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How to Write a grant proposal for a nonprofit?

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

The most common grant application you will come across is a proposal. It may either be a series of responses to questions or an open format. There are five standard sections to a grant proposal. The order in which you respond to each question varies by Grantmaker, but the most important questions are at the beginning of the application.

5 Common Sections of a Grant Proposal:

#1 Organization: This section of the proposal may have different names. It may be called the "Experience," "History," or "Organizational Background" section. This section of the grant proposal details the services the organization provides, how many people the organization can serve, and the resources (financial, staffing, etc.) that will help the organization successfully implement the grant-funded program and manage the grant funds.

Here is an example of how to write this section. "Housing Connection is a nonprofit in East Texas that provides support services and housing to homeless men and women. For the past 20 years, our organization has provided short-term housing, job training, and counseling to over 10,000 people. Our ten counselors, case managers, and peer supporters annually serve 300 people."

#2 Need: The "Statement of Needs," "Need, " or "Purpose" Section of a grant application describes the people or thing that benefits from the project and why help is needed. In this section, you should tell the location of the services and who or what will benefit from the grant. Additionally, describe why help is needed.

Here is a brief example of how to write it. "Housing Connection’s project will support homeless men and women living in East Texas. East Texas is a vibrant community with a growing population and a booming economy. With the rising cost of housing, we have seen a 15% increase in the unhoused population over the past six months. "

#3 Project: The "Project" or "Activities" Section details the step-by-step of the project or program. You will document the number of people you plan to reach with the grant funds and the frequency and duration of services. Next, you want to detail the activities in your program, who is responsible, and a timeline.

Here is an example, "Housing Connection’s Step Forward Project will provide 100 unhoused people up to 7 months of short-term housing, job training, and counseling during the 12-month grant starting in January.

Timeline (March 2023- February 2024)

  • The Housing Connection case managers will intake 25 additional people from partner referrals each quarter. Up to 100 unhoused participants will receive free one- or two-bedroom apartments at a residential housing complex for up to 7 months.

  • Participants attend biweekly job training classes led by Housing Connection job coaches. Focus on soft skills, interview skills, and trade skills.

  • Participants attend weekly group and individual counseling sessions led by Housing Connection counselors."

#4 Results and Evaluation: The "Evaluation," "Results," or "Impact" Sections of a grant proposal will describe what you hope to achieve with the funding, how you will evaluate success, and how you will collect data.

For example, "Housing Connection’s team will teach Step Forward Project participants the skills they need so that at least 85% will find and retain employment within 12 months, and 90% of people that complete 8 months of the program will transition into long-term housing. We will collect information about each participant and their progress/ needs in our case management system during our weekly meetings and review results monthly".

#5 Budget: Finally, the "Budget Plan and Budget Narrative" Section of a grant proposal outlines the expenses. The expense table has categories that include salary, transportation, rent, supplies, travel, etc. The second part of the budget is the narrative. In the narrative description, you will write about each expense and provide an itemization. If not addressed in another area of the grant proposal, use the Budget Section to discuss your project's "sustainability." Sustainability describes how you will continue the program after the grant has ended. Many funders like to contribute to programs financially supported by other Grantmakers and donations.


Budget Table


Total Cost

Grant Request










Budget Narrative

Housing Connection requests $28,000 from the General Foundation for 12 months of its Step Forward Project, which connects men and women to short-term housing, job support, and mental health counseling. We are requesting funding for staffing and supplies. The Step Forward Project is sustained by grant funds and individual donations. Housing Connection has $20,000 in committed funds from another grant funder.

  • Salary: Two Case Managers, 2 Full-time equivalents, $25,000 each x 2= $50,0000. The case manager is responsible for intake, participant interactions, and weekly update meetings.

  • Supplies: Paper, folders, technology, and other items for intake and general project management. Paper (100 reams at $3.00)=$300; Laptop x 2 at $1,000= $2,000; Printers x 2 at $350=$700

Putting it all together

In summary, there are five typical sections of a grant proposal. The Organization, Need, Project, Results, and Budget Sections. Though each section may be called different things, the information you should detail is the same. In addition to the examples provided, check out our sample case statement. A case statement is a short version of the grant application.

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