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Grant Life Cycle

All government grants generally move through a project life cycle. Learn about every stage. 

1. Assess your project and its goals.

Grant writers/initiators face the same first question: Is this the right grant for what I want to create or accomplish? A prospective grant writer must be sure that there is a good fit between the goals and the objectives of their project and the interest of the funder. Projects should have a directed plan with measurable results. After assessing eligibility and the deadline, the grant writer must realistically evaluate the project and its goals, whether it is a program or a report. Funders are looking for projects to fund. If funds are sought as something just to buy time, or to establish something that shall require grant-funded support in perpetuity, then the application is not a likely candidate for funding. Projects must be definable and clearly show or create something that can be replicated in other institutions or programs and so provide secondary and tertiary benefit from the original grant dollars.

2. Research the funder and the range of their area of interest.

Each funding source, whether it is federal or state, has a specific area of interest for each grant opportunity. Usually this is stated in the grant announcement, but only in a sketch format. Meaningful evaluation of a funder's area of interest requires thorough reading of the grant announcement, the grant application kit and even the forms they provide. Internet research can be helpful, but federal agency websites are often out of date and not entirely reliable. However, many federal agencies do all of their grant business electronically, so electronic research should always take place. Also consider investigating the legislation that provides the funds for your area of interest. Frequently this is helpful because it can provide insight as to what the funding source needs to report to the government. Once it is clear what the funder needs to justify its award, the grant writer has a clearer idea of what type of project could get funded. It is wise to investigate others who have successfully acquired funds from the same source. Lists of successful applicants are frequently available on the web, but not their applications. Finally, be sure to determine whether this grant cycle is an ongoing event or if this is a one-time opportunity.

3. Assess project fit with campus and college missions and goals.

Projects need support at both the Campus and College administrative level. Contact the Executive Director of Sponsored Research & Special Projects to determine whether or not the project is within the mission and goals of the college or your Campus Occupational Dean to see if the project fits the scope of interest of the Campus. Support at the Campus level in many cases can help you determine whether it is the right time for a project to move forward.                                                                                                      

4. Assess the timeline and the deadline.

he grant writer needs to develop an earnest timeline that includes every task and element necessary to complete the proposal with sufficient time before the deadline to undergo internal review. This includes document development in support of statements made addressing the criteria, narrative development with time for outside editing, relationship development with third parties/ project partners where necessary and time to address input and required changes by college or outside editors. It is imperative that the grant writer takes time initially to plan each task and event and place it on a real timeline that takes the proposal from initiation to the funder.


Once you have identified a funding source and received an application package, you are ready to write a grant proposal. The task of proposal development can be overwhelming but don't be intimidated. Most grant proposals follow a comparable format, and with proper preparation and a step-by-step approach, you can develop a quality, fundable proposal. The most difficult part is getting started. A proposal must convince the prospective funding source of two things: 

  • That a problem or need of significant magnitude exists.
  • That your institution has the means and the imagination to solve the problem or meet the need.

First, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the guidelines and submission deadline of the funding source before you begin the writing process.

Second, it is helpful to understand the components of a typical grant proposal. Although the order in which they are requested may vary from program to program, the sections of a proposal narrative commonly include the following:

1. Proposal Abstract or Summary: (1/2 - 1 page in length)

This section is an overview of the entire project, highlighting the who, what, when, where and why.   This is usually the section that the reviewer reads first, so make it clear, concise and interesting because this could make or break your project. It may be beneficial to write this section last as a means of recapitulating what has been proposed. A summary should meet the following criteria:

  • Identifies the grant applicant
  • Is brief, clear and interesting
  • Includes at least one sentence on problem/need, project objectives, ethods, and credibility of institution
  • Includes total cost; funds already obtained and amount requested in this proposal
  • Numerical or statistical data needed to back up your statements

2. Introduction: (1-2 pages)

This section provides an overview of your institution, its mission & goals, its capabilities, its resources, and its past successes. This section should lend credibility to your institution or department so that reviewers feel confident that proposed project activities will be carried out effectively and efficiently. This section should also highlight how the institution has attempted to address the proposed need. The introduction should meet the following criteria:

  • Clearly establishes who is applying for the funds
  • Describes applicant institution's mission and long range goals   
  • Describes institution's current programs and activities
  • Describes institution's population
  • Provides evidence of the institution's accomplishments
  • Offers endorsements in support of the accomplishments
  • Supports qualifications in area activity in which funds are being sought
  • Describes qualifications of key personnel
  • Provides other evidence of administrative competence
  • Is brief and interesting

3. Need or Problem Statement: (3-4 pages, may be limited to less by funder)

This section must document the need or rationale for your project. This section should clearly describe the specific problem/need that your project will address, including the history or background of the problem, any national, state or local ramifications and what others have done to address it. This section must include significant statistics and literature reviews to demonstrate your knowledge of the problem and to validate its existence. Finally, this section should describe the population to be served by the project, social and economic costs affected by the project, and the specific process through which the problem may be solved. This section should meet the following criteria:

  • Describes the target population to be served
  • Defines the problem to be addressed and the need in the geographical area where the organization operates
  • Is related to the mission of the applicant institution
  • Is of reasonable scope
  • Is supported by relevant statistical evidence
  • Is supported by relevant anecdotal evidence
  • Is supported by statements from authorities
  • Is stated in terms of target population's needs and problems, not the applicant institution's
  • Makes no unsupported assumptions
  • Is brief but interesting
  • Makes a compelling case

4. Project Goals & Objectives: (1-2 pages)

This section describes the outcomes of the project in measurable terms. It is a succinct description of what you hope to accomplish. This section also identifies how the project objectives are related to the purposes and priorities of the perspective funding organization. Program goals and objectives should meet the following criteria:

  • Provide at least one objective for each problem or need committed to in the problem statement
  • Objectives are outcomes not methods
  • State the time frame by which objectives will be accomplished
  • Objectives should be measurable and quantifiable by some means 
Types of Objectives:
  • Behavioral: A human action is anticipatedExample: Twenty-five of the fifty adult participants will learn to read
  • Performance: An anticipated time frame within which a behavior should occur at some quantifiable proficiency levelExample: Twenty-five of the fifty adult participants will learn how to read in one year and pass a basic reading test
  • Process: The process used to achieve a goal can itself be an objectiveExample: We will document the teaching methods utilized, identifying those with the greatest success
  • Product: A tangible item resultsExample: A manual will be created describing effective literacy teaching techniques for adult learners.

5. Project Methodology: (4+ pages)

This section describes the activities to be conducted to achieve desired objectives. It also includes the rationale for choosing a particular approach. Generally, a straightforward, chronological description of the operations works most effectively. This section should meet the following criteria:

  • Clearly describes program activities
  • States reasons for the selection of activities
  • Describes sequence of activities
  • Describes staffing of program
  • Describes participants and participant selection
  • Describes resources which will be needed
  • Provides a timeline for the activities

6. Evaluation: (1-2 pages)

This section presents a plan for determining the degree to which objectives are met and methods are followed. This section is extremely important as funders pay particular attention to evaluation methods since this helps them determine whether a proposed project represents an intelligent investment for them. This section should include the following criteria:

  • A plan for evaluating accomplishment of objectives and evaluating criteria
  • A plan for evaluating and modifying methods over course of the program
  • Identifies who will be doing the evaluation and how they were chosen
  • Describes how data will be collected
  • Explains any testing instruments or questionnaires to be use
  • Describes the process of data analysis
  • Describes any evaluation reports to be produces

7. Future Funding: (1/2 page)

This section describes a plan for continuation beyond the grant and/or the availability of other resources necessary to implement the grant. This should include resources to sustain the project, if the institution will absorb the expenses, and an assurance that individuals being served have adequate follow-up. This section should meet the following criteria:

  • A specific plan to obtain funding if program is to be continued
  • Description of how maintenance and future program costs will be covered (if applicable)
  • List of alternative funding sources
  • Accompanied by letters of commitment (if necessary) 

8. The Proposed Budget:

Budget sheets required by the funding agency are completed and included in this section. Usually following the detailed budget sheets is a budget narrative justifying the expenditures in relation to project methodology/objectives. Critical to the development of the budget are considerations related to the reasonableness of the expenses, the administrative cost (indirect cost), adequateness of the budget to support the project, and the extent of support provided by the institution (matching funds). The institution's policies and procedures will be utilized for salaries, purchase of equipment or rental, and other supplies, unless specified by the funding source. This section should also address the institution's ability to house project staff, equipment or the project's need to rent space. A budget should meet the following criteria:

  • Is sufficient to perform the tasks described in the narrative
  • Is detailed in all aspects
  • Includes project costs that will be incurred at the time of the program's implementation
  • Contains no unexplained amounts for miscellaneous or contingency
  • Includes all items asked of the funding source
  • Includes all items paid for by other sourcesncludes all personnel; full-time, part-time, volunteers, consultants, etc…
  • Details fringe benefits, separate from salaries
  • Separately details all non-personnel costs
  • Includes any donated services
  • Includes all indirect costs and matching funds

9. Personnel:

This section justifies the personnel needed to adequately support the project. Job descriptions will reflect needed skills, as well as duties, percentage of time on each of the job tasks, and may be placed in the appendices of the proposal. Personnel expenses are located in the budget pages and justified in the budget narrative. An explanation is provided concerning the experience and qualifications of the individuals to be included in the project. This section of the proposal is reviewed critically by the funding agency and usually weighs heavily in the decision to fund the project.

In addition to the contents of the proposal, its appearance is important. Foremost, a proposal should be presented neatly. A cover letter should be submitted, followed by the proposal and attachments, respectively. Since proposals are not voluminous, it is not necessary to include an index or table of contents.

Proposals should not be submitted with binding, as funders often dismantle the proposal and make copies of it when referring it to a review committee for consideration. To assemble a proposal, use staples or a folder to keep it organized.

In summary, a proposal should reflect planning, research and vision. The importance of research cannot be overemphasized, both in terms of the funders solicited and the types of funds requested. The most successful proposals are those, which clearly and concisely state the institution and community's needs and are targeted to donors that fund that field, a reflection of careful planning and research.

Award (Post Application)

  • Receive official notification of submission.
  • Receive notification of any necessary revisions from funder.
  • OSPR Department receives official notification of award or rejection.
  • OSPR Department notifies Project Director or grant writers of award or rejection.
  • Project Director notifies appropriate Business Office and Deans.
  • Begin your project, if funded.
  • Submit required contract.
  • Follow resubmission process to secure future funding.


Finishing a grant project is just as important as starting one. In many cases, the way in which closeout procedures are handled, such as timely submission of final reports and the quality of those reports, can have a direct affect on the possibility for future funding. There are five areas of management that need particular attention at the close of a funded project: Budget, Personnel, Purchasing Activities, Active Grant Files, Document Storage.

  • The budget needs include reconciling grant accounts with college financial figures and notifying the proper personnel that charges can be made against the grant.
  • For personnel, termination paperwork must be completed for all staff and, if required payroll changes for staff members who are moving within the system.
  • For purchasing activities, purchased equipment should be matched with requisitions and receipt of items should be checked.
  • All active grant files need review for grant documents, personnel records, purchase orders and requisitions, and budget including necessary documentation for changes. Remember, the auditors will be reviewing these files.
  • Formal reports to the funding source are generally due forty-five to ninety days after the close of a federal grant. State reporting requirements will vary.
  • Finally, arrange for appropriate storage of grant files and documents if the project is not a continuing one.