Planning vs. Program Grants - part 1 of 2

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We get enquiries almost every day asking when the updated version of Program Planning & Proposal Writing will be available. Even though this classic guide for the nonprofit field was written in 1972, it's still in demand. With more than a million copies used and treasured by organizations all over the globe, we are delighted to tell you that the updated version will be ready this October!

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek, just a small slice—the first part of a 2-part excerpt from the addendum of Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing. The topic is the difference between a planning and an implementation (or program) grant proposal. Enjoy!


Adapting the Grantsmanship Center Model:

Planning Grant Proposals

Recognizing the crucial role of planning in large-scale community projects, some funders offer planning grants. This type of grant results in a broadly accepted community plan of action. Some funders require grant seekers to successfully complete a formal, community planning process before they compete for an implementation grant.

Planning grants and implementation grants produce different types of results. A planning grant results in a product—a plan of action. An implementation grant results in a change in the problem itself.

An implementation grant is the same thing as a program grant, and follows the basic Grantsmanship Center Model. 

While developing a proposal for a planning grant is much the same as developing a request for a program grant, there are a few important differences. Let’s look at the most critical sections of a grant proposal in terms of these differences.



Planning Proposal

The Problem Section offers solid, well-supported evidence of the problem in the target service area. If the target area is one neighborhood in a large urban area, citywide or countywide data isn’t good enough. You’ll need neighborhood or ZIP-code specific information. 

Once you’ve defined and documented the problem and the significance of the situation, you must explain the causes of the problem. Community groups will have varying perspectives on what’s causing the problem, and each viewpoint must be carefully explored. It’s impossible to plan effective approaches for addressing a problem unless you know why the troubling situation exists.

Program Proposal

The discussion of the problem is almost identical to that of a planning proposal. If a planning process has been done prior to development of the program proposal, you’ll have a great wealth of hard data and anecdotal information to use.



Planning Proposal

The long-term GOAL of a planning grant is a reduction in the problem. But the specific OUTCOME to be produced by a planning grant during the project period will be a product—a plan of action. The plan should be well-reasoned, broadly accepted, and designed to address factors that are causing the problem. To the greatest extent possible, the plan should be based on solid evidence that the approaches identified are likely to succeed. Here’s an example of a proposed outcome for a planning grant:

Within eight months, an Action Plan will be adopted by the community coalition:

  1. The Action Plan will be based on research or other evidence that the proposed approaches are likely to be effective in addressing the problem;
  2. Process documents will verify that the eight targeted segments of the community were vigorously engaged in data gathering, research, and planning

Program Proposal

The long-term GOAL of an implementation grant is also a reduction in the problem. But the proposed OUTCOMES will be specific, measurable changes in the problem, or in factors causing the problem. These changes will take place during the period of grant funding. Here are examples of outcomes for a program to address poverty:  

a) By the end of the five-year implementation period, 200 new, long-term, full-time jobs paying above minimum wage will be in place in the target community.

b) By the end of the five-year implementation period, the unemployment rate in the target community will have dropped from the current average of 25 percent to an average of 15.



Planning Proposal

The Methods Section provides a detailed blueprint of how you’ll conduct the planning process. Who will lead the charge? Who has agreed to participate? What’s the time line? What are the specific questions the process will address? What community resources is your group bringing to the table – meeting space, social media, reporting? Will you bring in experts to discuss the data or to help explore the most promising approaches for addressing the problem?

Program Proposal

For an implementation proposal, the Methods Section provides a detailed description of exactly what the community will do to address the problem. It tells the reader specifically what the Action Plan is and how it will be implemented. You’ll lay out the major components of activity and describe who will do what, and when and how they’ll do it. You’ll describe the roles and responsibilities of the various groups involved and the resources the community is providing for the effort.


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