From boring to brilliant: Using data for maximum impact

posted by
Carolyn Owens,
Grant Writer & Partner
501 Navigation

This is part two of Carolyn Owen's series on gathering and using data for grant proposals. Read part 1 here.

Data is a vital part of your grant application. It’s the link that turns a bunch of random declarations about the issue your nonprofit is addressing into a statement with weight and relevance. Data can illustrate the scope of the problem, the need for your program, and why it will be successful.

So how do you intertwine data in the proposal so that it supports and amplifies your cause rather than obfuscate it? Although I would not claim to be an expert, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned in close to 15 years of researching and compiling grant proposals.

Remember the data should be:

  • Recent, within the past 2 years if possible
  • As local as possible, relating to the community, city or state where your program is located
  • From a recognized, reputable source - a federal agency, well respected research group such as Annie Casey Foundation, or peer journal
  • Related to the need to be addressed by your program.

Google and beyond: How to master search engine research for your grant proposal

posted by
Carolyn Owens,
Grant Writer & Partner
501 Navigation

Don’t get me wrong. Google is my best friend. I shudder when I think of how difficult it was in the dark ages prior to this uber useful search engine. However, Google is a tool, and like other search engines, a data middleman, not the end result. I myself have been frustrated by even its super powers to extract data that I know is out there in cyberspace.

So how do we search so we can find that most wonderful of prizes? How to best use the Internet to find the data we need? How do we judge the quality of the hits we get?

Although I do not claim to be an expert, I am happy to share what I’ve learned in more than a decade of mining the Internet for information to support grant proposals.

Grant writer as chief collaborative officer

posted by
Andrew Schwartzberg,
Director of Grants
Valley of the Sun United Way

Your grant proposal is due in a mere six hours and you are very confident that you have all your ducks in a row. Just to make sure, you unearth the official grant application checklist that was buried in a folder from day one, only to discover to your horror that you were so focused on writing the proposal narrative you completely forgot about the budget. What do you do? Do you: a) grovel in front of your agency’s accountant and plead with them to make time to do it; b) simply do the budget yourself; c) submit the application without the budget and hope nobody notices; or d) start scrolling through the ASU Lodestar Center Nonprofit News looking for new job opportunities?

Ultimately, the answer is: you never should have gotten into this predicament in the first place, because preparing a grant application should be an inter-departmental endeavor. All too often, nonprofits that have a staff grant writer make the assumption that they will be 100% responsible for every aspect of the grant application process. And all too often the staff grant writer will take this on because that was the initial expectation.

The truth is that if ever there was a nonprofit activity that needs to be collaborative across departments, it is the preparation of a grant application package. It is not the grant writer’s job to create programs, or decide how money is to be spent, or determine if a grantor should get media exposure for their gift. These tasks should be driven by program staff, finance staff, and marketing staff respectively. It is the grant writer’s job to communicate with all of the appropriate staff, gather the necessary information from them to address all of the requirements set forth by the funding entity, and use the information to create a grant application so compelling that the grantor will take one look at it and shout out, “Goodness gracious, where has this organization been all my life? Let’s fund their request and tack on an additional $3 million!” (this never happens, of course, but you get the point.)

From this perspective, the role of a grant writer is really that of facilitator of internal collaboration. It is their job to be the person most familiar with the funding opportunity and determine what it is the grantor is looking for from the grantee. What forms need to be completed? What attachments need to be included? What specific information is being requested about the program? The grant writer must know the answer to all of these questions to determine who from their organization needs to be assembled to create the best possible application package.

Money for your nonprofit: Writing a grant proposal

posted by
Alex Gomory

Lead Editor of

It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager, a parent, a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or a nonprofit organization: money can be difficult to come by these days. Even in times of economic prosperity, many nonprofit organizations have to fight in order to maintain a steady flow of funding.

While most nonprofits find funding from a variety of sources, one of the staples of charitable support comes in the form of grants. Consequently, nonprofit professionals should be well versed in crafting and compiling well-written grant proposals.

Whether you’re appealing to the government, private organizations, individual investors, or charitable donation services, every grant proposal should include the following:

  • Cover letter 
  • Executive summary 
  • Information about your organization 
  • Description of your goals 
  • Proposed strategy for meeting those goals 
  • Method for evaluating your success 
  • A fully developed budget 
  • Appendix or attachments.

The cover letter, executive summary, and organization information (1/2 to 1 page each)