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An insider's guide to funding afterschool: The basics of proposal writing

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An insider's guide to funding afterschool: The basics of proposal writing

After you have identified, qualified and cultivated your prospect (see September’s fundraising blog, IQCSS), it is time to make the solicitation by submitting a proposal. The foundation will either have proposal guidelines available on their website or, you’ll be invited to submit a standard proposal.

A standard proposal should include the following:

Proposal summary

A paragraph on the issue at hand. Your first sentence should pique the interest of the funder, “Approximately 75 percent of students from the XYZ district are left alone between 9 a..m. and 3 p.m., June through September, and often times miss a meal because of a lack of summer afterschool programming.” The opening paragraph should alert the reader about the existing situation. The second paragraph is a summary of how your afterschool program’s activities can mitigate or erase the problem and how much it will cost. Ask for a specific dollar amount over a specific time frame “The ABC Afterschool Program respectfully requests a $XX,XXX grant to provide summer programming, including lunches, to 100 students from the XYZ School District.”

Organization Background

Include your mission and vision statements. In addition, describe the history of the organization and any current information that gives the reader a good idea of its particulars including population served (e.g. elementary, middle, or high), student demographics, etc. End with a short synopsis of your programs.

Needs Statement

What is the issue that you wish to address and why is it important: who will benefit; the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced meals; the percentage (if any) of the community living at or below the poverty line or where English is a second language, etc.

Project Description

Provide a description of what your project aims to do. How will your project address the needs and problems identified above?

Detail the project objectives and the activities needed to carry out the project. Include details about methodology and your expected outcomes. Be as detailed as possible. Your goals should be in the SMART Framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused and Time Bound.

Explain how you will disseminate your results. For example, at conferences, in the final report, press release to local media, on multiple social media channels, and on your afterschool website, etc.

Budget

Foundations typically require an organizational budget and a project budget. In a project budget, key categories should include: Personnel Costs (salaries, fringe benefits); Project Expenses (snacks, materials, communications, travel, and phone/printing); indirect costs (overhead, rent, audit, etc.)  Ensure that the project budget matches what is stated in the proposal.  In addition to a project budget, a budget narrative is also recommended to provide a brief explanation of project budget items.

When drafting the proposal, think of the how you would feel if you had to read 20+ solicitations. Your eyes may get tired of reading page after page of text in Times New Roman. Make it easier on the reader by using headings and subheadings when possible, and add page numbers. Also, insert text boxes with client, staff or funder quotes on how your program benefits the clients and the community. You want to stand out! Last, have someone do a final review for spelling and grammar. Best of luck!

For more information, please contact Christopher Vance, director of development, at cvance@afterschoolalliance.org.

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