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Smart Grant Writing: Certification/Re-Certification

Competencies for Grant Writing Certification

To complete a full-length, fundable grant proposal that includes the following elements:

Element 1: Abstract or Executive Summary

Include the following unless otherwise specified in the grant application materials:

  1. Briefly describes the problem your proposal will address.
  2. Presents the solution offered in the proposal.
  3. Lists the outcomes, or measurable changes that are expected to result from the project.
  4. Provides information about the applicant organization’s capacity to carry out the project.
  5. Mentions key collaborative partners.
  6. States the amount of grant funds requested.

Element 2:  Statement of Need

  1. Provides evidence (including numerical data) that a problem exists in a community to be served.
  2. Focuses on a need or problem that the proposed project can reasonably address.
  3. Defines a specific target population within the community to be served.
  4. Explains why the problem is important to address.
  5. Describes the problem in terms of the population’s needs, rather than the needs of the applicant organization.
  6. Cites sources of supporting information and data presented.
  7. Includes data required by the funding source (if any) to be eligible to receive the grant funding.
  8. Presents reasoning as to why the problem should be addressed in the community to be served as opposed to other communities with the same problem(s).
  9. Avoids circular reasoning.
  10. Briefly introduces the proposed solution to the problem, aligned with the purpose for the grant funding.

Element 3:  Project Design

  1. Includes a set of project goals that address the problems outlined in the statement of need and that are aligned with the purposes of the grant funding.
  2. Presents measurable benefits to the funder. This is a set of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) objectives that offer multiple measures of success for each goal.
  3. Writes goals and objectives that reflect all priorities or required measures (if any) in the grant application.
  4. Describes a set of activities or methods to support each project goal.
  5. Provides a rationale for the selection of each activity or method, citing research when required.
  6. Tells who will benefit from each activity or service provided by the project.
  7. Tells how many people will benefit from each activity or service, and from the project in general.
  8. Tells who will be responsible for providing each service provided by the project.
  9. Constructs a timeline of project activities or tells when each activity will begin and/or be completed by. (Persons responsible may appear as column on timeline).

Element 4: Management and Staffing Plan

  1. Describes the applicant organization’s mission, history, and track record of success relevant to the proposed project.
  2. Explains how the current project fits into the current structure of the applicant organization (include an organizational chart if necessary).
  3. Describes the roles and qualifications of each key personnel who will be employed in the project, including the project director (when applicable).
  4. Includes the time commitments of key staff in the project.
  5. Describes the background and contributions of collaborative partners (if any) that will participate in the project.
  6. If required by the grant application, describes how the project will be sustained or how the benefits of the project will continue beyond the funding period.
  7. If required by the grant application, tells how the project will be replicated in other settings or how information learned through the project will be disseminated.

Element 5: Evaluation Plan

  1. Defines exactly how success will be measured in terms of specific performance measures or expected outcomes aligned with the project’s objectives.
  2. Includes strategies to measure both the processes and expected outcomes of the project (formative and summative evaluation).
  3. Includes multiple measures of success for each goal, using both qualitative and quantitative data.
  4. Tells how data will be collected and who is responsible.
  5. Describes any evaluation instruments (such as surveys or assessments) that will be used.
  6. Tells how data will be analyzed.
  7. Tells who will be responsible for conducting the evaluation.
  8. Describes the background and expertise of the evaluator.
  9. Tells how often, in what forms, and to whom evaluation results will be reported.
  10. Tells how periodic evaluation results will be used for improvement of the project (for multi-year projects).

Element 6: Budget and Budget Narrative

  1. Includes only budget items that are allowable expenses.
  2. Includes only budget items that directly relate to the proposal.
  3. Categorizes each item within proper budget categories (salaries, fringe benefits, contractual, facilities, equipment, supplies, travel, etc.)
  4. Provides details about how each expense were calculated.
  5. Includes specific amounts, rather than rounded estimations.
  6. Accounts for all requested funds (does not include a miscellaneous category).
  7. Includes a calculation for indirect costs within the guidelines of the grant application (if applicable).
  8. Includes an itemization of matching funds (if required).


  1. Begins by giving the reader an overview or quick summary of the project (the who, what, when, why, and where), before answering the first question in the grant application materials.
  2. Responds to questions in the order they appear in the grant application.
  3. Stays within page limitations.
  4. Keeps the length of each section of narrative proportionate to the number of points it is worth in the scoring rubric.
  5. Breaks up the narrative with charts, illustrations, bullet points, bold type, and/or italics to emphasize key points.
  6. Puts any required elements in bold to make them stand out in the narrative.
  7. Avoids the use of unexplained industry-specific jargon or acronyms.
  8. Written in the active rather than passive voice.
  9. Written concisely and to the point.
  10. Prioritizes clarity over the use of literary devices or flowery language.
  11. Adheres to all formatting requirements.

Supporting Documents

Includes all required supporting documents in the correct order (specified in the grant application materials):

  1. Cover page
  2. Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)
  3. Letters of support
  4. Resumes
  5. Forms
  6. Signature pages
  7. Assurances
  8. Bibliography or works cited
  9. Logic model
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