Top 10 planning tools for successful grant projects

Strong, competitive grant proposals have planning time and tools to back them up


Ready to start writing that grant proposal, but you are staring at a blank page? Strong, competitive grant proposals have planning time and tools to back them up. Here are a few resources that you may find helpful.

1. Don’t underestimate the power of logic models when planning a grant project; give this Logic Models and Theory of Change Worksheet a try.

2. Use the Elaboration Likelihood Model to plan a compelling grant proposal through persuasion, clear messaging and a deep understanding of the funder priority areas.

To properly plan a grant project, know who will be reviewing your proposal and what they are looking for.
To properly plan a grant project, know who will be reviewing your proposal and what they are looking for. (Getty Images)

3. Prepare funder summaries so that the entire grant team understands what the funder is looking for and to help ensure the organization’s mission and programs you are writing about match the funder’s focus areas. For example, a funder summary can include the name of the funder, name of the grant program, funder website, deadlines, detailed funder focus area that matches the project you are writing about, suggested ask amount, relationship cultivation contacts/strategies, funder geographic focus area, application format (i.e., online, Letter of Interest or LOI, paper), and list organizations/projects funded in the past.

4. Here are some helpful and simple project profile/planning worksheets and examples from the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits. 

5. Prepare your own grant planning spreadsheet based on your organization, program or project needs.

6. Use the gold standard of logic models from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to plan your project.

7. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs offers guidance on strategic planning.

8. Know your audience. Who are you writing to? Are they academics, K-12 teachers, peers, funders, researchers, scientists, federal or state government employees, or a diverse team of experts in their field? To properly plan a grant project, know who will be reviewing your proposal and what they are looking for.

9. Consider results-based project planning. Here is another planning worksheet with definitions and examples.

10. If needed and if it will be helpful to the team, prepare a timeline for completing the entire grant application. Assign roles and responsibilities to members of the team and include a deadline for them to complete assigned tasks. You can make this into a type of checklist so that you know all items that are still pending and must be completed before the grant due date.

What grant planning tools do you use? Plan carefully to prepare a highly competitive grant application. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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