YSA Offers Tips on Writing a Great Grant Application

April 27, 2007

The relationship between grant-giving organizations and potential grantees is like a courtship. Both sides are looking for the perfect match. Organizations fund projects that help them achieve their goals (such as supporting the use of classroom technology or promoting the value of materials science), while grant-seekers search for funds to support their projects.

We asked Julie Mancuso, a grant manager at Youth Service America (YSA), what she looks for in potential grantees. Julie is responsible for 9 programs and $270,000 a year in donations. She develops grant applications, evaluates grantees, administers grants, and takes part in the selection process. Joyce Hembree is a kindergarten teacher who received a YSA Grant that she found on Grant Wrangler.

“Some of the elements that made [Hembree’s] application strong were the collaboration between at-risk 4th graders and kindergartners,” Julie commented. “Part of Youth Service America’s mission is to see ALL youth engaged in their communities. We support collaborative projects where youth from various backgrounds and ages are volunteering together.”

Unlike a courtship, however, which has no set of parameters, a granting relationship requires applicants to read and follow instructions carefully. Julie describes a strong application as one that “is thorough and comprehensive, where it’s clear the applicant used our application guidelines and resources.” In the case of Hembree’s application: “It was evident by her responses that she had read and utilized the provided application guidelines.”

In any blossoming relationship, smitten parties must keep the other person interested. A grant proposal should not assume that judges or reviewers will know about their programs or communities. “It’s better to give details that may not be necessary,” Julie advises, “rather than leaving out details that are.” A grant-giving organization will be more drawn to an application that allows reviewers to feel the applicant’s commitment to the endeavor. “I would argue,” Julie remarked, “that many times, the best ideas are not the funded ones, simply because the applicant is not able to convey that idea comprehensively on paper.”

Finally, most people wouldn’t go on a first date without checking the mirror first. Before submitting a grant application ask another person to review your work and be your mirror. A second pair of eyes helps eliminate grammatical mistakes and improve clarity. With a copy of the judging criteria, an impartial reader can help potential grantees strengthen their applications.

Julie’s final words of wisdom demonstrate the power of persistence and determination: “If you didn’t get the grant the first time, don’t let that discourage you. See if you can get any feedback from the evaluators and continue to strengthen your skills.”

We wish all grant-seekers the best of luck.


About Grant Wrangler

Grant Wrangler® is a free grants listing service offered by Nimble Press™. We make it easier for teachers, librarians, and parents to find funding, including grants and awards for arts, history, mathematics, science, technology, and more. We also help grant-giving organizations more effectively promote their grants and awards to teachers and schools across America. To learn more about our services, go to Nimble Net™.