Research and Collections

Writing a Grant Proposal

Covering Letter

  • Mentions any contact the organization may have had with the foundation before applying and draws attention to the proposal’s key ideas
  • Presents an overview of the proposal in a more personal tone


  • Provides a brief overview of the entire project and cost
  • Gives a one-sentence overview of the project and how much money is being requested in the proposal
  • Next come key ideas (one or two sentences each) from each section of the proposal
  • The section closes with the prognosis for future program funding.
  • Gear the summary and covering letter to the priorities of the foundation.

Introduction or Background

  • What are the organization’s strengths and qualifications?
  • What is the history of the organization?
  • What is the organization’s philosophical approach to its field and its major accomplishments?
  • What are the organization’s current programs?
  • Who are the constituents served by these programs?
  • What are the organization’s other credentials?

Problem Statement or Needs Assessment

  • What will the proposed project try to improve or eradicate?

Goals, Objectives, and Results

  • What is the vision for success in both broad and pragmatic terms?


  • What is the project concept and what action needs to be taken?


  • How will the organization assess goals, objectives and results?


  • What are the project costs and sources of income?

Future and additional funding

  • Does the fund or grant cover all costs?
  • How will additional funds be raised if required?
  • How will costs be covered in the future?


  • Remind the reader of the point of the proposal and include a compelling finale to serve as the last thing the reader will remember about your proposal.


  • Proof of Non-profit status required
  • List of Board of Directors (and any advisory boards)
  • Budget from current year
  • Financial statements from previous years

Sources of Funding


  • Contributions made to an organization by a foundation, corporation, or government agency are called project grants, program grants, or general operating grants.


  • Payments made in exchange for services. A contract is more clearly and specifically defined by the agency that awards it.

Corporate Contributions:

  • Some corporations create their own foundations, award contributions directly, and give in-kind gifts, contributions of goods and services, rather than or in addition to cash contributions.

Individual Contributions:Common types are:

  • Annual gifts
  • Major gifts
  • Memberships
  • Planned gift-giving/bequests
  • Special events
  • Endowments


Typical questions you will want to consider:

  • Geography: Does the foundation award grants in your area?
  • Type of Support: Does the foundation award the kind of grant you want?
  • Subject: Does this foundation award grants for the kind of project you are proposing or for the type of organization that you are?
  • What is the need?
  • Where is the source?
  • Check history. Has it been tried before?
  • Develop strategic alliances and partnerships.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Look for opportunities.
  • You must be viewed as an asset.
  • Show up with good news.
  • Who are you serving?


Grant-seekers should:

  • State their plan and get to the point.
  • Use the same vocabulary.
  • Make sure to use buzz-words at least once or twice if you can.
  • Ensure the application states how it meets all criteria.
  • Plan for success to succeed.
  • Have a policy in place so that you will know what you are prepared to give before you receive sponsorship.

Grant Application:

  • Cover scope of work to be done.
  • Keep it crisp, neat (bound), concise. Stick to the point and explain what you are planning to do with the money.
  • Must look professional
  • Show accountability
  • Financial records
  • Final product
  • Always ask for more, since contingencies always arise.
  • You must provide what you have promised. Include administrative costs.
  • The application should reflect your mission statement.

Tips for Funding Proposals

Have a fundraising plan:

  • Give a brief overview of sources and contributions from previous years.
  • List likely sources for current year
  • List unlikely sources for current year

Outline potential earned revenue.

Identify goals of various types of contributions.


  • Government grants or contracts
  • Foundation grants
  • Corporate contributions
  • Individual contributions


  • Who will work on fundraising?
  • How many sources of funding do you need?
  • Estimate the amount of time it will take to raise funds.

Create a cash-flow plan that estimates when income will be received and when major expenses will need to be met.

Once established, fundraising is needed to generate additional revenue to supplement core funding and earned income.

People and your relationship with them, are the keys to long-term success in fundraising.

Fundraising should be the responsibility of the Board, since the museum curator should not have to “go begging” for his own salary.

Common Grants

  • Capital: property and building purchases or renovations
  • Endowments: money the organization needs to invest in order to secure a stable source of operating funds
  • General Operating grant: for day-to-day operations
  • Program-related Investment: a loan paid from the foundation’s endowment at a reasonable rate of interest
  • Project Grant: short-term support for specific activities
  • Seed Funding: needed to start a new activity or organization
  • Technical Assistance: money for professional advice from experts

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