Blogs + Trends
Grants are an important part of library fundraising. Do a little digging, and you’ll find lots of grant money available for all sorts of library projects. However, countless other organizations are competing for those same dollars. So how do you write a winning grant proposal?
Here are seven tips to make your library’s proposal and grant management plans stand out from the crowd. For more grant writing advice, watch our BiblioInsider webinar: Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics. Watch on-demand.
1) Understand the goal of the funding organization
The first order of business in any grant opportunity is to understand the motivation and goals of the funder. Every funding organization has an overarching mission, and each grant is designed to achieve a specific objective that supports that mission. Winning grant proposals are those that most clearly demonstrate how the project aligns with the organization’s vision and the grant’s specific goal.
Learn who the funding organization is and what they do. Read every detail they make available about their grant to be sure it’s a good fit before spending valuable time on it. Then, be ready to rationalize how your project dovetails with the mission and vision of both your library and the funder’s organization.
2) Be precise
Of course, you’ll want to follow the funder’s guidelines and thoroughly answer any supplementary questions, but a well-thought-out project (yours) should be fairly easy to match with any parameters as long as the overall opportunity is a good match.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the grant requirements, use precise, dynamic language to describe your project, demonstrating how it aligns with the funder’s goals. Your grant proposal should avoid aspirational language like “we will try” or “we hope to” in favor of confident phrases such as “when funded we will ….”
3) Make your project objectives crystal clear
Your grant proposal should clearly explain who will benefit from your project, why, and for how long. How will your project be valuable to a particular demographic or a community as a whole? Note that your project title should leave no question about what you hope to achieve. Catchy, playful titles only work if the intent of the project is also clear, so don’t be afraid to be simple and straightforward if nothing pithy comes to mind.
4) Know exactly how much your project will cost
Whether you’re asking for full or partial coverage through grant funding, you should be able to estimate costs down to the penny. Be sure to include any anticipated costs required to maintain the project after its inception. Share whether you intend to collect additional funding through partnerships with other organizations. Whether your project is a one-off or meant to have longevity, funders want to know that their money is going toward a logically budgeted outcome that is set up to succeed.
5) Share plans for personnel
Know who you’ll need on deck to make the day-to-day execution of your project a reality — be it paid personnel, volunteers, or some combination of these and others. Know what they’ll do, how they’ll do it, and how much time they’ll spend doing it. Your grant proposal should show the grantors that you have precise plans for who will get the project off the ground and keep it running.
6) Explain how you will demonstrate the impact of your project
Grant responsibilities don’t stop after funding has been awarded. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Your grant proposal should thoroughly explain how you will collect and share quantitative data (numbers/statistics) and qualitative data (stories/human impact) once the project is underway and after it’s finished. Good stewardship of any grant funding means reporting to funders at preplanned points along the way to show the project’s short- and long-term value and impact on individuals and communities.
7) Show your excitement about the project!
Funders want to support well-planned projects with leaders who are intent on success. Therefore, be sure to communicate the energy and dedication of your library in your grant proposal. Show the funding organization exactly why they will be proud to have their name associated with your project.
Writing a grant proposal can be intimidating for beginners. For additional help, check out our on-demand webinar, Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics. In it, Miriam Lytle, Director of Grants at Gail Borden Public Library District, provides practical guidance on crafting effective grant proposals, including common elements like needs statements, narratives, budgets, progress reports, and evaluations. You’ll also learn how to assess your project for a grant, what funders are looking for, and tips to improve your grant writing skills.
This webinar is part of the BiblioInsiders webinar series, a multi-part series designed for library professionals who want to learn how to create transformative libraries that serve vulnerable patrons. Learn more here.