Maine Philanthropy Center

Building Connections for Maine Grantmakers

Proposal Writing Links

The grantseeking/ grantmaking process is all about building a partnership.This careful prospect research, needs and resources analysis by the Grantseeker is critical. Taking the time to build a relationship - to build a match, then submit a well thought through and complete application - certainly helps the process work better - for both partners.

  • As federal funds devolve and decline, there is greater competition for limited foundation resources. As a result, Grantmakers are swamped with inappropriate proposals. 80% of foundations have no staff. The net effect is to overwhelm funders with paperwork and delay decisions for legitimate funding requests. Grantmakers indicate that many impassioned and heartfelt applications - that might otherwise be considered - are often late, unrealistic, vague, unfocused and incomplete, and simply don't make the cut.
  • Grantmakers then ask, legitimately, if the proposal is in this condition - how will the actual services be delivered and the organization managed? Re-submitting proposals back to Grantseekers, requesting needed information, takes Grantmaker time (remember that 80% have no staff) and ultimately delays your final funding decisions ... time that is critical to both the Grantseeker and Grantmaker.
  • When processing hundreds of competing applications with limited or no staff, incomplete applications are put to the side in the pile called "didn't take the time to read the application and follow directions!" Simple solution: After all your hard work - don't give the grantmaker a reason not to consider your worthy, impassioned and heartfelt application for needed services ... your proposal deserves a fair hearing!
  • From the Grantmakers perspective, proposals that are incomplete, disorganized, and lack all required elements, such as a copy of your actual IRS 501(c)(3) determination letter; tend to suggest that you have really not done your homework. Bottom line: Take the time - invest the time - (make the time!) to get it right. It's really worth it! A clear and complete application reflects significantly on your capacity and ability to cost effectively utilize, apply and manage the funding that you may receive.
  • Important: Your prospect research, community needs assessment, building strategic alliances and partnerships, completing your 501(c)(3) non-profit status, writing proposals and getting funded - can take a year or more depending on federal, state and foundation funding cycles. You should normally plan on at least - 6 to 12 months lead time from the date you are ready to start writing the grant.
  • In establishing your initial brief verbal or written contact with a prospective funder and building your relationship, in which you have described the project and the grantmaker has expressed interest in exploring it further; most Grantmakers are more than willing to help and to respond to basic questions.
  • If you need help - please be sure to ask for the Grantmaker's funding guidelines and application, before you submit a full proposal! "Would a project, as described in this one page introductory letter / or this phone call, (1) meet your funding criteria, (2) be something you would be willing to explore further and (3) be appropriate for us to pursue with you at this time? ... may be able to be answered. However ... "Am I going to be funded?" is not a question usually able to answered.

Further Proposal Writing Tips Can Be Found:

Maine Associate of Nonprofits and MPC have grantwriting skillbuilders

Free On-line Courses from the Foundation Center include:

How to Approach a Foundation

Proposal Budgeting Basics

Proposal Writing Basics

Proposal Writing Short Course

See sample documents selected from foundations including letters of inquiry, cover letters and full proposals at

Fee-based Course: Proposal Writing: The Comprehensive Course