Document Checklist for Grant Proposals: Part 1

Checklist with colored pencils

A Foundation Center Atlanta visitor was trying to organize paperwork related to grant proposals and asked if we knew of a checklist that listed every document that might have something to do with a grant proposal.

We couldn’t find one, so we made our own, drawing heavily from The Foundation Center’s Guide to Proposal Writing, 6th ed. We’ve loosely organized this list by stages of the grant proposal process:

  • Prospect research
  • Letter of inquiry/proposal
  • After sending your proposal
  • If you get the grant
  • If you don’t get the grant
  • How to keep track of all of this info

Part 1 focuses on the prospect research stage. Future blog posts will focus on the remaining stages.

Prospect research

This prospect worksheet for institutional funders is a great guide for info that you’ll want to quickly access when thinking about this funder. For every bit of info, cite your source(s) so you can find it again. Now is when those research and citation skills from school will come in handy.

At minimum, you’ll want this info in your prospect dossier:

  • Foundation website URL(s), if one exists. Tip: Note what info you can find there.
  • Most recent Forms 990.
  • Profile from Foundation Directory Online or other database(s).
  • Content other third-party sources, like news articles.
  • Notes from contacting the funder prior to sending a letter of inquiry or grant proposal:
    • Contact’s name, title, email, phone number, other contact details.
    • Preferred method of communication.
    • Date and time of conversation.
    • Content of conversation --
      • What did you say? What did the other person say?
      • Did you use a script or a list of talking points? Link/refer to them here. (Luck favors the prepared.)
      • What are next steps, if any?

Really? I should try to contact funders directly?

Yes. Many foundations prefer that you call before sending a letter or proposal, as long as your prospect hasn't clearly stated "No phone calls" on its website or other materials for grantseekers.

Before that first call, you still should learn as much as you can about the funder so you can ask better questions. Your conversation needs to make it clear that you have read the guidelines and want further clarification on whether your particular project would fit.

Also: Don’t be picky about whom you speak with. Regard anyone from the foundation as someone who might have some influence when they review proposals. Respect their time, don’t do all the talking, listen well, take good notes, and when the discussion ends, thank them for their time.

What else do you collect during the prospect research stage? Tell us in the Comments area.

To be continued...

-- Richard Hallman and Sandy Pon