is readily available, which is updated and more accurate. That said, it is vital to take note of those sections in your proposal that have been dated any time you wish to submit the proposal; update the sections with the latest data.

7. Pay Close Attention to the Primary Interests of the Funding Agency

It is vital to conduct a bit of research on the grant funders whom you are making your application. Go through the priorities and mission of the funding agency or organization. Keep in mind that you have the best chance of getting funds for your project if you can demonstrate the association between your mission and the funding agency's mission.

If you notice any keywords in the request for proposal or in the goal or mission of the funding organization, make sure to use some of those phrases throughout your proposal. Be careful not to be heavy-handed. Your readers should be able to understand the connections that exist between their purpose and your project without your overstatement of these connections.

8. Conduct Research on Past Grant Recipients

Apart from researching the grant funding agencies, you should also consider exploring the projects the organization has previously funded. By researching to see which trends the funders have aided in the past, you can establish whether the opportunity would be an excellent fit for you or your organization.

9. Get A Good Proofreader

To ensure you do not submit a grant proposal full of errors and mistakes, you should find a good proofreader to check it for you before submission. You can be a good proofreader, but no matter how good you are, you will likely miss a few errors or mistakes in your writing. Therefore, finding a good proofreader to check your proposal before the submission is important. You can find a good proofreader on an assignment help platform like ours or amongst your peers.

10. Practice Makes Perfect

Writing a grant proposal for the first time might be hectic or challenging. However, like with most things, practice makes perfect. So if you are in a job or a position that requires you to write a grant proposal now and then, you should practice writing grant proposals (perhaps once every two weeks) to become perfect at writing them. This will ensure your proposals gradually improve in style, context, etc.

11. Do Not Be Discouraged by Rejection

Sometimes we write the most convincing proposals only for them to be rejected. Just because your proposal has been rejected does not mean it was terrible, and it may just mean somebody wrote a better one or another project caught the eye of the selection panel. So, keep on writing grant proposals even if they are rejected. You never know; the next one could be the winning one.

12. Use Online Grammar Checkers

Using online grammar checkers such as will help you catch many grammar errors in your work, and it will also help you catch and eliminate plagiarism in your work.

As we come to a Close! …

If you are writing a project grant letter, you would typically follow the steps we have outlined and write a condensed version, 3-4 pages long, following the structure we have outlined above.

Note that when requested to write a scientific grant proposal, you should emphasize the significance of the project and its contribution to the overarching purpose. Besides, you should include evidence, statistics, scientific frameworks and facts, and relevant research data specific to the subject.

 A typical grant proposal can be as short as five pages and as long as 30 pages. The length depends on the requirements of the funding institution, which will always be specified.

To be on the safe side, begin working on your grant proposal writing early enough so that you can research, write, and polish it and not do the last-minute rush that is synonymous with mistakes.

You must put in plenty of work and effort to write a brilliant grant proposal. If you have the time and energy, follow the instructions and tips highlighted in this article.

If for some reason, you do not have the time or the motivation to write it by yourself, you can pay for a good grant proposal and get it done on our website. We have expert proposal writers for hire who have experience writing grant-winning proposals.