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What is a grant application?

A grant application is a request for grant money that an organization or nonprofit sends to a Grantmaker or charitable foundation. The common forms of a grant application are LOI (letter of intent, inquiry, or interest), case statement, and proposal. This article will briefly describe each, what funders will use each type of grant and when, and links to our in-depth articles that will guide you during your writing.

What is a Grant LOI?

An LOI is a 1 to 3-page grant request. It provides a high-level summary of the organization requesting funds, a brief description of the grant request, and how the project aligns with the Grantmaker's interest and past giving. Used interchangeably, a Letter of Intent, a Letter of Interest, and a Letter of Inquiry have many similarities in their writing style. Still, they have different purposes and requirements, which you can learn more about here. The grant funder requests solicited or invited Letters of Intent and Interest. A Letter of Inquiry is an unsolicited grant request, typically sent to funders without a public application process.

What is a Grant Case Statement?

A case statement also called a case for support, is a 1-page document that seeks to convince and persuade the reader to support a specific cause. It is a core document that includes a high-level overview of your organization and the project you would like funded. Details to have are your organization's mission, who the project will support, the timeframe, background details about why the project is necessary, and a brief description of the intended outcomes. Providing an estimated budget range for the project without directly asking for an amount is helpful. You can send a solicited or unsolicited case statement to a funder. This approach works best for Grantmakers you are building a relationship with and those you already know. You may share the case statement with them to gauge their interest in funding your project. Candid has a great article on Case Statements here, and you can check out an example case statement here.

What is a Grant Proposal?

The most common grant application you will come across is a grant proposal. They vary in length and may either be a series of responses to questions or an open format. For example, a grant proposal to a federal agency may exceed 50 pages, while a grant proposal to a local utility company may be as few as three pages. The Grantmaker usually outlines a grant proposal's length and what information to include. The five typical sections of a grant proposal are "Organization," "Need," "Project," "Results," and "Budget, "which we discuss here.

When do I use an LOI versus a Case Statement versus a Grant Proposal?

The grant application you choose will depend on the funder's preferences.

If a grant funder has a documented and public grant process, they will typically ask you to submit a Letter of Intent or a Grant Proposal. Organizations interested in saving time or with limited resources to review grant requests, like small family foundations, may want you to submit an LOI. Some Grantmakers, like national public foundations, use the LOI process to "weed out" organizations that do not meet specific requirements. Government agencies use LOI’s to gauge how many applications to expect.

All Grantmakers may request a grant proposal to learn more about the grant project, the people the project will serve, and the organization. Some Grantmakers have a two-phase grant process where any organization can submit an LOI, but only selected organizations can submit a grant proposal.

Suppose a grant funder has yet to have a publicly available grant process. In that case, you may send the Board President or Executive Director an unsolicited Letter of Inquiry. Contact information can be found online or on an organization tax document called the IRS 990. For an organization you know and have an established or developing relationship with, you may ask to share your Case Statement with them. The organization may not actively be looking to fund the type of grant you are pitching, but your Case Statement can give them the idea.

What to do next?

We hope this overview has helped you learn more about grant writing. If you want to know more, you may be interested in reading our articles What is a grant letter of intent or Inquiry (LOI)?, Example Grant Case Statement, and How to Write a grant proposal for a nonprofit?