Last Updated:

April 11, 2023

The Best Grant Proposal Outline Template

The Best Grant Proposal Outline Template

Wondering what makes the best grant proposal? Looking for examples of successful ones? We can get you started on the right track with the best grant proposal outline template!

This article will cover what a grant proposal template is, why it’s useful, must have sections in a nonprofit grant proposal, different types of proposals, and some tips to help you write a thorough and compelling grant proposal.

What is a Grant Proposal Template and Why is One Useful?

Anyone who has applied for grants will know that grant application questions start to look very familiar. Although you definitely want to tailor each grant proposal to the funder you are seeking support from, most funders are looking for similar information.

A grant proposal template can be a useful place to start for anyone who is new to writing grants or for anyone applying for more than one grant. Having a solid template will give you the structural elements you need for a successful proposal and also help you be sure not to forget any important pieces.

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Picture this: you find a prospective funder with an upcoming grant opportunity. Their funding priorities and eligibility requirements are all a match for your organization. You access their online grant application which only has a few questions and a place to upload your entire proposal. Where do you begin?

Don’t worry! Here we cover the must-have sections in a grant proposal.

Cover Letter

You may have heard the old saying, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” First impressions matter, which is why you should always include a cover letter with your grant proposal.

The cover letter introduces the grant reviewer to your organization and previews what you are asking for. Be sure to include the ask amount and preview how the funds will make a difference. The cover letter is typically written in a semi-formal tone, as you would write an introduction to someone you are not acquainted with.

The cover letter is typically one page in length; although if you need to go onto a second page, that’s okay. The letter should be signed by your organization’s CEO or Executive Director (wet or digital signatures are fine, unless the RFP specifies otherwise).

Here is a cover letter template as an example:

[Name, Title]

Dear [Name],
[Your organization] respectfully requests [$ ask amount] for a [short description of your project]. The main objective of [project] is to [objective] over the course of [time period]. We plan to achieve this by [methods]. We would like to see measurable progress in [period] and we'll specifically be looking at [key goals] as our key success indicators.
With your funding, we will be able to: [include specifics of how the grant will help you implement the program].
We look forward to partnering with you to achieve [information about your mission and funder’s mission]. Thank you for taking the time to review this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [phone number] if you have any questions or require additional information.‍

[CEO/Executive Director name, title]

Executive Summary

As you might have guessed, the executive summary provides a brief summary of why your organization deserves to be funded. It outlines what’s in your grant proposal so the grant reviewer can know what is coming.

The executive summary should be compelling, but not too wordy. If someone did not have time to read your entire grant proposal, they should be able to gather a bit about who you are, what you do, and why you need funding from the executive summary. Typically, the summary would be approximately one to a few pages in length.

Your executive summary should outline your grant application, including the following main areas:

  1. Project Purpose and Statement of Need
  2. Organizational Background
  3. Goals and Measurable Objectives
  4. Budget
  5. Expected Outcomes and Positive Impact

Pro tip: if you write the executive summary last, you can incorporate your best points from the proposal in your summary.

For more tips and details, check out our blog post on how to write an executive summary.

Table of Contents

Just like when you’re reading a book or a long article, the table of contents previews each section of the proposal for the reader to know what is to come. Include the headers and page numbers of each section so that your grant proposal is easy to navigate.

Be sure that your formatting is consistent in this section. For example, if you choose to use roman numerals (I, II, III, IV) for the headers, make sure to use them throughout:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Project Goals
    - Goals
    - Timeline
  3. Project Description
  4. Budget
  5. Evaluation
  6. Organization Information

Statement of Need

This is one of the most important sections of your grant proposal. The statement of need is where you explain WHY your organization does what it does and why funding is needed.

Let’s take a closer look with a short example:

[Community] is a food desert, where residents have few to no convenient options for securing affordable and healthy foods — especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Researchers estimate that 19 million people — or 6.2% of the nation’s total population — live in areas without access to affordable, fresh food. Food deserts create extra, everyday hurdles that can make it harder for kids, families, and our community to grow healthy and strong.
At [organization], we aim to grow and distribute fresh produce for our residents. Using a plot of land we have secured with fertile soil, we plan to grow a variety of nutrient-rich foods and distribute them to families at our site twice per week.

In the example above, the statement of need explains the problem (e.g. not enough fresh food in your community); how you intend to solve it (e.g. distributing produce to food-insecure families); and what you will use the funds for (e.g. planting a community garden).

You may want to include some statistics or infographics to better demonstrate the need or the problem you are solving for. Be as specific as you can about your community and the population you serve.

Project Description

Even though the word “description” makes this sound like a short section, it is actually where you get into the bulk of the details of your proposal.

The project description is where you lay out the scope of the project, including details such as:

  • your target audience
  • how you will reach them
  • what you will do to serve them
  • what makes your organization uniquely positioned
  • how you plan to implement your project
  • what the impact will be

Be sure to include as many details as you can to help the reader understand what it is you do or are setting out to do. It may be helpful to include subheaders in this section to keep your information organized and easy to read.

Goals and Objectives

Funders love to see quantifiable evidence that there will be a high social return on their investment.

In this section, focus on what you want to achieve (i.e. your measurable goals) and how you plan to achieve them (i.e. your objectives). While goals are slightly more broad and ambitious, objectives are specific and measurable.

Typically, three to five goals is a good target. Your goals should connect to your proposed grant period to make them easy to report on when the grant period is over. If you’re looking for help drafting measurable goals, you can use this resource or others to develop S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, time-bound).

Some advice: make your goals ambitious enough to impress the funder, but realistic enough that your organization can achieve them.

Here is an example that you could use as a guide, though the content would be specific to your organization and/or project:

The overarching goal of [project] is to [broad, ambitious idea]. We plan to use the following objectives to implement this goal:
- [Objective 1]
- [Objective 2]
- [Objective 3]

Methods and Strategies

This section allows you to expand on your approach for meeting your goals and objectives.

A few questions that you might consider when drafting your methods and strategies:

  • What is your plan to meet the goals within the timeframe you laid out?
  • What makes you uniquely positioned to achieve what you are setting out to do?

If there are specifics for HOW you go about doing the work that you do, include them here in the strategies section of your grant proposal.

For example...

Objective: Launch a new program for _____ that will _____ before [date].
- Establish two working groups that will meet weekly by September 1.
- Method 2
- Method 3

Evaluation Plan

Now that you have your goals, objectives, and strategies, you will want to describe how your success will be measured.

It is one thing to set a measurable goal for the coming year, but how will you know that you have reached it? The evaluation plan is where you would detail the plan for collecting data to evaluate your program.

Here are some examples of what you might include in an evaluation plan:

The community outreach team will recruit ____ new participants in Quarter 1 and ____ new participants in Quarter 2.
The spring fundraising event will have at least ___ attendees and raise $_____.
At least %_____ of clients will respond that they are satisfied with our services in the first bi-annual survey.

If you are interested in learning more about nonprofit evaluation methods, check out this post on Instrumentl’s blog.


Here’s where the financials come in.

The budget section provides information on how the grant funds, if awarded, will be spent.

To the best of your ability, itemize each of the expenses required to meet your goals, even if it’s an estimated projection. Some budget categories could include: staff salaries, benefits, marketing/advertising, program supplies, etc.

If the grant you are applying for is only a percentage of the funding you are requesting, it may be a good idea to also include other sources of funding in order to demonstrate the project is viable.

Budget formats can vary, but be sure to make it as simple and easy to read as possible.

Here is a budget template as an example:

[Organization Name]
Foundations $
Corporations $
Individuals $
Salaries $
Benefits $
Subtotal Personnel $
Direct Program Expenses
Rent/Utilities $
Supplies $
Equipment $
Marketing $
Subtotal Program Expenses $
Indirect Expenses $

Organizational Background

In this final section, you can include any additional information about your organization and what makes you well equipped to carry out this project or program.

Specifically, you could include the bios for any key personnel working on the project. If your proposal is for a new location or region, be sure to include some specifics about that and why it is important for your organization. Lastly, if there are any significant changes your organization is going through currently, you’ll want to explain or highlight them here.

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Different Types of Grant Proposal Templates‍

Because there are many different types of funding, there are also many different types of proposals. Depending on the types of grants you are applying for, some proposals may contain some sections and not others.

Below we have included some explanations and example templates for the different types of proposals:

Generic Grant Proposal Template

A generic grant proposal template often includes the sections we covered above, but could be more streamlined. Most templates, such as this one, include a statement of need, project description, goals and objectives, and budget.

Nonprofit Grant Proposal Template

Similar to the generic grant proposal template, but this one is specifically used for nonprofits seeking funding. Nonprofit guides offers a nonprofit grant proposal template and other grant writing resources.

Research Grant Proposal Template

A research grant proposal is used to request funding for a specific research project. The grant proposal template would differ in that it would include the specific research questions your study would address and would also include a summary of previous research on your area of study. Here is one example of a research grant proposal template.

Technology Grant Proposal Template

While generic grant proposals request funds for projects and programs, a technology grant is specifically requesting funding for access to technology or support to develop a technology. As you can see from this example of a technology grant proposal template, most sections will be very similar. The descriptions of what you are using the funds for, including the budget section, should only be for technology.

Grant Proposal Budget Template

A grant proposal budget template can be used to help format the budget section of your grant proposal. Most budget templates will give you a structure for categorizing your expenses. Some budget templates also include a section for a narrative, where you would justify your expenses in a brief paragraph.

Grant Budget Revision Template

A grant budget revision template is used in the event that you need to request a change to your original grant budget. Here it could be even more important to include the justification for why you are requesting revisions. Here you’ll find instructions for making a budget revision request.

Nonprofit Cash Flow Projection Template

A nonprofit cash flow projection can be used as a tool to provide a funder insights into the cash going in and cash going out of your organization each month. The purpose is to demonstrate to the funder when your organization would have adequate cash to cover expenses during the year and when you may have a need. You can download a template here from Nonprofit Finance Fund.

Grant Application Template

Grant application templates can be used interchangeably with grant proposal templates. Occasionally, a grant application form is shorter and simpler than a full proposal. A grant application template helps to develop a profile of who your organization is, what it is you do, and what you plan to achieve.

Grant RFP Template

A grant RFP, which stands for “Request For Proposals” is the document that provides all of the instructions and details that an applicant will need to know to submit a proposal. It is important to pay attention to the details for each grant RFP; here is an example of a grant RFP template to familiarize yourself.

Grant Proposal Frequently Asked Questions:

We hope that the information covering must-have sections in your grant proposal and the explanations of different types of grant proposals was helpful. If you are still left with questions, don’t worry! We have responded to a few frequently asked questions below.

How do you format a grant proposal?

The short answer here is: it depends.

Sometimes funders will include a template format that they would like followed. Sometimes funders will include specific instructions about formatting (e.g. Times New Roman 12pt font, double-spaced). And sometimes funders will leave the formatting up to you entirely.

The important thing is to pay attention to the details. If there are formatting instructions available, follow them. If not, then make sure your formatting is consistent and as easy to read as possible. For example, sans serif fonts at 11pt or higher are often easiest to read. Include paragraph and page breaks where appropriate and incorporate headers and subheaders to help the reader follow along.

How do you write a one page grant proposal?

Every once in a while, a funder will request that you keep your grant proposal to one page.

Seems impossible? It’s not. Although it can be challenging to share everything about your organization in less than one page, it is possible to write a compelling grant proposal using much fewer words.

The key is to be very selective. Introduce your organization, but only include the things that are most relevant to this funding opportunity. Describe the need for your project in one paragraph or less, making sure to focus on the most compelling part of the problem. Write a description that summarizes your project with enough detail that the reader understands what it is you want to do.

Consider this more of an elevator pitch than a one-hour meeting.

For shorter grant proposals, we suggest leaving the reader wanting to know more! For example, provide a brief description of the program and invite the reader to schedule a tour to learn more. Or, if there is relevant content online, you can hyperlink to a video, a story, or an article about your project.

What is the most important part of a grant proposal?

To know what the most important part of a grant proposal is, you have to know what is most important to the funder.

There are many foundations out there offering grant funding, but they are all different in what they are offering funding for and why those areas are important to them. By investing time in a bit of research in advance, you can learn about the funder and know what to highlight the most in your grant proposal.

Here is an example of how much detail Instrumentl will include in a Foundation Overview:

If you research a funder and learn that the most important thing to them is impacting the youth in the community where they are located, then the most important part of your grant proposal will be addressing how many youth you serve, where they are located, and how you impact them. Make sense?

Here’s another example. Let’s say you talk with a program officer and learn that this year their foundation is focusing on supporting women leaders. In your proposal, it would be most important to include a detailed biography of any women leading your organization and the work they do.

Wrap Up: How to Move Forward with this Grant Proposal Template

Use this grant proposal template as a starting point to help you draft your next grant proposal. We hope that this outline and tips for how to format your grant proposal will help you to include all of the key components of a successful proposal.

You can find even more grant writing tips & resources on Instrumentl’s website, or learn more about how to work with our team to find the best grant opportunities for you.

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