How to Write a Fundraising Proposal: Template for Nonprofits

What is a Fundraising Proposal?  An application or proposal submitted to a foundation that provides nonprofit organizations with the resources necessary to fund programs for positive change.

Fundraising Tips: Before Getting Started

Understand the field of fundraising and how others have achieved their success. Most fundraising resources comes from individual sources, and the relationships built between an organization and these individuals.

“The sharing of resources is the best way to get something done.” — The Foundation Center’s Guide to Writing Proposals by Sarah Collins

It is always important to remember those more personal connections are important to give energy to and to maintain– because over time they may be or become your most enthusiastic supporters. Approach interested individuals with an attitude of service and cooperation, openness trust, and giving, and you will be more able to attract a wide range of supporters.

Try to develop this relationship by understanding their positions, concerns, and passions for this cause. Approach your fundraising proposal with understanding and deep care. This will shine through the writing and enable you to connect directly with supporters. This unity is what will have the power to create positive change.

Before you begin to write the proposal, set up a time to collaborate with the members of your team, get creative, and research who else in your field has already accomplished and succeeded in getting the support they needed and why. Take the time to talk to them, network, build relationships and create partnerships that will help your organization’s reputation long term.

How to Format a Fundraising Proposal:

Each fundraising proposal’s format depends most specifically on the requirements of the foundation, so it is important to follow their directions exactly. However, the following are tips on writing for the most common proposal sections:

Summary: Brief information about the request, the need, the program response to the need, and your organization’s history and credibility.

  • Answer why you? Why your organization? Be creative and point to new and innovative ideas.
  • Define your “niche” in the nonprofit world by getting to know what sets you apart from others in your field.
  • What is your philosophy of social change? Or the core ideal from which positive changes will be made.

The Narrative: Your passion, clarity, and leadership should shine through your proposal in a way that is readable and informative to the reader.

By sharing your story in this way they will enjoy reading the proposal and understand exactly why financial support is needed and should be given. Do this so that they recognize your cause and see too that it is important to fund. Touch their hearts AND minds.

Show your ability to achieve your mission. This will help you as well by refining your organization and efforts to do so. Make your points clearly and simply.

In addition, the use of headers and sub-headers effectively and according to the proposal’s instructions is a great way to organize thoughts and communicate clearly to the reader. Most successful proposals make use of headers and facilitate a flow of consciousness that attracts the reader’s attention. You may also use photos to help support your points.

Needs Assessment: Why is your program needed? Think locally and nationally (even globally).

  • Support with facts and well-cited statistics.
  • Bring in news articles or videos that you can add to support your main points.
  • Relate these needs to your program objectives, description, and evaluation and assessment.

Objectives: What you intend to accomplish in a specific, measurable and clear way.

Objectives will most likely be found in your organization’s mission statement and by looking at your program activities and outcomes.

Program Description: What your program does and why.

It is important to have strong program “logic” that is clearly communicated. This shows that you have clarity about your organization’s programs and capabilities.Be prepared to have a thorough presentation of your plans for future programs that can easily be sent or shown to prospective donors.

  • Identified needs: what to do, for whom and by whom, and how/when this will happen.
  • The most exciting project activities that you can highlight simply and elegantly. Think of expansive activities that you can incorporate to show the sincerity of your goals for positive change.
  • Accomplishments over the past year to establish credibility and sustainability of program activities over time (lead with the biggest). Discuss the people who benefited from these, the individual stores, testimonials, news articles, or examples that illustrate effectiveness on a personal level.

Evaluation & Assessment: How you know you will accomplish your goals and measure progress and success over time. Relate these back to your objectives.

Measure a set of outcomes that will be used to convince potential donors that programs are effective and evidence-based. These should be founded in reliable research in the area of science related to your organization’s cause. Some variables for measurement are more reliable and useful than others, so be prepared to show why you chose to use the outcomes you did.

Budget: A realistic portrayal of cost.This is another opportunity to share your story in number format. Budgets are often the most important component and yet are often overlooked by organizations.

  • Ask a team member with this strength to clearly organize and calculate the financial components of a program.
  • Two years is usually better than one year only. It shows thoughtfulness and preparedness.
  • You may include staff, office expenses, marketing and promotions, events, and program development. (Personnel versus non-personnel.)
  • Show the remaining income needs based on current or expected assets.
  • Focus on the program activities if possible (develop them furthest) as most people prefer to think of these aspects of financial support rather than administrative costs.
  • Not too many or too few details when it comes to services and supplies- find a balance.

Choose the Correct Type of Fundraising Proposal:

  • Single Year vs. Multi-Year
  • Endowments- long term sustainability support
  • Building / Renovation
  • General Operation Support- administrative functioning and staff
  • Letter of Inquiry- submitted prior to a funding proposal

Additional Ideas for Writing Fundraising Proposals:

Other possible topics include agency and staff qualifications, network and collaboration, recent accomplishments, testimonials and articles, and sustainability.

You can also try to answer the following questions:

  • How did the program originate?
  • What will happen to the participants after the program?
  • Which staff will allocate?
  • How does the board make decisions long term?

Be Prepared for Success and Think Next Steps:

If a funder is interested in learning more– you will want to have materials at hand that they can use to investigate more deeply about any of the topics above. Presentations, press kits, business cards, and additional letters or fundraising cards that could be sent out easily for them to share with other potential funders.

You will also want to have handy a copy of your determination letter from the IRS and the California (or your state) Franchise Tax Board.

 “Make your work known and then do not worry about the results.”  –Sarah Collins

In other words, what matters most is that you loose yourself in the goodness of your cause. In this way, the positive energy willing to support that cause will find you and help you to achieve success.

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