How to Fill Out a Grant Application Form

Many individuals, organisations and businesses receive grants to help fund activities such as art or cultural projects, public-service programs, educational opportunities and business start-ups. Before you attempt to apply for a grant, identify what type of grant you are requesting and from whom you are seeking the funds. Lastly, the grant seeker will need to prepare application materials properly.

Pinpoint the type of grant you are seeking (such as arts, education/research or small business). Determine whether you are seeking a grant as an individual or as an organisation. Sometimes individuals will seek a foundation grant for a special project through a sponsoring non-profit.

Identify the granting source. An appropriate grant funding resource list or guide can be found at your public library or online. These resources are usually free, but some online grant resource listings must be purchased. A granting source may be a public or private foundation, a city/state/federal government or an individual.

Thoroughly read the grant application guidelines for the appropriate granting source. The guidelines should list all the material you will need for a complete grant application. Many applications are rejected simply because they are not complete or do not comply with the funding source guidelines.

Note: Some granting sources do not have application forms at all--requiring only a proposal, resume/narrative and/or work sample.

Always make a note of the application deadline. A deadline could be a postmark deadline, if you are mailing your application, or a submission deadline, which is the date all applications must be received/acknowledged by the funding source.

A budget is often requested for a grant project proposal. A budget sheet is usually provided in this case. It should state your total income--listing all sources of monetary/financial support that you are planning on getting, apart from the grant amount, such as matching funds. This includes "in kind donations," which are non-monetary, but valuable contributions to your project. Lastly, list your total expenditures. This is typically the grant amount you requested. Many grants have an upper limit on the total grant award for any given project. Total income, and total expenditures, should be equal.

A business plan may be requested if you are applying for a business start-up grant. This should be a professionally formatted proposal and should include market projections or research, competing businesses, public need, revenue projection, costs/capital outlay and any additional financing needs.

A research project or educational program proposal, usually no more than three pages long, should include a statement of goals (anticipated outcome), collaborators (if any), public or research need and methodology to be used.

Regarding work samples/proof of your past work: The funding source will often limit the number of work samples and also limit the total length (running time) of these for review by the judging panel. Make sure that your total running time of materials to be reviewed conforms to the guidelines exactly.

In some cases, the granting source will ask for a "narrative" of your professional career and/or a "statement of plans" in the case of a fellowship award. The application may also request a longer proposal or project description.

A copy of an Internal Revenue Service letter of non-profit status (from a sponsoring non-profit), or a 501(C) 3 number from an "umbrella" non-profit, is only needed if you are applying to a foundation that only grants to non-profits, or if you are applying through a non-profit or umbrella non-profit.

An umbrella non-profit is an organisation that permits individuals to use its non-profit status and number to receive grants, which are then "funneled" to the applicant, with the umbrella taking a small administrative fee off the top of the award.

Some granting foundations require the non-profit's "mission statement" be included in the application packet and/or certain fiscal records. These are usually an accounting of the financial status or health of the recipient non-profit. These are provided by the staff accountant or director of the organisation.

If you are applying as an individual, have an experienced friend or colleague look over your grant application. If you are seeking a grant through a non-profit, have the director review your materials. This is highly advisable for spotting errors and minor details that you may have missed.

You may wish to make/keep a copy of your application materials for future reference.

Finally, submit the material online. You will usually receive a confirmation e-mail following your submission. Otherwise, mail the material via the post office or private courier service.


When preparing your grant application materials, request from the granting source a "copy of a successful application." This can be used as a guide when filling out and preparing your application. Also, when mailing your grant application materials, request "delivery confirmation." You may, as an extra precaution, send the material as certified mail, which requires a signature from the recipient, but this is usually not necessary, and it might actually hold up timely receipt of your application because it can't be dropped off without a signature.


In most states, individuals seeking grants through non-profits are no longer considered "independent contractors" (who typically would retain some or all ownership rights to their work output under a grant). Most laws governing non-profits now require that individuals receiving grants through a non-profit be listed as employees of the non-profit, which provides some benefits to the individual (such as workers' compensation, Social Security), but which also means that any work output (artwork, software, publication, research) by the individual under a given grant becomes the property of the non-profit

Things You'll Need

  • Grant application form
  • Photocopy of driver's license or official ID
  • Complete resume, curriculum vitae or educational transcript
  • Documentation of past work on CD, DVD or a website, or professionally formatted business plan
  • One of more letters of reference/recommendation (optional)


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