Grant Writing Guide for 2016-2017

Federal, State, local, private and foundation grants can mean fostering a new project, providing more training, acquiring better equipment, or developing improved processes.  From traffic safety or hazard mitigation, to public service programs and model programs, there are grants available that might fund your needs. 

Grant money is in the billions now, but you need to research the sources to succeed in the tough competition for that funding. Research in such steps as eligibility, where to apply, how to apply, when to apply, what to request, and how to administer the funds, is crucial in the grant process.   

Federal grant assistance is best sought through It has taken a few years to get this website as complete as it has now become, but the effort has been worthwhile for those seeking resources from among the wide variety of Federal grants listed on the website. Register on the website and start researching the Federal grant opportunities, categories, agencies, and eligibilities. 

You can also learn about Federal programs available to State, local and Federally recognized tribal governments by logging on to the Catalog for Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Over 2,300 Federal assistance programs are described. If you seek State, local, corporate, private, or foundation resources for grant money, use Internet search engines or the links that can be found on various grantor websites. 


The Beginning

Just because there is money available doesn’t mean you’ll receive it. Competition can be fierce for some grant money. Be sure you’re using your best efforts in your grant research ‘homework’ and in your grant applications. No matter the source, grantors expect professionalism and care in grant applications. 

Understand and use the grantor’s requirements each step of the way for stating the points relevant to the application, but also taking care with the details about form, type font, presentation, grammatical correctness, and background and supplemental information.    

Be certain your project matches what the grantor will fund. Some grantors are very specific in the types of projects in which they have an interest, so if you don’t match their requirements, you won’t receive funding. Too, grantors tend to favor projects that are new rather than a repeat of something already done in your region by another agency or organization. You may have to be specific in pointing out the differences or improvements in your specific project.                         

Grantors sometimes prefer a project that uses collaboration with other agencies or groups, thus widening the scope of the effect of the project. If such is the case, work with local or regional legislators, agencies, organizations or community leaders to create a project that uses individuals or groups to enhance support, positive effects, affiliation, shared services or resources, and other cooperation. 

When necessary, phone and/or e-mail the grantor’s office, but be sure to keep a log of the contact names and information given about suggestions, clarifications, or advice. If applicable, you may even want to pay a personal visit to the grantor’s office for face-to-face contact.

Most likely, the first draft of your proposal and application will need revisions as you consider or re-consider pertinence, correctness and context. When you think you have a ‘final’ version, let someone unfamiliar with the project proposal read the application for its clarity and attention to detail and whether the text gives full explanations.   

Online grants applications and management systems require a Dun & Bradstreet ‘Duns number’ ( This unique, nine-digit number is an identifier to establish a credit file so your potential financing partners can predict the reliability and financial stability of your organization. The number is provided at no charge for those required to register with the Federal government for grants or contracts. 

You will also need an Employer Identification Number ( for your agency.  The process is relatively simple at the website but must be completed within one session (no save and return later capability). After all validations are completed, the Employer Identification Number will be given immediately. 


Sections of Your Application

Write a cogent SUMMARY of the project, and place it where the grantor specifies (usually at the beginning). Two or three paragraphs should be enough to state your outline and to motivate the reviewer to read further. 

The application’s INTRODUCTION should include information about your agency, staff, persons to be involved in the project, goals, previous grants and their successes, and a clear explanation of why the project meshes with the grantor’s preferred projects. 

The PROBLEM STATEMENT or NEEDS ASSESSMENT will explain the nature of your project’s focus, why it is necessary, who will benefit, what problem or need will be solved, how the project will continue after the grant money is used, and how resources will be used to accomplish the project.                                   

The proposal’s OBJECTIVES will detail the broad goals and more specific desired outcomes of the project, and the methods to be used to accomplish the project. Any facts, statistics, or numbers you describe must be concise and verifiable. 

The project’s METHOD or PROGRAM DESIGN gives the details about how the project will begin and run through its various stages. Resources, personnel, administration, interrelation, action, and in-depth information are the keys to explaining the workings of the project and its progress.                              

The grantor will want to know how EVALUATION will take place. Of course, that ties to the grantor’s knowing the money will be used wisely, but it also addresses the necessity and ultimate effectiveness of the project. State how you will measure the results of the project, who will judge the successes and failures, the time and resources to be used for evaluation, and what will be done with the results, e.g. more time needed, changes in methods, or modification of objectives. 

For assistance in learning more about evaluation, use The Kellogg Foundation’s handbook at Note: The Kellogg Foundation is a grantor for projects that usually involve enhancing conditions for a community’s children.

Besides these key components, the grantor expects information about the project’s BUDGET. Describe existing resources and personnel, and the expenses of the project in all its stages—start-up, implementation, continuation, and phase down or transition to other funds after exhausting the grant money. This section will contain such information as salaries, insurance, transportation, supplies, utilities, communications, training, equipment purchases, rental space/equipment, indirect costs, and matching funds.

Use Internet search engines for such key words as ‘government grants,’ ‘equipment grants,’ ‘grants clearinghouses,’ ‘private grants,’ etc. Examine the grantors’ priorities to see what was funded in the past, and what is now of particular interest to the grantor.  Watch for geographic restrictions such as projects for a regional or wide-area project instead of a specific city or community. 

Read the ‘frequently asked questions’ for answers to problems not addressed on the website. Learn if the grantor offers an informational seminar or online tutoring and consider using such resources. Remember that even though some grantors have broad goals, they will still have specific requirements for proposals and projects.    

While a government grant may suffice for your needs, be sure to consider the private, corporate, and non-profit sectors’ grantors. And be aware that many communities’ service clubs and similar organizations have mini-grants that can assist with particular projects. Such lesser-known sources may not only have the funds you need, but also much less competition for that money.

Another helpful website is It is the leading source of information about philanthropy, maintaining a database on both U.S. and global grants. It also offers research, education, and training programs to advance knowledge about philanthropy. It operates library-learning centers, a content-rich website with free search tools, tutorials and other information updated daily, the Philanthropy News Digest daily news service, webinars, and in-class and online self-paced courses and tutorials on grants, proposal writing, grantors, and philanthropy-related topics.

Other private, corporate and clearinghouse grant websites may offer e-mail newsletters and updates about new or expanded grant sources, grant deadline updates and changes, and other timely information.

At, you can learn what grantors fund, the tax returns for non-profit organizations, patterns in grants, and the types of recipients who have been funded.  GuideStar is the world’s largest information source about non-profit organizations.

The Grantsmanship Center at lists State grant sources, with links to various websites. The Center’s courses cover planning projects, researching grant funding, the writing of proposals, managing grants, and sources of funds.      

Keep a computer document or hand-written notebook that contains your personal notes about grant sources, websites, deadlines, grantors’ limits and trends, requirements within the grant applications, and possible collaborations with other agencies or organizations.  Such a log is helpful not only for your present work, but for future grants.

You must have a clear and concise idea about your project, why it will be of benefit, how much money will be needed, and which grantors are likely to look on it with favor. When contacting a grantor, whether it is an inquiry or your formal application, always use correct grammar, spelling, and syntax because you will be judged on your professionalism and care. State your key points and be logical and thorough. 

When an application requires naming specific personnel, do that by job title, not personal names. If equipment is to be purchased, avoid brand names or models unless the grantor requires that. When necessary, supplement your information with facts or statistics such as those you can find at The U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘American Fact Finder’ (demographic information about a particular zip code area’s people and communities), or crime statistics from State or Federal crime data websites. 

If your project will intersect with community service or jobs in your region, use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website at When practical, add survey results, and/or interviews or anecdotes from other sources that further show the importance of your project in meeting a need or solving a problem. 


Exploring Grant Sources

Corporate grant processes are usually quicker than government grant processes. Private foundation and non-profit organization grants might be very specific about what they fund, and may be variable in amounts of money granted, but they are generally good grant sources if your project matches the group’s goals. 

Small, so-called ‘mini-grants’ from either corporate or non-profit sources are usually quick in the application process, but may fund only a simple or basic project. Still, they can be important to your future grants from that source or a similar one.    

For a complete listing of Grant Research Internet Resources, and a detailed Glossary of Terms, go to the continuation of this article on the Hendon Media Group website,


Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., writes in the fields of law enforcement and security.




This is your best starting point for nearly all Federal grants, and tips for grant research.  You will find information regarding eligibility, links, and grant management guidelines, and you can register for the newsletter about new grant opportunities.

FoundationSearch has online information about more than 120,000 foundations. These foundations give billions of grant dollars.  Register with FoundationSearch for research tools that list grants by type, value, year recipient, donor trends, and historical trends.  Information access is unlimited, and member subscriptions run one to five years (user’s choice), but those who subscribe for more than three years receive access to “BIG Online,” which gives guides relating to grants, provides examples of successful grant applications, and gives research tools and helps including webinars and online education.    

The service has grant information by such criteria as project, State, grantor, type of funding, categories/word searches, assets of the grantor, activities of the grantor, or limits on projects or money available. 


After logging on, type “grants” in the search box to view grant topics and links with the Department of Homeland Security in preparedness and response through planning, equipment acquisition, training, practice exercises, management and administration. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency focuses on disaster-specific situations, but its grants also pertain to environmental and historical preservation, hazard-related projects, non-disaster programs, and repetitive flood claims programs.

The Transportation Security Administration emphasizes grants for safety and security in intercity buses, transit systems, and ferry services.  Enter the website, click the “search” tab and type “grants” in the box.

Updated frequently, this website describes Federal grant programs for State and local governments, recognized tribal governments, domestic public and quasi-public groups, and private profit and non-profit groups and individuals.  A User’s Guide, Search for Assistance Programs, and links to,, and Federal Asset Sales augment the website’s information.  You can also find assistance in how to apply, how to write grant proposals, the “top 10 percent program” list, new programs, an index, formula grants, project grants, direct payments for specified use, direct payments with unrestricted use, direct loans, insurance, sale/exchange/donation of property and goods, use of property, facilities and equipment, and training programs.

Most grants here deal with pipeline and hazardous materials safety projects needed by State, territorial, tribal or local HAZMAT emergency planning and training.  The website also has links to conferences, training seminars and meetings offered by the US Department of Transportation.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program grants target rural area facilities, equipment, housing, utilities, cooperative grants, community facilities loans and grants, telecommunications, and community development.  

The Office of Justice Programs in the US Department of Justice website offers a funding resource center with information about grants for training, crime prevention and emergency management.  There are also links to past funded projects, and tips for preparing a successful project and application.

The US Government Printing Office disseminates information from the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, and has links to Federal resources for information about goals and purposes of Federal agencies.

This website features an easy-to-use, alphabetical list of government benefits, grants and financial aid.  It is designed especially for citizen use, but it may help you explore grant opportunities for projects.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website grants page lists available grants, funding announcements, and explanations of HUD’s grant system.

Use The Health Resources and Services Administration agency website’s “Search” box and type in “grants” to link to grant policy, current and archived grant opportunities, and a registration form for e-mail notices about new grants.

This website especially for police agencies has an extensive grant database of Federal, State, local and corporate grants.  It also hosts “Grants eNews,” a bulletin service. 

The Justice Technology Information Network focuses on technology, and information about grant money for equipment, testing, evaluation, and technology improvements.

The Library of Congress website is a good source for information that may be needed for a grant application.  Not restricted to purely Federal information, the website offers many research resources.

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council is a federation of organizations for public safety and interoperability of communications.  It is an excellent source of information on broadband, software defined radio, re-banding, and technical education.


                        This resource is for Federal and other government grants and loans, and allows research on grants by name, subject, applicant type, or agency.  There are also tips for writing successful grant applications.               


If you will be partnering with a non-profit group for your project, check this website for locating donated and discounted technology products.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has grant strategies that address societal challenges.   Generally, grantees must have a topical focus, a geographic area covered by the grant-making strategy, and some type of funding for general operating support, research or program support to assist the grant-making strategy.  Past grants related to law enforcement have included youth violence prevention programs, digital media and learning, juvenile justice, and projects in regional migration corridors.  Since 1978, this foundation has given $5.5 billion via 22,000 grants and program-related investments. 

The Public Safety Foundation of America has grants for public safety planning, equipment procurement, and training.

This University of California at Los Angeles website maintains an excellent list of foundations and organizations, most of which provide project grants.

This website provides a list of private grantors, and information about grant writing courses and seminars.

This website contains information about grant research and applications.

Funded by Congress, the National White Collar Crime Center focuses on high-tech crimes and their prevention, investigation and prosecution.  It also offers seminars and programs, some of which are grants related.

The Kresge Foundation offers grants for community projects.

This private company offers seminars for both novice and experienced grant writers and grant managers.  The website also describes how to host a grant writing or a grant management seminar.

This organization supports the health and welfare of police horses and may be able to provide information about funds available for police horse units. 



GLOSSARY OF TERMS                                                        

501 (c) (3).  The Internal Revenue Service code section dealing with “exempt” organizations (a public charity, private foundation or other non-profit organization benefited by exemption from Federal taxation).  Such organizations establish a cause for which they raise money, incorporate as a non-profit group, and have tax-exempt status.  Some give money to projects promoting particular causes.  Donors to such a non-profit organization might have a tax write-off.  Government agencies are not 501 (c) (3) organizations, but they can form an affiliated organization that earns tax-exempt status, which could possibly seek and obtain private foundation grants.  Donors will not get a tax write-off if they give to a government agency (with the exception of a few rare units of government whose purpose is exclusively for the public good).  


RFP, SGA, NOFA.  Respectively, these initials stand for Requests For Proposals, Solicitation for Grant Application, and Notice Of Funding Availability. They each describe who can apply for what.  The grantor sets who is eligible to apply, how the money can be used, deadlines, and other details. The specific mandates in the RFP, SGA, or NOFA must be carefully followed. (Some mandates govern the style and size of print font or ink color.) A grant application not complying with the necessary mandates is rejected, and the opportunity for the grant is lost.  Those seeking grants must read requirements with attention to detail. Grantors use requirements as a means of making all the applications similar, so that no one applicant has an advantage by making his/her application look better than the others. Requirements also test whether the applicant is careful about following directions. An inaccurate application reveals the applicant’s inability to follow directions, and grantors will not trust an applicant who cannot follow directions.  Because the grant application is the preliminary indication of cooperation and responsibility, first impressions do count. 


ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.  The direct and indirect costs of managing the grant project, which usually have a cap at a certain percentage of the grant.


ALLOWABLE COSTS.  The expenditures permitted by law or other authority.


AMENDMENT.  A modification that occurs when a grant application is changed or revised.


APPLICATION.  The formal request for grant money. These days, most grant applications are done online, using forms provided by the grantor. An application must follow all the requirements of the grantor and be in the proper online or paper format applicable. 


BLOCK GRANT.  The formula funding not allocated to a specific category. Most of these grants go to State or local governments.


CATALOG OF FEDERAL DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE (CFDA).  This publication and database lists all Federal grants and information about guidelines, application and other grant-related matters. 


CHALLENGE GRANT.   A grant that requires that the grantee raise additional funds for the project.  The grantee does not receive money until the challenge is met. There may be additional parameters or limitations such as geographic area preferences or deadlines set by the grantor. Meeting a challenge grant can be a prelude to future grants because the applicant has demonstrated the ability to raise money.


COMMUNITY FOUNDATION.  A foundation that assists a specific geographic area because it receives money primarily from local or regional donors, and puts that money into a fund for long-term, charitable management of the money, under the directions of the donors, for local or regional projects. While community foundation grants do not usually yield a great deal of money, they can be excellent sources of smaller amounts of money, and will often “renew” in subsequent years if the grantee proves reliable and trustworthy. 


GRANT CONSULTING.  Working with grants may motivate you into becoming a grants consultant.  Beware, though, of those who want to pay you only if the grant is received. That is unethical and unfair for the amount of work you must put into writing a grant application.  Instead, charge a base rate and a success bonus if the grant is awarded. 


CORPORATE FOUNDATIONS AND GIVING PROGRAMS.  Some corporations put a percentage of their profits into a charitable fund from which money may be spent within a specific geographic area in which the corporation has a major presence. This gives the corporation a “good citizen” status in the community’s eyes. These grants often have special requirements or “strings attached” such as advertising space or the corporate name on the vehicles of the grantee as a publicity payback for receiving a grant from the company.


DISCRETIONARY FUNDS.  Federal grant money can sometimes move from Federal to State, or Federal to local. Most of the Federal to State to local channeling is done through pass-through grants in which a State sub-awards the grant money through competitive RFPs. States usually have notification lists so grantees know what grants are available and when. Formula grants are based on a national assessment of what a State needs in relation to its number of residents. Some funds are awarded at the discretion of a particular Federal or State agency, or there may be private discretionary funds in which grants are distributed at the discretion of an organization’s trustees or a full board of directors. 


FUNDING CYCLE.  Grantors set defined annual, short or long cycles for the steps in a grant, including application review, decision-making and notification. RFP deadlines must be met for each of the steps in application, review, award and release of funds.


IN-KIND CONTRIBUTION.  A contribution of equipment, supplies, staff time, office space or other resources. (When tracking the work of volunteers in the agency, and in need of a dollar value for that in-kind contribution, use to learn the value of the volunteer’s work.)


LETTER OF INTENT, LETTER OF INQUIRY, PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL.  When appropriate, a brief letter of intent or inquiry to the grantor can indicate interest in later submitting a full proposal. This approach focuses on where the grantee is today and where it wants to be in the future, stating its intent to the grantor in a letter of inquiry or intent to show the grant maker how its help will move the grantee to the next goal. 


MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING.  An agreement about the roles and timelines of all the project’s partner-participants.


ONGOING SUPPORT, GENERAL SUPPORT.  Funding that covers such things as day-to-day expenses, salaries, utilities, office supplies, rent/mortgage payments, insurance, or accounting costs. Although not a very common type of grant, it does exist.  The grantor looks at the overall impact and wants to evaluate how a proposed project will serve the greater good.


SET-ASIDE.  A fund reserved by the grantor for a specific purpose.


UNALLOWABLE COST.  This is a cost not allowed because it conflicts with the grant’s cost principles or other conditions. 

Published in Law and Order, Oct 2016

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