For many news organizations looking to get started with a philanthropic strategy, applying for grants can feel overwhelming. Terese Kartholl, director of journalism funding initiatives at Local Media Association, shares this advice for writing grant applications.

Do your research

Before you begin your application, spend time thoroughly researching the organization. Foundation websites typically provide information about their mission, work, funding priorities and application requirements. Review both the types of projects and the organizations that a foundation has funded in the past. Ensure your project truly fits within the parameters of the call for proposal. 

Reach out before starting your application

Program officers may be open to a conversation before you submit your application. In these conversations, you may receive important feedback to increase your chances of submitting a successful application. Use your time wisely, ask thoughtful questions, and don’t forget to share why you are uniquely qualified to receive the funding. Have a comprehensive understanding of the organization before initiating contact. It can be highly frustrating to funders when it is obvious you did not do your homework. 

Clarity is key

When writing your application, consider the audience and aim to communicate in plain language. Avoid journalism jargon or “media-speak” that application reviewers may not know or understand. If possible, find out who is reviewing the application. In the case of a community foundation, your applications may be evaluated by a grants committee with members that do not have expertise in your proposal’s topic area.

Use their language

When drafting your proposal, revisit the foundation’s website, marketing materials, and the specific language used to describe the grant opportunity. As you write your proposal, look for ways to incorporate the foundation’s terminology. Make the connection between your proposal and the funder’s organizational mission and values.

Numbers are important

Some funders consider the budget to be a more important indicator of project nature than the narrative description of what will be done. Ensure the numbers presented align with your project’s scope and don’t understate the full costs of your journalism project. Be sure that the budget narrative presented in the application corresponds with the financial information provided. 

Demonstrate impact

Be sure to clearly identify and articulate your project’s expected outcomes. Funders seek programs that prioritize long-term impact and can effectively illustrate how their programs contribute to achieving lasting results. They are particularly interested in seeing how a news organization can leverage funding to make a project sustainable.