Library Blog

Writing a Funding Proposal for Your Nonprofit

Your 501 (c) 3 organization is up and running.  You have your program in place.  The board and officers have been financially supporting your program.  Some community members have been great supporters and have contributed financially where they can.  You need additional funding and you would like to approach private foundations or corporate funders for additional support.

When the library can safely reopen to the public, I would like to invite you to the in-person program, “Introduction to Finding Grants”.  In this class, we talk about what funders are looking for in nonprofits seeking grants.   Please keep an eye on our schedule of classes which will be updated when it becomes safe for us to gather.   You’ll also learn to identify potential funders and how to make the first approach.  We also spend half an hour introducing you to the Foundation Directory Online Professional.   FDO Professional is Candid’s top tier prospect research tool.   In the meantime, Candid, formerly the Foundation Center and Guidestar offers a free, online version of the program.  It’s taught be one of the very knowledgeable staff members of Candid.  I invite you to view the course.

Since access to Foundation Directory Online Professional is not available while the building is closed, Candid has made the Essential version of Candid available to you from this link at no charge and wherever you have internet access.  There is a tutorial at the link.  I advise you to spend a few minutes with the tutorial, even if you regularly use Foundation Directory Online Professional because it will look a little different to you.

Your goal is to find several strong prospective funders to approach for support for your project.  The FDO record will explain how the funder wishes to be approached and any deadlines for applying they may have established.

Often a funder will ask for a Letter of Inquiry (LOI).  A Letter of Inquiry is a shorter version of the full proposal.  Sometimes a funder will use the LOI to determine if they want to look at the full proposal.   Many times, the Letter of Inquiry will be sufficient to determine whether the funder will actually fund your project.  Shorter does not mean easier!  In fact, the knowledgeable team at Candid tell us that a well done LOI is more difficult to write than a full proposal.  For that reason, I’ve included information here to get you started.  Check out this helpful information in the article, “What should be included in a letter of inquiry?”

Your organization feels it’s time to write a proposal and submit it to those funders you found using the Foundation Directory Online.  You’ve determined that the funders have an interest in the type of work that you do.  They give in your geographic area and they offer the type of support that you need.   Be sure to only apply for grants that you’re eligible for.

You wonder, who should write the proposal?  All can contribute, but the one most familiar with the project will be the best bet to give your project a uniform voice.

While the library building is closed, there are still many accessible resources to help you with this project.   The library’s OverDrive catalog has a variety of titles found by searching “Nonprofit.” One very useful title is Nonprofit Fundraising 101.  Hoopla includes many useful ebooks which can again be found searching “Nonprofit.” Ebooks are also available for you to borrow from Candid’s ebook catalog.

You may wish to follow up on the Introduction to Finding Grants course with a virtual “Introduction to Proposal Writing.”  When the library reopens, please join us for an in-person version of this course.

If you’ve never seen a successfully written proposal or budget, and you’d like a higher level of comfort, I suggest that you look at these samples provided to us by Candid.  You do have to register for free access at grantspace.org.

The Letter of Inquiry or the full proposal are not the only thing the funder will want to see.  A very important piece is the project budget.  Sometimes funders will look at the executive summary and project budget to determine if the foundation will support you.  Here’s the link to the online course, “Introduction to Project Budgets.” Be sure to join us at the library when the course is held in-person.

Even though the “brick and mortar” library is temporarily closed, you can still accomplish a lot toward finding potential funders and approaching them.  If you would like to discuss this further, or if you would like assistance in using the Foundation Directory Online, please email me at Sfreaney@libraryvisit.org.


Sally is the Grant Center Librarian in the Information Services Department at the Main Library.  She enjoys supporting nonprofit organizations and individual scholarship seekers.  Sally can be reached at Sfreaney@libraryvisit.org.