The Art of Bidding

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Proposals for Grants

Grant Seeking

  • Seek grants that fit the mission statement and strategic plan
  • Seek grant makers that show successful outcomes with similar missions
  • Know all current and potential financial supporters
  • Seek out relationships and collaborations
  • Ensure the organization is ready to submit a good plan

Grant misconceptions

  • Grants are to fill the gap of budget shortages
  • Grants are solely for money and not to meet the needs of the mission

Grant makers’ main consideration

  • The problem is significant
  • The grant maker is a good match to the work output
  • The grant seeker has creditability
  • The grant seeker has good planning
  • The board of directors are involved and committed to the project

Grant makers least favorable items for consideration

  • Nonprofit needs the money
  • Nonprofit wants to add additional services
  • The nonprofit has good intentions
  • The nonprofit believes it deserves funding

Program Planning and Proposal Format

  • Summary (A brief overview of the proposal – Read first, but written last)
  • Introduction of the Organization (Applicant qualifications and organizational creditability)
  • Discussion of the Problem (Description of  the current concern and the causes o f the situation)
  • Program Outcome (States what will change in the problem as a result of the grant program – Stated in terms of the beneficiaries)
  • Methods (Describes the actions the organization will undertake to accomplish the program outcome – Includes an explanation of why the selected method is the best approach)
  • Evaluation Plan ( Presents a plan to measure progress towards stated outcomes and to determine if the methods worked as intended)
  • Future Support (Describes how this efforts will be continued when the grant ends)
  • Budget (Identifies all program expenses and all projected program revenues or other resources)

The Problem-Based Proposal

  • Seeking to meet a clearly defined community problem
  • In a defined target population
  • In a specific geographic area

A Problem is a Situation in the Community that is:

  • Related to the work of the organization
  • A barrier to clients achieving success
  • Impedes progress towards the organization’s mission and goals


  • The components of a plan must be logical and connected
  • The core components in a plan or proposal are the Problem discussion, the Program Outcomes, and the Methods
  • Begin the project the middle and work outward
  • All parts of the proposal build out from the Problem

The approach to planning will be different than the order of information in a proposal

Planning the Project

  1. Problem
  2. Program Outcome
  3. Method
  4. Introduction
  5. Evaluation
  6. Budget
  7. Future Support
  8. Summary

Organizing the Proposal

  1. Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Problem
  4. Program Outcome
  5. Method
  6. Evaluation
  7. Future Support
  8. Budget

The Problem Discussion describes the current situation in your community that is causing concern and driving your organization to take action.  Include a discussion of the causes of the problem, i.e.;

  • Problem Justification
  • Problem Statement
  • Needs Assessment
  • Problem Analysis

Narrow the focus – the problem fits the mission and capacity of the organization seeking financial support

  • Discuss the problem in terms of the people experience the problem, not what the applicant wants and needs.
  • The problem is not the lack of your organization’s solution
  • Build credibility – do not raise more questions than you answer
  • Prove it!  Provide evidence that the problem exists
  • Involve those affected by the problem

The Three Key elements of the Problem Discussion

  • A description of the Current Concern in your community (usually a condition, situation or behavior)
  • A discussion of the Causes or Contributing Factors that led to the problem
  • A discussion of the Significance of the problem

The Current Concern

  • Describe the What is happening about thecurrent situation or behavior in your target population or community (avoid describing What is not)
  • The problem is local, not global
  • Describe the characteristics of the population experiencing the problem
  • Put a human face on the problem
  • Inspire the reader to take action
  • Quantify the problem – it is measurable
  • Cite evidence – research, studies, surveys, and personal stories
  • Present the most compelling evidence that the problem is important

Causes of the Problem

  • Identify causes or contributing factors that led to the current problem
  • Support causes with facts and evidence
  • Include information from people experience the problem
  • Analyze the causes to determine which ones your organization can impact
  • Causes will inform the Methods

Significance of the Problem

  • Provide a context for the problem – why should the reader care?
  • Discuss the short and long-term implication of the problem
  • Provide a comparison
  • Support with data, studies, reports, or other credible sources

The lack of the solution is not the problem

A problem describes a current condition


  • The juvenile crime rate is rising
  • The number of HIV infections is increasing

A problem does not describe the lack of a specific method


  • There are not enough after school programs
  • The community needs a needle exchange program

[After the problem is indentified, analyze the Causes before suggesting a solution]

Problem Pitfall: Lack of Statements

  • The lack of the service your organization wants to provide is not the problem.  It is the solution.
  • Instead, describe the underlying reasons the services are necessary
  • ‘Lack of’ something is often a legitimate cause of a problem, but is not descriptive.

Consider one cause for a rising number of emergency room visits in a small community:

There is a lack of affordable medical care for low-income people in this community (What does ‘lack of’ really mean?)

Versus: There are seven physicians in this community of 4,000 people, and none of them accept patients who are uninsured or on public forms of health insurance.  The nearest doctor who will accept these patients is 40 miles always.  [Always describe the What Is]

Sample Problem:
The first paragraph should provide a clear statement of the problem in a defined community.

In (your state), 45 of every 1,000 births are to teens 13-19 years of age.  In River County, 103 of every 1,000 births are to teens.

Then provide additional data or information that builds out the problem:

River County represents just 15% of the state population, but has 37% of the state’s teen pregnancies.  The county’s teen birth rate has risen by 54% since 2005, with half of district’s 9th graders report being sexually active.

River County has a high school dropout rate of 12% annually.  Forty-three percent of the dropouts are teen mothers.

The county is also characterized by high unemployment and low incomes.  The unemployment rate is twice the state average of 8.3%.  Nearly 75% of families have an income of $24,300 or less for a family of four.

Discuss the significance of the problem:

Consequences of teen births are well documented (sources would be cited).  Teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed or underemployed, and enter violent relationships.

Children born to teen parents are more likely to have low birth weight and long term health problems, more likely to drop our of school and become involved in the criminal justice system, and more likely to become teen parents themselves.

Include a discussion of causes:

In 2009, the River County Health Department conducted a comprehensive study of teen pregnancy.  The study found:

  • The younger the girl, the more likely she was to feel pressured into sexual activity, by a male at least five years older
  • For teen mothers, 78% of the fathers are adult men age 18 or older
  • Sexually active students had little understanding of the consequences of sexual activity (pregnancy, STD’s)
  • Nearly all girls who became pregnant reported being frequently under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they engaged in sexual activity
  • Teens, especially girls, did not know how to deflect pressure to engage in sexual activity

Program Outcomes

Define how the situation described in the Problem is expected to change as a result of the grant program

May also be referred to as:

  • Goals
  • Outcomes
  • Results
  • Benefits
  • Impacts
  • Accomplishments
  • Indicators