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How to Write a Cover Letter for Your Grant Proposal

Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl

Reviewed by:

October 27, 2021

Last Updated:

November 20, 2023

Table of Contents

If you’re applying for a grant, the funder will often ask you to submit a cover letter with your grant proposal.

I know, this can be frustrating. You’re already dedicating time to writing a successful grant proposal . Why do you also have to write a cover letter? 

Although it may seem like extra work, it’s actually a critical step to get right. If you don’t nail it, the funder may pass over your application entirely.

To avoid this, we’re going deep into how to write effective cover letters for grants. In this article, we’ll unpack:

  • What cover letters for grant proposals are
  • Why it is an important piece of your grant application
  • And the six parts of a successful cover letter
  • Templates to get you started
  • Pitfalls to avoid

Let’s dive in!

Grant Proposal Template for Nonprofits (+5 Tips Included)

What are Cover Letters for Grant Proposals?

A cover letter for a grant proposal is a document that goes along with your completed proposal. It is your opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the priorities and interests of the funder and how your work aligns with their goals.

An effective cover letter will communicate why your organization and your program deserve to be funded . It should pique the funder’s interest, getting them to read your full proposal. 

Pro Tip : Cover letters are typically only requested by foundations and corporations . In the case of government grants , they don’t ask for cover letters because they have very specific proposal layouts and requirements.

Only submit a cover letter if the funder requests one. Many funders now utilize online application systems which do not require a cover letter, so make sure you understand the requirements of the specific funder.

Overall, the cover letter provides a taste of your organization and request. It should entice the funder and demonstrate why you are a good fit.

Why Are Cover Letters Important for Nonprofits?

If you see the cover letter as just a nother checkbox you need to complete before submittign your application, think again. Here are 4 reasons why you need to think hard about writing a grant proposal cover letter that captures the attention of funders.

First Impressions Matter: Setting the Tone for Your Proposal

The cover letter is the first point of contact that your nonprofit has with a potential funder, and you want to make a good impression ! 

A professional, concise, well-written cover letter sets the tone with the funder for the rest of your proposal. It’s also a chance for you to capture the reader’s attention and get them excited about your proposal.

Building a Connection With Potential Funders

Your cover letter is your opportunity to get the funder engaged .

The cover letter gives you a chance to share your “elevator pitch” with the funder. If a funder walks away from your cover letter feeling excited about your project, you’re leagues ahead of the competition taht submitted a dry, cookie cutter cover letter.

Highlighting Key Points From Your Grant Proposal

A grant proposal’s cover letter isn’t all that different from a potential job’s cover letter.

Highlight the key points that will help you stand out above other applicants . Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit! Tell the funder why your proposal or project is unique and impactful. 

But remember—a cover letter is not an executive summary .

Demonstrating Organizational Maturity and Professionalism

Your cover letter is an opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s maturity and professionalism . Make it known that you receive and manage a large grant portfolio of grants every year, and that you have experience in maintaining grant compliance .

In doing so, you are showing the funder that they can trust you with their award.

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6 Parts of a Successful Grant Proposal Cover Letter

Below are general formatting tips for your grant’s cover letter:

  • Your cover letter should be written on company letterhead.
  • The date on the cover letter should match the date of your proposal or application.
  • The letter should be contained to one page, consisting of 3-4 paragraphs.
  • Find the appropriate contact person at the funding organization so you can address your letter to a specific person.
  • The address of the funder should be placed at the top of the letter. Format the address as: contact name, title, funder name, address.
  • Use a formal introduction in the salutation, such as “Dear Mr/Mrs.”
  • The letter should be signed by an appropriate official from your organization, such as the Executive Director.
  • Include the word “ENCLOSURE” or “ATTACHMENT” at the bottom to indicate that the letter is part of a larger packet.

In addition to these basic formatting tips, there are 6 basic parts that you should be sure to include in your grant proposal cover letters.

Introduction: Who You Are

Be sure to introduce your organization at the beginning of your cover letter. 

This provides readers with a background understanding of your nonprofit and its purpose. You want to include things such as the name of your organization, your mission and values , and how long you have been in existence.  

About Your Organization: What You Do

In this section, you want to concisely explain what your organization does—include relevant programs and projects. 

This will show that your organization’s work aligns with their mission and giving priorities.

Need Statement: The Problem You're Addressing

Clearly state the problem that your program or project intends to address. 

This demonstrates to the reader that you are filling a gap that exists in your community. You should include data to support your statements when possible so that the funder knows the need is real.

Project Overview: Your Plan

While space is limited in a cover letter, it is important to share outline a well-thought-out project plan. Showing funders how you plan to utilize their funds will help your proposal stand out.

Funding Request: What You Need

The whole purpose of submitting a grant proposal is to secure funds for a program or project. 

Don’t dance around it. Call out exactly how much money you need for your initiative so that the funder knows up front whether or not your request is in alignment with their giving priorities. 

Pro tip: Often, nonprofits don’t ask for enough funding. To not leave anything on the table, Instrumentl users can quickly uncover how much to ask for in a grant by using our insights on funders.

Closing: Why They Should Support You

You want to end your cover letter by telling the funder why they should support you. Whether it is because your missions are aligned, your project is super unique (ideally, both!), you want to clearly state these reasons in your cover letter. 

Consider closing the letter with an invitation for a site visit or program observation, if appropriate. Be sure to include the contact information for whoever can answer application questions. And end with a confident statement such as “I look forward to speaking with you more about this program.”

3 Sample Cover Letters for Grant Proposals

In this section, we have written original sample grant proposal cover letters. Following each example, we break down the good and bad parts of each letter.

1. Following Up After Meeting With The Funder

Grant proposal cover letter example one breakdown.

Here’s why we like this cover letter:

  • Referencing those prior conversations will remind the funder that you’ve already done some leg work in terms of outreach and research into the foundation.
  • This letter includes erveral of the key parts of a successful cover letter, such as the introduction, information about the organization, funding request, project information, and a confident closing. 

The letter is also signed by the executive director and provides her contact information. However, there could be a bit more emotion incorporated into this letter to help the funder form a connection with the organization and the project .

2. Breaking The Ice With A New Funder

Grant proposal cover letter example two breakdown.

Our second grant proposal cover letter example also covers many of the key components: organizational info, funding request, project information, and a closing. 

We really like how the closing in this letter includes an invitation for the funder to tour the facility and see the work in action—this is such a good idea!

This letter is lacking a statement of need , however. Although it clearly shows alignment between the nonprofit’s work and the funder’s mission, there’s no information about why there is a need in this community for support for people suffering from PTSD . Again, some data points would go a long way here in making this a more compelling case for support.

Also note that this letter does not reference any prior conversations with the funder. This is a good template to use if you are applying to a funder for the first time.

3. Renewing Funding From A Previous Funder

Grant proposal cover letter example three breakdown.

Our final example demonstrates how you would write to a funder that has previously funded your organization.

The nonprofit explains how a prior grant from this foundation helped their program; we LOVE that they included data about how many youth were served from the prior grant. This helps the funder really understand the impact of their donation, which will give them confidence in choosing to fund this organization again. 

This letter also does a great job of showing the nonprofit’s alignment with the funder’s mission and work . Again, this instills confidence in the funder that they’re making a good investment with their money.

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sample cover letter for research grant proposal

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Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Grant Proposal Cover Letter

So, we’ve reviewed what a grant proposal cover letter is, why it is important, and what the key parts are that should be included in the letter. 

You’re probably feeling like you’re almost ready to start writing your own cover letters—but hold on. Before you dive in, let’s review some common pitfalls in cover letter writing and how you can avoid making these mistakes.  

Overloading the Cover Letter with Jargon

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’re writing a grant proposal cover letter is filling it with industry-specific jargon .  

Don’t try to impress the funder with all the fancy terminology of your industry. Not all funders will understand this lingo, and it could end up confusing them instead of helping to make the case for your project.  

Ignoring Specific Funder Guidelines and Requests

This is a critical mistake that many grant applicants make. Don’t ignore the funder’s guidelines !

Every funder will have different requests—whether they want you to hand-deliver 10 copies of your single-sided application or request a signature from your Board Chair, it’s imperative that you follow these guidelines.  

This relates to the cover letter as well! If a funder specifically says to not include a cover letter, listen to them!

Being Vague or Generic in Your Statements

Another common pitfall that nonprofits fall into is being overly generic and vague in their cover letters . 

To demonstrate why your nonprofit is a good fit for the funding opportunity, share specifics about your organization, background, mission, and goals.  

Another piece of advice—don’t use the generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Human Resources” salutation. Find a specific contact to direct your proposal to so that you can personalize the letter.

Instrumentl is a great resource for finding funder details, providing clear insights into who some of the key people within a foundation are.

Overlooking the Importance of Follow-Up Information

All of the examples that we showed you included details on who the funder should contact if they have any questions . This is so important! 

You don’t want a potential funder to be stuck Google-searching information on your nonprofit if they need to contact you. That’s a sure fire way to get your application declined.

Wrapping Things Up: Cover Letters for Grant Proposals

To conclude, make sure you understand funder requirements, obtain information for a direct contact at the funder, and write the cover letter after you complete the grant proposal application. 

If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to writing a good grant application letter.

For more tips on enhancing your grant proposals, check out these 21 grant writing examples for nonprofits !

sample cover letter for research grant proposal

Amelie Heurteux

Amelie Heurteux, a Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl, works day in and day out training nonprofits and grant writers how to efficiently prospect new funders and streamline their grant tracking and management processes.

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sample cover letter for research grant proposal

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Grant Proposal Writing is Exciting, Imaginative Work

Download this Handout PDF

Overview Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal Common Elements of Grant Proposals General Tips Successful Sample Proposals

So, you want to write a grant proposal? This is exciting! This means that you have valuable research to do or a particular nonprofit to build or a community resource you’re passionate about developing. You have a distinct vision for how something could be improved or advanced, and you’re ready to ask for funding or other support to help this vision become a reality.

sample cover letter for research grant proposal

As you reach toward this unrealized vision by developing a grant proposal, you should think about successful grant writing as an act of imagination. Professor Kate Vieira, a Curriculum and Instruction professor at UW-Madison with considerable grant writing experience, describes grant proposal writing as a creative process akin to fiction writing—these are works of imagination. Professor Vieira recommends approaching the task of writing a grant proposal with an attitude of wonder and excitement as you strive to turn your ideas into something real. You have a great idea, and you think that you’re the best person to achieve a specific goal. Now you just need to convince others to get excited about this vision as well.

On this page, we offer some ways of thinking about grant proposals and advice about the process of planning and writing a proposal. We consider grant proposals; overall purposes, audiences, and expectations in order to make this information applicable across a range of contexts. However, this general approach has important limits . First, you will need to get more tailored advice about grant writing within your specific discipline or sphere. Second, you’ll need to follow very carefully the exact instructions about proposals from the granting agencies to which you are applying.

Talk with professors, mentors, previous grant recipients, the funding agency/group you are applying to, and trusted advisers in your field to learn more about what successful grant proposals look like in your situation and to get feedback on your plan and on your drafting process.

Before you start writing your grant proposal, you’ll want to make sure that you:

  • develop a specific, meaningful, actionable plan for what you want to do and why you want to do it;
  • consider how your plan will achieve positive results;
  • locate a granting organization or source that funds projects like the one you have in mind;
  • research that organization to make sure that its mission aligns with your plan;
  • review the organization’s proposal guidelines; and
  • examine sample proposals from your department, peers, and/or the organization.

When you’ve done all of this, you’re ready to start drafting your proposal!

Additional Resources about Grants and Grant Writing

For students, faculty, or staff at UW–Madison, a great place to learn more about grants, grant proposal writing, and granting institutions is the Grants Information Collection at UW–Madison’s Memorial Library. Check out their website and our review of some of their materials as well as links to other useful grant resources here.

Considering the Audience, Purpose, and Expectations of a Grant Proposal

A grant proposal is a very clear, direct document written to a particular organization or funding agency with the purpose of persuading the reviewers to provide you with support because: (1) you have an important and fully considered plan to advance a valuable cause, and (2) you are responsible and capable of realizing that plan.

As you begin planning and drafting your grant proposal, ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience? Think about the people from the agency offering this grant who will read this proposal. What are the agency’s mission and goals? What are its values? How is what you want to do aligned with what this agency is all about? How much do these readers know about what you are interested in? Let your answers to these questions inform how you present your plan, what vocabulary you use, how much background you provide, and how you frame your goals. In considering your audience, you should think about the kind of information these readers will find to be the most persuasive. Is it numbers? If so, make sure that you provide and explain your data. Is it testimonials? Recommendations from other collaborators? Historical precedent? Think closely about how you construct your argument in relationship to your readers.
  • What are the particular expectations for this grant? Pay attention to everything the granting organization requires of you. Your proposal should adhere exactly to these requirements. If you receive any advice that contradicts the expectations of your particular situation ( including from this website ), ignore it! Study representative samples of successful proposals in your field or proposals that have received the particular grant you are applying for.
  • How do you establish your credibility? Make sure that you present yourself as capable, knowledgeable, and forward thinking. Establish your credibility through the thoroughness of your plan, the intentional way that you present its importance and value, and the knowledge you have of what has already been learned or studied. Appropriately reference any past accomplishments that verify your ability to succeed and your commitment to this project. Outline any partnerships you have built with complementary organizations and individuals.
  • How can you clearly and logically present your plan? Make sure that your organization is logical. Divide your proposal into predictable sections and label them with clear headings. Follow exactly the headings and content requirements established by the granting agency’s call for proposals.Grant proposals are direct and to–the–point. This isn’t a good place for you to embroider your prose with flowery metaphors or weave in subtle literary allusions. Your language should be uncluttered and concise. Match the concepts and language your readers use and are familiar with. Your readers shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what you are communicating. For information about writing clear sentences, see this section of our writer’s handbook. However, use a vivid image, compelling anecdote, or memorable phrase if it conveys the urgency or importance of what you are proposing to do.

Common Elements of Grant Proposals

General tips, pay attention to the agency’s key interests..

As mentioned earlier, if there are keywords in the call for proposals—or in the funding organization’s mission or goal—be sure to use some of those terms throughout your proposal. But don’t be too heavy–handed. You want to help your readers understand the connections that exist between your project and their purpose without belaboring these connections.

Organize ideas through numbered lists.

Some grant writers use numbered lists to organize their ideas within their proposal. They set up these lists with phrases like, “This project’s three main goals are . . . ” or, “This plan will involve four stages . . . ” Using numbers in this way may not be eloquent, but it can an efficient way to present your information in a clear and skimmable manner.

Write carefully customized proposals.

Because grant funding is so competitive, you will likely be applying for several different grants from multiple funding agencies. But if you do this, make sure that you carefully design each proposal to respond to the different interests, expectations, and guidelines of each source. While you might scavenge parts of one proposal for another, never use the exact same proposal twice . Additionally when you apply to more than one source at the same time, be sure to think strategically about the kind of support you are asking from which organization. Do your research to find out, for example, which source is more likely to support a request for materials and which is more interested in covering the cost of personnel.

Go after grants of all sizes.

Pay attention to small grant opportunities as well as big grant opportunities. In fact, sometimes securing a smaller grant can make your appeal for a larger grant more attractive. Showing that one or two stakeholders have already supported your project can bolster your credibility.

Don’t give up! Keep on writing!

Writing a grant proposal is hard work. It requires you to closely analyze your vision and consider critically how your solution will effectively respond to a gap, problem, or deficiency. And often, even for seasoned grant writers, this process ends with rejection. But while grant writers don’t receive many of the grants they apply to, they find the process of carefully delineating and justifying their objectives and methods to be productive. Writing closely about your project helps you think about and assess it regardless of what the grant committee decides. And of course, if you do receive a grant, the writing won’t be over. Many grants require progress reports and updates, so be prepared to keep on writing!

Successful Sample Grant Proposals

One of the best ways to learn how to write grant proposals is to analyze successful samples. We’ve annotated and uploaded three very different kinds of successful proposals written by colleagues associated with UW–Madison. We encourage you to carefully read these samples along with the annotations we’ve provided that direct your attention to specific ways each one is doing the work of a strong proposal. But don’t stop with these! Find additional samples on your own of successful proposals like the one you’re writing to help guide and further your understanding of what has worked and been persuasive.

  • Sample Grant Proposal 1 (PDF) Fellowship Proposal for UW–Madison’s Center for the Humanities’ Public Humanities Exchange (HEX)
  • Sample Grant Proposal 2 (PDF) Proposal for a 3–Year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Sample Grant Proposal 3 (PDF) Madison Writing Assistance’s grant proposal to the Evjue Foundation

sample cover letter for research grant proposal

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  • About Grants
  • How to Apply - Application Guide
  • Format and Write

Write Your Application

The following guidance may assist you in developing a strong application that allows reviewers to better evaluate the science and merit of your proposal. This page provides tips for  demonstrating to reviewers and NIH staff the high quality of the personnel involved in your project and documenting resources and institutional support of the project. We provide information for new investigators and foreign applicants, as well.

Though the advice provided is relevant for all research grants, it is general in nature and geared toward the  NIH Research Project (R01) . The tips should not replace your organization's internal guidance, specific advice provided by NIH program or grants management staff, or instructions found in the funding opportunity or application guide .

  • Where to Find Instructions for Writing Your Application

What Peer Reviewers Look For

  • Research Resources, Institutional Support and Available Expertise  
  • Cover Letter & Assignment Request Form
  • Are You a New or Early Stage Investigator

Foreign Involvement: Institution and/or Investigator

Develop your budget, your research plan, additional elements required in a grant application, important writing tips, what to know before you start writing, where to find application instructions.

  • In addition to form-by-form, field-by-field instructions you'll find guidance on formatting attachments (fonts, margins, etc., developing a budget, and more.
  • Section IV. Application and Submission Information of each funding opportunity includes opportunity-specific instructions.
  • Notices posted in the NIH Guide for Grants & Contracts may contain corrections, clarifications, or announcement of new policies.

If instructions in the application guide and funding opportunity conflict, the opportunity wins. If instructions in either the application guide or funding opportunity conflict with an NIH Guide notice (including a Notice of Special Interest), the notice wins.

Careful preparation and an understanding of how your application will be reviewed can help you build a solid application. During NIH’s peer review process , we convene a panel of non-Federal scientists to review your application. Although a number of factors contribute to whether your application will be funded, we place great emphasis on the review of scientific merit. The following sections describe the criteria reviewers employ to evaluate applications. Read them carefully for helpful hints on the information and content you should include in the application to garner a favorable evaluation.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria, and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed). 

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific and technical merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field. 

Significance. Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? Is there a strong scientific premise for the project? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field? 

Investigator(s). Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?

Innovation. Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?

Approach. Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? Have the investigators presented adequate plans to address relevant biological variables, such as sex, for studies in vertebrate animals or human subjects? If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed? Environment. Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements? 

Note that an application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Learn more about how applications are scored.

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items. 

  • Protections for Human Subjects
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
  • Vertebrate Animals
  • Resubmission

Be sure to address any of these additional review criteria that apply to your application, as reviewers will consider them when assigning overall impact/priority scores. 

Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score. 

  • Applications from Foreign Organizations
  • Select Agent
  • Resource Sharing Plans
  • Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
  • Budget and Period Support

Learn more about how applications are reviewed and scored on our peer review process page.

Research Resources, Institutional Support and Available Expertise

Sufficient information must be included to demonstrate to reviewers and NIH staff the high quality of the PD/PI, the co-investigators, available research resources, and the applicant institution and its support of the project.

Applicants should clearly state that they have the appropriate resources to conduct the research, such as adequate equipment and laboratory space. When possible, include letters of commitment for these resources.

  • Understand the level of resources needed to compete.
  • Conduct an organizational assessment.
  • Determine what resources and support your organization has and what additional support you'll need.
  • Consider whether the available equipment and facilities are adequate and whether the environment is conducive to the research.

Independence and Institutional Support

This is important for all investigators, but particularly for new and early stage investigators or those who are early in their independent careers:

  • Provide reviewers evidence that you have the appropriate experience and training to lead and manage the research project.
  • Letters of reference and institutional commitment are important.
  • Mention any start-up funds, support for a technician, etc. This is a positive indicator of institutional commitment to the peer reviewers.

Collaborators and Consultants

Determine the expertise needed for your research study team (individuals, collaborating organizations, resources, etc.). Most scientific work requires collaboration among researchers, and NIH is dedicated to fostering such relationships.

  • Include letters of commitment in your application that clearly spell out the roles of the collaborators. The grant application should contain a signed letter from each collaborator to the applicant that lists the contribution he or she intends to make and his or her commitment to the work. These letters are often the primary assurance the reviewers have that this work will in fact be done.
  • For consultants, letters should include rate/charge for consulting services.
  • The format, peer review and administration of applications submitted with multiple PIs do have some significant differences from the traditional single-PI application. Therefore, it is essential to consider all aspects of the funding mechanism before applying, regardless of the type of research proposal to be submitted.
  • All applicants proposing team science efforts are strongly encouraged to contact their NIH program officials at the earliest possible date to discuss the appropriateness submitting with multiple-PIs for the support of their research.  

Cover Letter & PHS Assignment Request Form

Although optional in most cases, the Cover Letter attachment on the SF424 (R&R) form and the PHS Assignment Request Form can be used to convey information to the Division of Receipt and Referral (DRR) in the Center for Scientific Review. 

  • Late applications
  • Required agency approvals, if needed (e.g., approval to submit application with budget period(s) of $500k or more)
  • Explanation of subaward budgets not active in all budget periods
  • Intent to submit a video
  • Anticipation of large-scale genomic data
  • Proposed use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions
  • A potentially appropriate institute or center assignment
  • NIH Scientific Review Group (SRG) Roster Index
  • Take advantage of the Assisted Referral Tool (ART)
  • Reviewers that may have a conflict of interest and why they should not be considered to review your application
  • Only NIH staff with a need to know are provided access to your assignment request and cover letter. Reviewers to not access to them.

Are You a New or Early Stage Investigator?

  • Determine whether you qualify as a new investigator based on the NIH definition of new investigator . NIH offers funding opportunities tailored to new investigators, such as the NIH Director's New Innovator Award . More information on NIH programs designed for new investigators can be found on the New Investigators Program Web page.
  • It is to your advantage to identify yourself as a new investigator because reviewers are instructed to give special consideration to new investigators. Reviewers will give greater consideration to the proposed approach, rather than the track record.
  • First-time applicants may have less preliminary data and fewer publications than more seasoned investigators, and NIH reviewers understand this. Reviewers instead place more emphasis on how the investigator has demonstrated that he or she is truly independent of any former mentors, whether he or she has some of his or her own resources and institutional support, and whether he or she is able to independently lead the research. 
  • Foreign PD/PIs and those from foreign institutions should ensure their eligibility by checking the eligibility guidelines provided in every funding opportunity.
  • Foreign PD/PI's and those from foreign institutions are highly encouraged to contact a NIH program officer as soon as possible in the planning and writing stages.
  • Foreign applicants can learn more at our Information for Foreign Applicants and Grantees page.

This step will be one of your most time-consuming in the writing process. 

  • Know what type of budget will be required to submit with your application (found in your funding opportunity).
  • Understand the various components of the budget, working with your institution’s central grants office and department administrator.
  • Contact NIH program officials regarding allowability and other budgetary questions.
  • For more information, see Develop Your Budget .

The research plan describes the proposed research, stating its significance and how it will be conducted. Remember, your application has two audiences: the majority of reviewers who will probably not be familiar with your techniques or field and a smaller number who will be familiar.

  • To succeed in peer review, you must win over the assigned reviewers . They act as your advocates in guiding the review panel's discussion of your application.
  • Write and organize your application so the primary reviewer can readily grasp and explain what you are proposing and advocate for your application.
  • Appeal to the reviewers and the funding ICs by using language that stresses the significance of your proposed work.

The following elements need to be included in the grant application as appropriate. Unless stated, these elements do not influence the rating (priority score) of the application. However, the reviewers are asked to comment on the adequacy of the information provided for each element. Any concerns the reviewers identify may negatively affect and postpone the granting of an award.  

  • Bibliography & References Cited  Provide a bibliography of any references cited in the Research Plan. Each reference must include the names of all authors (in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication; you can use “et al.” convention in place of listing all authors in a citation), the article and journal title, book title, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. Make sure that only bibliographic citations are included. Be especially careful to follow scholarly practices in providing citations for source materials relied upon when preparing any section of the application.  
  • Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare
  • PHS Policy Tutorial
  • What Investigators Need to Know About the Use of Animals (PDF)
  • Interactive training module: Vertebrate Animals Section (VAS) in Grant Applications
  • NIAID's tutorial: Requirement for Grantees Using Research Animals  
  • Consortium/Contractual Arrangements Explain the programmatic, fiscal, and administrative arrangements to be made between the applicant organization and the consortium organization(s).  
  • Consultants and Collaborators Attach appropriate letters from all consultants and collaborators confirming their roles in the project. For consultants, letters should include rate/charge for consulting services.  
  • Facilities & Other Resources  This information is used to assess the capability of the organizational resources available to perform the effort proposed. Identify the facilities to be used (Laboratory, Animal, Computer, Office, Clinical and Other). If appropriate, indicate their capacities, pertinent capabilities, relative proximity and extent of availability to the project. Describe only those resources that are directly applicable to the proposed work.  
  • Inclusion of Women, Minorities and Children in Research  Peer reviewers will also assess the adequacy of plans to include subjects from both genders, all racial and ethnic groups (and subgroups), and children, as appropriate, for the scientific goals of the research will be assessed. Plans for the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be evaluated.  Check out the NIH inclusion of women and minorities policy website which has resources such as a decision tree to help you determine which of your studies are subject to NIH’s inclusion policy.  
  • Multiple PD/PI  For applications designating multiple PDs/PIs , you must include a leadership plan.  
  • Other Plans(s) Applicants proposing to conduct research that will generate scientific data are subject to the NIH Data Management and Sharing (DMS) Policy and must attach a DMS Plan in this section. Note that applicants whose project also falls under NIH’s Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) Policy are expected to provide a single plan that covers the sharing of both scientific data and genomic data. See NIH’s DMS and GDS policies on the NIH Sharing website .  
  • Page Limits Follow the page limits specified for the attachments in your grant application, unless otherwise specified in the funding opportunity.  
  • Protection of Human Subjects from Research Risk  Applicants must assure NIH that all human subjects are protected. Reviewers will assess the potential risk to human subjects in proposed research and evaluate what protections are in place to guard against any research-related risk. Awards cannot be made until assurances are on file with the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). Decision charts are presented that are helpful in thinking through relevant human subject protections issues (see ).  
  • Resource Sharing Plan(s)  This section includes the Model Organisms Sharing plan when applicable. See NIH’s Model Organisms Sharing Policy .  
  • Select Agents  Identify any select agents to be used in the proposed research. Select agents are hazardous biological agents and toxins that HHS or USDA have identified as having the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, to animal and plant health, or to animal and plant products. CDC maintains a list of HHS and USDA Select Agents and Toxins.  
  • Use of Internet Sites  NIH instituted a policy that prohibits the use of World Wide Web addresses (URLs) in grant applications in the place of text describing the same material. This is because of the potential for providing a large amount of extra material from a Web site beyond what would fit in the page limit, and thereby giving an unfair advantage to some applicants and a large additional burden for reviewers.

You’ve planned, you’ve researched, you understand the application…now it’s time to write.  A well-written, well formatted application is an important key to success.  Remember the details when formatting attachments ! 

  • Before you start writing the application, think about the budget and how it is related to your research plan. Remember that everything in the budget must be justified by the work you've proposed to do.
  • Be realistic. Don't propose more work than can be reasonably done during the proposed project period. Make sure that the personnel have appropriate scientific expertise and training. Make sure that the budget is reasonable and well-justified.  

Start with an outline, following the suggested organization of the application. The thought process of the application should be easy to follow. 

Note:  Upon submission, NIH Systems will automatically add: headers, footers (time stamping, tracking number, funding opportunity number, and page numbers). Therefore, do not include headers or footers.

  • Write clear headings.
  • Use sub-headings, short paragraphs, and other techniques to make the application as easy to navigate as possible. Be specific and informative, and avoid redundancies.
  • Bookmark major sections.
  • Use diagrams, figures and tables, and include appropriate legends, to assist the reviewers to understand complex information. These should complement the text and be appropriately inserted. Make sure the figures and labels are readable in the size they will appear in the application.
  • Use bullets and numbered lists for effective organization. Indents and bold print add readability. Bolding highlights key concepts and allows reviewers to scan the pages and retrieve information quickly.
  • Utilize white space effectively.
  • Write a clear topic sentence for each paragraph with one main point or idea.  This is key for readability.
  • Make your points as direct as possible. Avoid jargon or excessive language.
  • Write simple and clear sentences, keeping to about 20 words or less in each.
  • Be consistent with terms, references and writing style.
  • Use the active, rather than passive, voice. For example, write "We will develop an experiment, "not "An experiment will be developed."
  • Spell out all acronyms on first reference.
  • If writing is not your forte, seek help!
  • Include enough background information to enable an intelligent reader to understand your proposed work.
  • Support your idea with collaborators who have expertise that benefits the project.
  • Have zero tolerance for typographical errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes or sloppy formatting. A sloppy or disorganized application may lead the reviewers to conclude that your research may be conducted in the same manner.
  • Remember the Details!    There are format requirements , such as font size, margins, and spacing.  Make sure you are familiar with them before submitting your application and label sections as directed.  You don’t want your application delayed because any of these details are not incorporated.
  • If more than one investigator is contributing to the writing, it would be helpful to have one editor not only review for punctuation errors, but ensure that the application has a consistent writing style.
  • Request your colleagues or mentors review a first draft of your specific aims early in the process. This step can save lots of valuable time.
  • Allow time for an internal review by collaborators, colleagues, mentors and make revisions/edits from that review. If possible, have both experts in your field and those who are less familiar with your science provide feedback.
  • Ask those who are providing a review to use a critical eye and evaluate the application using the peer review criteria
  • Allow sufficient time to put the completed application aside, and then read it from a fresh vantage point yourself. Also, try proofreading by reading the application aloud.
  • Conduct your own review based on the NIH's five peer review criteria.  How would you rate your own application?
  • Prior to submission, look over the entire grant application one final time. Remember, you want a convincing proposal that is also formatted according to the application guidelines, punctuation error-free, clear to read, and is to the point!

This page last updated on: April 10, 2023

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How to Write an Effective Grant Proposal Cover Letter

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When Do You Include a Cover Letter?

Attributes of a good cover letter, formatting your cover letter, how long should the cover letter be, sample cover letter, mistakes to avoid in your cover letter, make your cover letter stand out.

Joanne Fritz is an expert on nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. She has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits.

Although the main parts of your grant proposal will take up most of your time and energy, don't shortchange your cover letter. Attention to the subtler points of putting the proposal package together can make or break a funding request. Don't turn off your funder with a sloppy cover letter.

Mim Carlson and Tori O'Neal-McElrath, authors of Winning Grants, Step by Step ,   point out that the cover letter should:

  • Introduce your organization to the correct person.
  • Assure the funder that this project has the support of your board of directors .
  • State what you are asking for - how much and for what.

Use a cover letter for proposals to corporations and foundations, but not for federal or state grant applications. Those funders only want what they ask for, and they rarely ask for a cover letter.  

Your cover letter should:

  • Get to the point quickly
  • Does not repeat the information that is in the proposal
  • Tell the reader how well you understand the funder and how your grant fulfills the funder's requirements

Beverly A. Browning, the author of Grant Writing for Dummies , suggests that you write the cover letter after you've completed the entire proposal, and when you are in a reflective mood. Browning says:

"As you consider your great achievement (the finished funding request), let the creative, right side of your brain kick in and connect your feelings of accomplishment to the person who will help make your plans come true."  
  • Use your organization's letterhead. Put the same date on the cover letter that is on the completed grant application. That is the date you will send the grant proposal to the grantor. Using the same date makes all the documents in your proposal package consistent.
  • For the inside address (goes at the top of the letter) use the foundation or corporate contact person's name and title, followed by the funding source's name, address, city, state, and zip code. Double-check this information with a telephone call or an email. Such information changes frequently, so make sure you have the current name and address.
  • In your salutation, use "Dear" plus the personal title (Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., Messrs., etc.), followed by the last name. It is critical that you address the letter to a particular person. Call the foundation or corporate office to make sure you have the right person and the correct personal title. These details may seem unimportant, but they do matter.
  • Your first paragraph should be short and focused. Introduce your organization (its legal name, which will be your corporate name  ) and tell the funder how much money you are requesting and why. Include a sentence or two about what your organization does, and then include one research-based point that shows there is a need for what your organization does.
  • Write one or two more brief paragraphs. State your project's purpose and how it fits with the funder's mission or funding priorities. Include the fact that your board of directors fully supports the project.
  • End your letter with a summarizing paragraph. Add what this funding partnership can mean for your project's target audience. You might want to include an invitation for a site visit as well.
  • Use a closing such as "Sincerely."
  • The letter should be signed by the executive director or the board president, or both. Below the signature, type the signer's first name, middle initial, last name, and job title. Although the ED or board president should sign the letter, do include the contact information for the best person to answer questions at the end of the last paragraph.
  • At the bottom of the letter, include the word, "ENCLOSURE" (in all caps).

Limit your cover letter to one page with three or four paragraphs. It should be a quick read.

The tone and specifics of your cover letter may vary depending on whether you've been invited to submit a full proposal after sending a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) , or if this project is your organization's first approach to this particular foundation.

Mary Smith, PhD
Program Officer
Community Foundation
4321 Common Lane
Some City, YZ 55555
Dear Dr. Smith:
The Some City Senior Center respectfully requests a grant of $50,000 for our Senior Latino Community Outreach Pilot Project.
As the largest senior center in Any County, serving over 450 seniors every day, we are aware of the changing demographics in our service area. And we are committed to growing and adapting our center to meet emerging needs. The Senior Latino Community Outreach Pilot Project will allow us to pilot a one-year effort to determine if our center can effectively:
Provide comprehensive access to health and social services to seniors in the Latino communities served by our center, and
 Raise and fully integrate the cultural competency of the board, staff, and volunteers of the Some City Senior Center.
Our board of directors is enthusiastic about this program and eager to launch it so we can become the most inclusive and culturally competent center for seniors in all of our communities that need these services. Should we find at the end of our pilot year that this program is, in fact, successful, our board has committed to including a portion of the project's yearly expenses into our annual operating budget so that the program becomes an integral part of our core services.
Through this project, the Center will become the primary referral given by Health Access Latinos, Families of Any County, and three community clinics within a fifteen-mile radius of our center. We will also accept referrals of Spanish-speaking seniors from any other community agency in our immediate service area.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. I will follow up with you in the next week to answer any questions you might have, as well as to learn whether we might meet with you to discuss the merits of our proposal. Meanwhile, should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Connie Jones, our Director of Development, at (555) 555-5555, x555, or
Jane Lovely
Executive Director

*Letter reprinted (with modifications) with permission from Winning Grants, Step by Step, Second Edition, Tori O'Neal-McElrath, Jossey-Bass, 2008.  

  • Writing too much.  A cover letter is not a dissertation, nor is it a full proposal. Keep it short and to the point Tip: Have someone else read it. Do they understand it? 
  • Using big words . If you've been to graduate school, you learned to write in a complicated way. Don't do that here. You're not trying to impress someone with your erudition. You only want to state your case as naturally as possible. If you don't know when you're overcomplicating your writing, use an app such as Hemingway . It will tell you when your sentences are hard to read and when you are too wordy.
  • Making Grammatical Mistakes . If you're not sure of your grammar, don't take chances. Use the grammar check in WORD, and, also run your draft through an app such as Grammarly . There is a free version, but the paid version goes well beyond the necessary grammar check.

Sad to say, but your grant proposal may be among hundreds or thousands that a typical foundation will see during an average year. Your cover letter can make the difference in getting to the next step towards funding. But how can you make it stand out?

Don't try anything "cute," as foundation officials will not be impressed.

The cover letter would not be appropriate for a story about a client , although you should have a story for other parts of your proposal, such as the description of the problem. Include a paragraph about why your organization is the one that can best accomplish this mission. Survey your competitive organizations and assess just how and where you excel. That may be in the strength of your staff and volunteers, your experience with this particular problem, or the community support you enjoy.

You don't need to mention the names of competitors or criticize them. Just highlight your strengths. This would be a good time to consult with others around the office. Pull a few people together and brainstorm how your nonprofit excels. 

Fundamentally, the cover letter should be forward moving, easy-to-read and compel the reader into the larger proposal. Don't put any obstacles in the way of the reader that might deter them from reading further.

  • How to Write a Successful Executive Summary for Your Grant Proposal
  • How to Write a Letter of Inquiry to a Foundation
  • How to Write the Methods Section of Your Grant Proposal
  • How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal
  • Which Type of Grant Proposal Should You Write?
  • How to Write a Needs Statement for Your Grant Proposal
  • Grant Writing Tips From Prospecting to Avoiding Mistakes
  • How to Develop a Grant Proposal Writing Process
  • Writing the Organizational Background Section for a Grant Proposal
  • How to Write the Sustainability Section of Your Grant Proposal
  • 19 Essential Samples and Templates for Nonprofit Organizations
  • How to Write Goals and SMART Objectives for Your Grant Proposal
  • How to Write the Evaluation Section of Your Grant Proposal
  • What Are Grant Letters of Support?
  • How to Make a Grant Proposal to a Small Family Foundation
  • Sample In-Kind Donation Letter Request

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!)

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write and revise grant proposals for research funding in all academic disciplines (sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts). It’s targeted primarily to graduate students and faculty, although it will also be helpful to undergraduate students who are seeking funding for research (e.g. for a senior thesis).

The grant writing process

A grant proposal or application is a document or set of documents that is submitted to an organization with the explicit intent of securing funding for a research project. Grant writing varies widely across the disciplines, and research intended for epistemological purposes (philosophy or the arts) rests on very different assumptions than research intended for practical applications (medicine or social policy research). Nonetheless, this handout attempts to provide a general introduction to grant writing across the disciplines.

Before you begin writing your proposal, you need to know what kind of research you will be doing and why. You may have a topic or experiment in mind, but taking the time to define what your ultimate purpose is can be essential to convincing others to fund that project. Although some scholars in the humanities and arts may not have thought about their projects in terms of research design, hypotheses, research questions, or results, reviewers and funding agencies expect you to frame your project in these terms. You may also find that thinking about your project in these terms reveals new aspects of it to you.

Writing successful grant applications is a long process that begins with an idea. Although many people think of grant writing as a linear process (from idea to proposal to award), it is a circular process. Many people start by defining their research question or questions. What knowledge or information will be gained as a direct result of your project? Why is undertaking your research important in a broader sense? You will need to explicitly communicate this purpose to the committee reviewing your application. This is easier when you know what you plan to achieve before you begin the writing process.

Diagram 1 below provides an overview of the grant writing process and may help you plan your proposal development.

A chart labeled The Grant Writing Process that provides and overview of the steps of grant writing: identifying a need, finding grants, developing a proposal and budget, submitting the proposal, accepting or declining awards, carrying out the project, and filing a report with funding agencies.

Applicants must write grant proposals, submit them, receive notice of acceptance or rejection, and then revise their proposals. Unsuccessful grant applicants must revise and resubmit their proposals during the next funding cycle. Successful grant applications and the resulting research lead to ideas for further research and new grant proposals.

Cultivating an ongoing, positive relationship with funding agencies may lead to additional grants down the road. Thus, make sure you file progress reports and final reports in a timely and professional manner. Although some successful grant applicants may fear that funding agencies will reject future proposals because they’ve already received “enough” funding, the truth is that money follows money. Individuals or projects awarded grants in the past are more competitive and thus more likely to receive funding in the future.

Some general tips

  • Begin early.
  • Apply early and often.
  • Don’t forget to include a cover letter with your application.
  • Answer all questions. (Pre-empt all unstated questions.)
  • If rejected, revise your proposal and apply again.
  • Give them what they want. Follow the application guidelines exactly.
  • Be explicit and specific.
  • Be realistic in designing the project.
  • Make explicit the connections between your research questions and objectives, your objectives and methods, your methods and results, and your results and dissemination plan.
  • Follow the application guidelines exactly. (We have repeated this tip because it is very, very important.)

Before you start writing

Identify your needs and focus.

First, identify your needs. Answering the following questions may help you:

  • Are you undertaking preliminary or pilot research in order to develop a full-blown research agenda?
  • Are you seeking funding for dissertation research? Pre-dissertation research? Postdoctoral research? Archival research? Experimental research? Fieldwork?
  • Are you seeking a stipend so that you can write a dissertation or book? Polish a manuscript?
  • Do you want a fellowship in residence at an institution that will offer some programmatic support or other resources to enhance your project?
  • Do you want funding for a large research project that will last for several years and involve multiple staff members?

Next, think about the focus of your research/project. Answering the following questions may help you narrow it down:

  • What is the topic? Why is this topic important?
  • What are the research questions that you’re trying to answer? What relevance do your research questions have?
  • What are your hypotheses?
  • What are your research methods?
  • Why is your research/project important? What is its significance?
  • Do you plan on using quantitative methods? Qualitative methods? Both?
  • Will you be undertaking experimental research? Clinical research?

Once you have identified your needs and focus, you can begin looking for prospective grants and funding agencies.

Finding prospective grants and funding agencies

Whether your proposal receives funding will rely in large part on whether your purpose and goals closely match the priorities of granting agencies. Locating possible grantors is a time consuming task, but in the long run it will yield the greatest benefits. Even if you have the most appealing research proposal in the world, if you don’t send it to the right institutions, then you’re unlikely to receive funding.

There are many sources of information about granting agencies and grant programs. Most universities and many schools within universities have Offices of Research, whose primary purpose is to support faculty and students in grant-seeking endeavors. These offices usually have libraries or resource centers to help people find prospective grants.

At UNC, the Research at Carolina office coordinates research support.

The Funding Information Portal offers a collection of databases and proposal development guidance.

The UNC School of Medicine and School of Public Health each have their own Office of Research.

Writing your proposal

The majority of grant programs recruit academic reviewers with knowledge of the disciplines and/or program areas of the grant. Thus, when writing your grant proposals, assume that you are addressing a colleague who is knowledgeable in the general area, but who does not necessarily know the details about your research questions.

Remember that most readers are lazy and will not respond well to a poorly organized, poorly written, or confusing proposal. Be sure to give readers what they want. Follow all the guidelines for the particular grant you are applying for. This may require you to reframe your project in a different light or language. Reframing your project to fit a specific grant’s requirements is a legitimate and necessary part of the process unless it will fundamentally change your project’s goals or outcomes.

Final decisions about which proposals are funded often come down to whether the proposal convinces the reviewer that the research project is well planned and feasible and whether the investigators are well qualified to execute it. Throughout the proposal, be as explicit as possible. Predict the questions that the reviewer may have and answer them. Przeworski and Salomon (1995) note that reviewers read with three questions in mind:

  • What are we going to learn as a result of the proposed project that we do not know now? (goals, aims, and outcomes)
  • Why is it worth knowing? (significance)
  • How will we know that the conclusions are valid? (criteria for success) (2)

Be sure to answer these questions in your proposal. Keep in mind that reviewers may not read every word of your proposal. Your reviewer may only read the abstract, the sections on research design and methodology, the vitae, and the budget. Make these sections as clear and straightforward as possible.

The way you write your grant will tell the reviewers a lot about you (Reif-Lehrer 82). From reading your proposal, the reviewers will form an idea of who you are as a scholar, a researcher, and a person. They will decide whether you are creative, logical, analytical, up-to-date in the relevant literature of the field, and, most importantly, capable of executing the proposed project. Allow your discipline and its conventions to determine the general style of your writing, but allow your own voice and personality to come through. Be sure to clarify your project’s theoretical orientation.

Develop a general proposal and budget

Because most proposal writers seek funding from several different agencies or granting programs, it is a good idea to begin by developing a general grant proposal and budget. This general proposal is sometimes called a “white paper.” Your general proposal should explain your project to a general academic audience. Before you submit proposals to different grant programs, you will tailor a specific proposal to their guidelines and priorities.

Organizing your proposal

Although each funding agency will have its own (usually very specific) requirements, there are several elements of a proposal that are fairly standard, and they often come in the following order:

  • Introduction (statement of the problem, purpose of research or goals, and significance of research)

Literature review

  • Project narrative (methods, procedures, objectives, outcomes or deliverables, evaluation, and dissemination)
  • Budget and budget justification

Format the proposal so that it is easy to read. Use headings to break the proposal up into sections. If it is long, include a table of contents with page numbers.

The title page usually includes a brief yet explicit title for the research project, the names of the principal investigator(s), the institutional affiliation of the applicants (the department and university), name and address of the granting agency, project dates, amount of funding requested, and signatures of university personnel authorizing the proposal (when necessary). Most funding agencies have specific requirements for the title page; make sure to follow them.

The abstract provides readers with their first impression of your project. To remind themselves of your proposal, readers may glance at your abstract when making their final recommendations, so it may also serve as their last impression of your project. The abstract should explain the key elements of your research project in the future tense. Most abstracts state: (1) the general purpose, (2) specific goals, (3) research design, (4) methods, and (5) significance (contribution and rationale). Be as explicit as possible in your abstract. Use statements such as, “The objective of this study is to …”


The introduction should cover the key elements of your proposal, including a statement of the problem, the purpose of research, research goals or objectives, and significance of the research. The statement of problem should provide a background and rationale for the project and establish the need and relevance of the research. How is your project different from previous research on the same topic? Will you be using new methodologies or covering new theoretical territory? The research goals or objectives should identify the anticipated outcomes of the research and should match up to the needs identified in the statement of problem. List only the principle goal(s) or objective(s) of your research and save sub-objectives for the project narrative.

Many proposals require a literature review. Reviewers want to know whether you’ve done the necessary preliminary research to undertake your project. Literature reviews should be selective and critical, not exhaustive. Reviewers want to see your evaluation of pertinent works. For more information, see our handout on literature reviews .

Project narrative

The project narrative provides the meat of your proposal and may require several subsections. The project narrative should supply all the details of the project, including a detailed statement of problem, research objectives or goals, hypotheses, methods, procedures, outcomes or deliverables, and evaluation and dissemination of the research.

For the project narrative, pre-empt and/or answer all of the reviewers’ questions. Don’t leave them wondering about anything. For example, if you propose to conduct unstructured interviews with open-ended questions, be sure you’ve explained why this methodology is best suited to the specific research questions in your proposal. Or, if you’re using item response theory rather than classical test theory to verify the validity of your survey instrument, explain the advantages of this innovative methodology. Or, if you need to travel to Valdez, Alaska to access historical archives at the Valdez Museum, make it clear what documents you hope to find and why they are relevant to your historical novel on the ’98ers in the Alaskan Gold Rush.

Clearly and explicitly state the connections between your research objectives, research questions, hypotheses, methodologies, and outcomes. As the requirements for a strong project narrative vary widely by discipline, consult a discipline-specific guide to grant writing for some additional advice.

Explain staffing requirements in detail and make sure that staffing makes sense. Be very explicit about the skill sets of the personnel already in place (you will probably include their Curriculum Vitae as part of the proposal). Explain the necessary skill sets and functions of personnel you will recruit. To minimize expenses, phase out personnel who are not relevant to later phases of a project.

The budget spells out project costs and usually consists of a spreadsheet or table with the budget detailed as line items and a budget narrative (also known as a budget justification) that explains the various expenses. Even when proposal guidelines do not specifically mention a narrative, be sure to include a one or two page explanation of the budget. To see a sample budget, turn to Example #1 at the end of this handout.

Consider including an exhaustive budget for your project, even if it exceeds the normal grant size of a particular funding organization. Simply make it clear that you are seeking additional funding from other sources. This technique will make it easier for you to combine awards down the road should you have the good fortune of receiving multiple grants.

Make sure that all budget items meet the funding agency’s requirements. For example, all U.S. government agencies have strict requirements for airline travel. Be sure the cost of the airline travel in your budget meets their requirements. If a line item falls outside an agency’s requirements (e.g. some organizations will not cover equipment purchases or other capital expenses), explain in the budget justification that other grant sources will pay for the item.

Many universities require that indirect costs (overhead) be added to grants that they administer. Check with the appropriate offices to find out what the standard (or required) rates are for overhead. Pass a draft budget by the university officer in charge of grant administration for assistance with indirect costs and costs not directly associated with research (e.g. facilities use charges).

Furthermore, make sure you factor in the estimated taxes applicable for your case. Depending on the categories of expenses and your particular circumstances (whether you are a foreign national, for example), estimated tax rates may differ. You can consult respective departmental staff or university services, as well as professional tax assistants. For information on taxes on scholarships and fellowships, see .

Explain the timeframe for the research project in some detail. When will you begin and complete each step? It may be helpful to reviewers if you present a visual version of your timeline. For less complicated research, a table summarizing the timeline for the project will help reviewers understand and evaluate the planning and feasibility. See Example #2 at the end of this handout.

For multi-year research proposals with numerous procedures and a large staff, a time line diagram can help clarify the feasibility and planning of the study. See Example #3 at the end of this handout.

Revising your proposal

Strong grant proposals take a long time to develop. Start the process early and leave time to get feedback from several readers on different drafts. Seek out a variety of readers, both specialists in your research area and non-specialist colleagues. You may also want to request assistance from knowledgeable readers on specific areas of your proposal. For example, you may want to schedule a meeting with a statistician to help revise your methodology section. Don’t hesitate to seek out specialized assistance from the relevant research offices on your campus. At UNC, the Odum Institute provides a variety of services to graduate students and faculty in the social sciences.

In your revision and editing, ask your readers to give careful consideration to whether you’ve made explicit the connections between your research objectives and methodology. Here are some example questions:

  • Have you presented a compelling case?
  • Have you made your hypotheses explicit?
  • Does your project seem feasible? Is it overly ambitious? Does it have other weaknesses?
  • Have you stated the means that grantors can use to evaluate the success of your project after you’ve executed it?

If a granting agency lists particular criteria used for rating and evaluating proposals, be sure to share these with your own reviewers.

Example #1. Sample Budget

Jet travel $6,100 This estimate is based on the commercial high season rate for jet economy travel on Sabena Belgian Airlines. No U.S. carriers fly to Kigali, Rwanda. Sabena has student fare tickets available which will be significantly less expensive (approximately $2,000).

Maintenance allowance $22,788 Based on the Fulbright-Hays Maintenance Allowances published in the grant application guide.

Research assistant/translator $4,800 The research assistant/translator will be a native (and primary) speaker of Kinya-rwanda with at least a four-year university degree. They will accompany the primary investigator during life history interviews to provide assistance in comprehension. In addition, they will provide commentary, explanations, and observations to facilitate the primary investigator’s participant observation. During the first phase of the project in Kigali, the research assistant will work forty hours a week and occasional overtime as needed. During phases two and three in rural Rwanda, the assistant will stay with the investigator overnight in the field when necessary. The salary of $400 per month is based on the average pay rate for individuals with similar qualifications working for international NGO’s in Rwanda.

Transportation within country, phase one $1,200 The primary investigator and research assistant will need regular transportation within Kigali by bus and taxi. The average taxi fare in Kigali is $6-8 and bus fare is $.15. This figure is based on an average of $10 per day in transportation costs during the first project phase.

Transportation within country, phases two and three $12,000 Project personnel will also require regular transportation between rural field sites. If it is not possible to remain overnight, daily trips will be necessary. The average rental rate for a 4×4 vehicle in Rwanda is $130 per day. This estimate is based on an average of $50 per day in transportation costs for the second and third project phases. These costs could be reduced if an arrangement could be made with either a government ministry or international aid agency for transportation assistance.

Email $720 The rate for email service from RwandaTel (the only service provider in Rwanda) is $60 per month. Email access is vital for receiving news reports on Rwanda and the region as well as for staying in contact with dissertation committee members and advisors in the United States.

Audiocassette tapes $400 Audiocassette tapes will be necessary for recording life history interviews, musical performances, community events, story telling, and other pertinent data.

Photographic & slide film $100 Photographic and slide film will be necessary to document visual data such as landscape, environment, marriages, funerals, community events, etc.

Laptop computer $2,895 A laptop computer will be necessary for recording observations, thoughts, and analysis during research project. Price listed is a special offer to UNC students through the Carolina Computing Initiative.

NUD*IST 4.0 software $373.00 NUD*IST, “Nonnumerical, Unstructured Data, Indexing, Searching, and Theorizing,” is necessary for cataloging, indexing, and managing field notes both during and following the field research phase. The program will assist in cataloging themes that emerge during the life history interviews.

Administrative fee $100 Fee set by Fulbright-Hays for the sponsoring institution.

Example #2: Project Timeline in Table Format

Example #3: project timeline in chart format.

A chart displaying project activities with activities listed in the left column and grant years divided into quarters in the top row with rectangles darkened to indicate in which quarter each activity in the left column occurs.

Some closing advice

Some of us may feel ashamed or embarrassed about asking for money or promoting ourselves. Often, these feelings have more to do with our own insecurities than with problems in the tone or style of our writing. If you’re having trouble because of these types of hang-ups, the most important thing to keep in mind is that it never hurts to ask. If you never ask for the money, they’ll never give you the money. Besides, the worst thing they can do is say no.

UNC resources for proposal writing

Research at Carolina

The Odum Institute for Research in the Social Sciences

UNC Medical School Office of Research

UNC School of Public Health Office of Research

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Holloway, Brian R. 2003. Proposal Writing Across the Disciplines. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Levine, S. Joseph. “Guide for Writing a Funding Proposal.” .

Locke, Lawrence F., Waneen Wyrick Spirduso, and Stephen J. Silverman. 2014. Proposals That Work . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Przeworski, Adam, and Frank Salomon. 2012. “Some Candid Suggestions on the Art of Writing Proposals.” Social Science Research Council. .

Reif-Lehrer, Liane. 1989. Writing a Successful Grant Application . Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Wiggins, Beverly. 2002. “Funding and Proposal Writing for Social Science Faculty and Graduate Student Research.” Chapel Hill: Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. 2 Feb. 2004.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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sample cover letter for research grant proposal


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Home › Writing › What is Grant Writing? › How to Write a Great Grant Proposal Cover Letter

How to Write a Great Grant Proposal Cover Letter

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Although your grant proposal cover letter isn’t the most exciting part of the grant proposal, it’s still vital to get funding. T he cover letter is the first contact point a potential organization or funder will have with your nonprofit project.

It’s like going out on a date. Sure, looks aren’t everything. Nevertheless, if you utterly don’t care about how you dress, you’re making it harder for yourself.

And just like your looks, you want to make your grant application cover letter simple and focused on impressing a particular person. It’s the first contact with the executive or organization you wish to request funding. If you want them to read your grant proposal request, they’ll have to like the cover letter first.

More crucial steps will come later, presuming the funder reads your cover letter. Although you can search for sample cover letters, they are usually hard to find.

Research shows that about 35% of grant funders funded 50% or more of the received grant requests. So, your grant proposal cover letter needs to be a complete home run. Here’s how.

How to Write a Grant Proposal Cover Letter 

How to writer a grant proposal cover letter

First of all, an average grant proposal letter shouldn’t be more than one page long. Cover letters are the pitch of your detailed grant proposal. Think of it as a summary of your book.

Before writing the first paragraph, you should open the letter with the contact’s name, title, address, and other related information. Although this might sound obvious, double-check that the contact information is correct. There are countless examples of rushed letters. You don’t want your project to crumble due to a misspelled executive director name.

Do your research before starting the cover letter. You can quickly find the correct information via a single call, email, or simply by doing some Internet scavenging.

Similarly, address the person with “Dear” and add a personal title such as Mr. or Mrs. Again, it’s cover letter 101, so it will feel even worse if you misspell the first step.

If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, look at it like this. Executives have a keen eye for sloppiness. Since they will skim any cover letter first rather than reading it to the last paragraph, you don’t want mistakes popping out.

The initial information tells the funder you didn’t go in headfirst, and proper addressing tells them you’re a potential candidate. If the letter lacks, you’ll be mistaken for a novice instead of a candidate worthy of doing business.

If you’re interested in learning more about the grant writing process, then take a look at our grant writing certification course.

Want to Become a Great Grant Writer

Get Straight to the Point in Your Grant Proposal Cover Letter

Everybody knows why you’re writing a grant proposal cover letter; it’s in the name. Meaning, there’s no reason to sugarcoat it.

After you nail the introduction, it’s time to introduce yourself and your organization. In the first paragraph, format the content into two sentences maximum. Here, you’ll write who you are and your job title. That’s it.

Next, get right to the point. Describe why your organization or foundation needs the grant, what’s your mission, and most importantly, the budget you’re requesting. Maybe you’re working on a community project, or it’s a charity. Either way, make it brief.

While on the topic, you should create a proposal for grants of all sizes. Even if a smaller grant doesn’t suffice, having it can attract larger grants. There are about 900 federal grant programs . Don’t limit yourself.

Another great touch is to validate your project via research. If you have cold data that justifies your organization’s existence, rarely will anyone find a way to object.

If you’re not 100% sure how to format the paragraph, create a sample cover and share it with friends or co-workers. Write the section, read the grant request introduction, then ask two questions .

  • Can you tell me what the project is about? – Although the mission is clear to you as a writer, it might read astrophysical development documents to a fresh pair of eyes.
  • How did you feel when you read the requested funding? – This is to see how another person will react. Keep in mind that how your friend and the funder reacts can differ.

Methods, Strategies & Solutions

In the next paragraph, you should explain how you plan to use the grant to the grantor. By doing this, you’re effectively telling the funder that you have a plan in motion. You can also include a graphical modal for visual representation, depending on the format.

Some writers like to use a numbered sample. The format can work both when you’re explaining your goals and strategies:

  • The organization’s four main goals
  • The project’s five phases

Usually, you want to back up each number with further details. Although an excellent overview, simply including a couple of numbers in your letter won’t suffice. Find the balance between simplicity and complexity. Numbering provides a clear summary, while further details should give the letter a more professional tone.

An additional touch is to offer a timeline where you explain significant milestone and their due dates. You can also do that by using a brief bullet-point format. The timestamps can be months or quarters, depending on the project’s length.

Again, remember you’ll go into full detail in the grant proposal. Although defining strategies and methods isn’t crucial for the cover letter, add it if you can fit it on that one page.

Cover Letters & Necessary Data

After the mission details and budget proposals, it’s time to quickly cover organization info and structure. It can be tedious, but every grant proposal needs it, especially if you grab their attention.

Again, keep it short. Explain your corporate structure and related information in just a couple of sentences, including the founding date. Grant proposals require the data, and although you’re not writing a contract but a cover letter, you still need to present the essential information.

You should also explain how your project matches the funder’s and why the funder should give you the support and funding priority.

As always, double-check the information in your proposal letter, especially if you’re running a nonprofit organization. It’s somewhat easier to get grants for a nonprofit project, but funders are more likely to check the details. Although many think that foundation funding is the primary source for nonprofits, about 80% of income comes from other sources.

If the grant funder likes your cover letter, you want to make it easy for them to contact you about the grant proposal.

Always end all your cover letters with a positive closing line such as “Looking forward to your response.” The goal is for the letter to sound optimistic, grateful, but not needy.

Sign the letter and if your organization has an executive director, have them sign as well.

Common grant proposal cover letter elements

Cover Letter Tips & Mistakes to Avoid

For the final polish of your proposal, you can do things to give the letter a more personal and professional touch.

Ask for Feedback

Before pressing “send,” have co-workers read the sample of the proposal one more time. Good feedback is hard to find, and once you make contact, the fabled typos become irreversible. Don’t be gun shy to even reach out to your wider community for support.

Send the proposal sample page to anyone you can and collect their feedback. Naturally, you don’t want to spend half of your waking life collecting feedback. Still, a cover letter is just words on a paper without the reader understanding what you want, especially when they’re giving you money.

If still not convinced, it takes between 80 to 200 hours to write a grant proposal, and it can cost several thousand dollars if you’re hiring a grant writer . You don’t want a single page to ruin all the hard work.

Use Plain English

We all want to impress others. But using complex words can easily backfire and ruin your chance.

The point of a proposal letter isn’t to show your vocabulary but to state your case as straightforward as possible. If you’re unsure if you’re overdoing it, some helpful apps and websites will tell you if a sentence is too long or too complex.

Final Formatting

Ensure the dates match since you’ll have a date both in the cover letter and the main grant proposal. You don’t want to send a proposal where the grant proposal has April 5th while the cover letter has November 27th. This goes for other files you’ll send as well.

The cover letter should use single-space and leave space between addresses in the heading. Double-space means less room to write the limited information you need. This doesn’t mean you should delete the area between paragraphs. Give the letter room to breathe.

Although unnecessary, it can be a nice touch if you place your signature in live ink. Leave about three empty spaces the complimentary close and your name for the signature.

Send the Cover Letter in PDF

If you’re emailing the grant proposal letter, email the document in PDF. There’s a chance the foundation will offer to sign documents digitally. Additionally, unlike other text files, PDF is safe from malware. Meaning, a PDF will not only look competent but will also leave a good impression in the eyes of the more “tech-savvy” grant funders.

If you are new to grant writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our Grant Writing Certification Course , where you will learn the fundamentals of being a grant writer, how to write proposals that win grants, and how to stand out as a grant writing candidate.

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Four common grant proposal documents (free samples included)

  • Melissa Pulis (she/her)
  • July 13, 2023

Person typing on a laptop with document icons coming out of a folder.

Nonprofit work means paperwork. While Candid is working to reduce that burden broadly, here is one specific way we are trying to help: by providing sample grant proposal documents . 

There are four major documents that you may need to create if your nonprofit is looking for funding. Each has a different purpose and elements you’ll need to make your case to funders.  

In this blog, we share the major types of grant proposal documents, their components, and free sample resources to show you what a successful version of each one looks like. 

Letters of inquiry (LOI)

If you’re new to fundraising and grant writing, you may have not heard the term letter of inquiry , or LOI. Honestly, when you do, it’s good news. 

A letter of inquiry or LOI is something a funder may ask for in lieu of a full grant proposal. Instead of a giant stack of papers, you just need to write a few pages to create a LOI that will get the funder excited to support your cause or project.  

Sometimes, this can be the first step in a funder’s broader grant proposal process. In this case, you may be asked to complete a LOI to show whether you meet the grant criteria, so time is not wasted on a full proposal. Other times, it serves as the entire proposal. 

Here’s what a letter of inquiry should include: 

  • An introduction that summarizes the letter.  
  • A brief description of your organization and why this particular project is important.  
  • A statement of need that convinces the reader your project meets the specific needs of those you serve. 
  • A methodology that explains how you’ll do it. 
  • Other funding sources that are being approached. 
  • Finally, a summary of what was just said and a brief thank you to the funder for considering your organization.  

The biggest challenge is you only get a couple pages to make your case. In our LOI sample documents , you will see examples of how you can summarize projects in a compelling and concise way. 

Cover letters

This is the most important part of your grant proposal: the cover letter . Think of a cover letter as a compelling introduction to the contents of your full proposal. It’s your first chance to connect your project with the funder’s philanthropic mission.  

At minimum, your cover letter should include: 

  • An introduction to your project. 
  • The dollar amount of funding you need.  
  • How your project and organization will further the foundation’s mission. 
  • A list that outlines the proposal’s contents. 
  • Contact details in case the funder wants additional information. 
  • A signature from your organization’s executive director. 

Additionally, if your organization has branded letterhead, consider using it for added polish. 

In our sample documents, you’ll find three different examples of cover letters that include these aspects. 

Proposal budgets 

Proposal budgets may seem a bit dull, but many funders say it’s the first part of a grant proposal that they read. Your budget should show your credibility and impact with numbers.  

A proposal budget should include: 

  • Grants and other funding contributions. 
  • Earned income from events, products, and fees. 
  • Direct costs, like staff time, consultants, supplies, equipment, and evaluation (such as conducting surveys or collecting feedback). 
  • Indirect costs—or the invisible costs, like rent, utilities, office supplies, marketing, and administrative staff. 

Make sure your budget adds up (it’s a big red flag when it doesn’t). Not only should the math be correct, but it should also match the request for funding you’re making in the proposal.  

To see this in practice, review our proposal budget sample documents.  

Full grant proposals

Here’s the big one. Writing a full grant proposal can be a little intimidating.   

Before you begin, make sure to read and re-read the instructions from the funder. You don’t want to miss some simple but important proposal requirements, like using a specific font. 

Here are the key elements of a proposal: 

  • Executive summary. This is where you’ll give a snapshot of the problem, your solution for addressing it, why your organization can help, and the amount of funding you’ll need to do so. 
  • Needs statement. Next is a needs statement that shows why your project is needed and aligned with funders’ focus areas. 
  • Project description. In this section, you’ll share your project’s goals and objectives, detailed activities, and information about your organization. 
  • Proposal budget. Finally, a budget that shows in numbers how you’ll address the problem. 

Reading examples of full grant proposal documents can be a helpful way to get started. You can also check out our free live and on-demand trainings .  

Need more help? Our team of online librarians is here to provide resources and support. You can reach out to them by emailing [email protected] or via chat during business hours.  

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  • International
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About the author

Portrait of Melissa Pulis

Melissa is an experienced information professional who leads Candid’s Online Librarian program and oversees content creation for Candid Learning’s Knowledge Base Articles. She is passionate about librarianship, providing equitable access to information, and teaching people how to navigate online resources.

In addition to her experience leading the Online Librarian program, Melissa has extensive nonprofit experience having worked in development for both small and large Cleveland-area nonprofits and as a grants manager for a private foundation. Melissa has a Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State University.

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Geoffrey says:

Insightful well arranged tips on proposal writing. Want to learn more and examples

Jesus Loera says:

Good evening friends, I am Jesus Loera. Lately I have become interested in grant writing but haven't a clue where to start. I am a life long resident of Brownsville Texas. We are stuffed up against the Mexican border. Not extremely prosperous, sad to say. I work for a Community College in need of funding, I am a member of a Unitarian Church with only 6 members and I recently joined the local Freemasons. All these organizations in desperate need of finical help. I am willing to help as much as possible, but in need of some coaching.

Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

Candid does not suggest specific funders or approach them on your behalf. But we can point you to resources that should help you in your funding search. You can check out our Knowledge Base for information on getting grants and finding donors .

Christian Wilson says:

We need additional funding in the amount of $20,000 to feed 700 people during the weekend when there are no services provided. The local funders have been tapped out and tell us that they cannot assist us. Can you advise me of other alternative funding that might be available so that we can continue to feed these families?

Leslie England says:

Greetings! We are a 501c3 trying to get a grant to buy a building for a homeless shelter in our area. We have no idea how to find grants or apply for them. Where do you begin?

Jean niyungeko Fessi says:

the information is so helpful, thanks for being resourceful.

Bruce says:

I also maintain both a paper and electronic file of key documents usually required like IRS letter, BOD list, 1page overview of organization including Mission statement, most recent 990, annual budget including income and expenses. All this helps especially with online applications!

Lorent Damaseke Mvula says:

Thanks for the knowledge and skills I have learned on grant proposals, this really sharpens my knowledge.

RMM- ED says:

Thank you for posting this!

This is super helpful, thank you!

Cindy Dashnaw Jackson says:

This is an incredible resource and a generous action, Melissa. I hope many nonprofits see this article!

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How to Use Annotated Sample Grants

Are these real grants written by real students.

Yes! While each proposal represents a successfully funded application, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) The proposals below are  final products;  no student started out with a polished proposal. The proposal writing process requires stages of editing while a student formulates their project and works on best representing that project in writing. 2) The samples reflect a wide range of project types, but  they are not exhaustive . URGs can be on any topic in any field, but all must make a successful argument for why their project should be done/can be done by the person proposing to do it.  See our proposal writing guides for more advice. The best way to utilize these proposals is to pay attention to the  proposal strengths  and  areas for improvement  on each cover page to guide your reading.

How do I decide which sample grants to read?

When students first look through the database, they are usually compelled to read an example from their major (Therefore, we often hear complaints that there is not a sample proposal for every major). However, this is not the best approach because there can be many different kinds of methodologies within a single subject area, and similar research methods can be used across fields.

  • Read through the Methodology Definitions and Proposal Features  to identify which methodolog(ies) are most similar to your proposed project. 
  • Use the Annotated Sample Grant Database ( scroll below the definitions and features) filters or search for this methodology to identify relevant proposals and begin reading!

It does not matter whether the samples you read are summer grants (SURGs) or academic year grants (AYURGs).  The main difference between the two grant types is that academic year proposals (AYURG) require a budget to explain how the $1,000 will be used towards research materials, while summer proposals (SURG) do not require a budget (the money is a living stipend that goes directly to the student awardee) and SURGs have a bigger project scope since they reflect a project that will take 8 weeks of full time research to complete.  The overall format and style is the same across both grant cycles, so they are relevant examples for you to review, regardless of which grant cycle you are planning to apply.  

How do I get my proposal to look like these sample grants?

Do not submit a first draft:  These sample proposals went through multiple rounds of revisions with feedback from both Office of Undergraduate Research advisors and the student’s faculty mentor. First, it helps to learn about grant structure and proposal writing techniques before you get started. Then, when you begin drafting, it’s normal to make lots of changes as the grant evolves. You will learn a lot about your project during the editing and revision process, and you typically end up with a better project by working through several drafts of a proposal.

Work with an advisor:  Students who work with an Office of Undergraduate Research Advisor have higher success rates than students who do not. We encourage students to meet with advisors well in advance of the deadline (and feel free to send us drafts of your proposal prior to our advising appointment, no matter how rough your draft is!), so we can help you polish and refine your proposal.

Review final proposal checklists prior to submission:  the expectation is a two-page, single-spaced research grant proposal (1″ margins, Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11), and proposals that do not meet these formatting expectations will not be considered by the review committee.  Your bibliography does not count towards this page limit.

Academic Year URG Submission Checklist

Summer URG Application Checklist


Research methodologies.

The proposed project involves collecting primary sources held in archives, a Special Collections library, or other repository. Archival sources might include manuscripts, documents, records, objects, sound and audiovisual materials, etc. If a student proposes a trip to collect such sources, the student should address a clear plan of what will be collected from which archives, and should address availability and access (ie these sources are not available online, and the student has permission to access the archive).

Computational/Mathematical Modeling

The proposed project involves developing models to numerically study the behavior of system(s), often through computer simulation. Students should specify what modeling tool they will be using (i.e., an off-the-shelf product, a lab-specific codebase), what experience they have with it, and what resources they have when they get stuck with the tool (especially if the advisor is not a modeler). Models often involve iterations of improvements, so much like a Design/Build project, the proposal should clearly define parameters for a “successful” model with indication of how the student will assess if the model meets these minimum qualifications.

Creative Output

The proposed project has a creative output such playwriting, play production, documentary, music composition, poetry, creative writing, or other art. Just like all other proposals, the project centers on an answerable question, and the student must show the question and method associated with the research and generation of that project. The artist also must justify their work and make an argument for why this art is needed and/or how it will add to important conversations .


The proposed project’s output centers around a final product or tool. The student clearly defines parameters for a “successful” project with indication of how they will assess if the product meets these minimum qualifications.

The project takes place in a lab or research group environment, though the methodology within the lab or research group vary widely by field. The project often fits within the larger goals/or project of the research group, but the proposal still has a clearly identified research question that the student is working independently to answer.

Literary/Composition Analysis

The project studies, evaluates, and interprets literature or composition. The methods are likely influenced by theory within the field of study. In the proposal, the student has clearly defined which pieces will be studied and will justify why these pieces were selected. Context will be given that provides a framework for how the pieces will be analyzed or interpreted.

Qualitative Data Analysis

The project proposes to analyze data from non-numeric information such as interview transcripts, notes, video and audio recordings, images, and text documents. The proposal clearly defines how the student will examine and interpret patterns and themes in the data and how this methodology will help to answer the defined research question.

Quantitative Data Analysis

The project proposes to analyze data from numeric sources. The proposal clearly defines variables to be compared and provides insight as to the kinds of statistical tests that will be used to evaluate the significance of the data.

The proposed project will collect data through survey(s). The proposal should clearly defined who will be asked to complete the survey, how these participants will be recruited, and/or proof of support from contacts. The proposal should include the survey(s) in an appendix. The proposal should articulate how the results from these survey(s) will be analyzed.

The proposed project will use theoretical frameworks within their proposed area of research to explain, predict, and/or challenge and extend existing knowledge. The conceptual framework serves as a lens through which the student will evaluate the research project and research question(s); it will likely contain a set of assumptions and concepts that form the basis of this lens.

Proposal Features

Group project.

A group project is proposed by two or more students; these proposals receive one additional page for each additional student beyond the two page maximum. Group projects must clearly articulate the unique role of each student researcher. While the uploaded grant proposal is the same, each student researcher must submit their own application into the system for the review.

International Travel

Projects may take place internationally. If the proposed country is not the student’s place of permanent residence, the student can additionally apply for funding to cover half the cost of an international plane ticket. Proposals with international travel should likely include travel itineraries and/or proof of support from in-country contacts in the appendix.

Non-English Language Proficiency

Projects may be conducted in a non-English language. If you have proficiency in the proposed language, you should include context (such as bilingual, heritage speaker, or by referencing coursework etc.) If you are not proficient and the project requires language proficiency, you should include a plan for translation or proof of contacts in the country who can support your research in English.


  • Sample Letters

FREE 3+ Grant Proposal Cover Letter Samples in PDF

sample grant proposal cover letter templates

Designing an appealing and comprehensive proposal to market you and your project to specific individuals or private institutions or agencies is integral so that you may have sufficient funds to fully support your projects. One of the most important things that you need to consider in preparing your grant proposal is an effective cover letter. In this article, we will provide some beneficial tips that you should learn and apply while writing your cover letter introduction for grant application.  Plus, we include various grant application letter samples that you can use. Please continue reading!

Grant Proposal Cover Letter

Free 3+ grant proposal cover letter samples, 1. grant proposal cover letter template, 2. sample grant proposal cover letter template, 3. agency grant proposal cover letter template, 4. printable grant proposal cover letter template, what is a grant proposal cover letter, how to write a grant proposal cover letter, 1. type your heading and opening statement, 2. research about the primary interests of your potential funder and inform them that you can fulfill their standard, 3. include your project highlights and objectives, 4. be polite and humble , 5. show your gratitude , how do i write a letter of support for a research grant, how to write a grant proposal, how will grant funds be used, what do grant reviewers look for.

grant proposal cover letter

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agency grant proposal cover letter sample

Size: 117 KB

printable grant proposal cover letter

Size: 125 KB

According to the book “ How to Write a Grant Proposal ,” a request for grant proposal cover letter is a written document of an introduction concerning a research project and a way of getting started on the right foot by introducing your work instead of launching into the request right away. By using an effective cover letter for a grant proposal, you can leverage it to create an excellent first impression, especially when you send your proposal to a foundation or a state program.

When you write a grant proposal cover letter , take note that you need to write simple and concise words and your tone should be positive, confident, and inviting. Keep your overall letter in one page only and it must have a 12-point text font with at least an inch of the margins. Below are important ways you can do while preparing the cover page for grant proposal sample :

For your heading, type the name of the institution or organization, the person you are addressing as well as the address of the person or the organization at the left side of your page. Then, type the formal opening statement by addressing the person you are writing the letter. Avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” because this shows that you are not prepared and have not done the basic and essential research to identify the gran t program contact person.  

Before including the highlights of your project, you need to fulfill your potential funder’s interests and standard. That’s why you and your team must research the primary interests of your potential funder by reading and analyzing several  literature, past projects work , resources and other information about the funder. Funders have a difficult time in making right decisions especially in offering grants. 

So, when writing your grant application letter , your project should match the issue that is crucial to the funder or simply, your project must be targeted to create an innovative solution to the problem which greatly interests the grant maker. 

Your project proposal should provide a detailed description of the highlights of your project. Describe the specific location and target population in your cover letter as you paint a thumbnail illustration of your part of the world, as well as the target audience that your project intends to serve. Aside from this, t he University of North Carolina Wilmington recommends that you should include the support goals and objectives inside your letter. Explain your purpose for your proposal submission. 

You should be polite and humble when writing your grant application letter format . This is very ideal when you’re trying to ask for financial aid from several individuals or organizations. So, use simple, clear, and direct words. Avoid inserting complex terms and sentences.

William Faulkner once said: “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” For the last paragraph of your grant proposal cover letter, show your deep gratitude by expressing your heartfelt thanks and appreciation to your potential funder who will provide financial assistance or support for your project scope . In this way, you will give a positive impression to your overall letter.

Write the complete details of the sample agreement or relationship as it clearly refers to the grant application. Specify the representative’s signature and organization letterhead. Include testimonies that prove the grant applicant’s appropriateness for the particular project or relationship. Mention specific achievements, valuable metrics, current objectives, and future goals.

The first step that you need to do in writing a grant proposal is perform a background research on your potential funder. Follow closely the specific guidelines of your funder. Coordinate with each other by explaining your interests and intentions concerning your project. Remember to edit and proofread your formal proposal . 

Based on an article , grant funds are typically used to finance the investigation of a business theme, offer working capital for starting up a business or other purpose. Additionally, these funds can be utilized to supplement existing funds.

Grant reviewers look for the design and illustrations, target page, clarity and simplicity, potential problems and alternate solutions, and research project timeline in your proposal. 

Therefore, we highly recommend that you follow the aforementioned tips in this article when you write your cover letter for your grant proposal. Your document needs to convince your potential funders that your project objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time oriented (SMART), that your proposal’s logic model demonstrates a clear and effective process, that your project design addresses the needs of your target group, and many more significant aspects.  To help you in writing your grant proposal letter writing , you can click and download our templates here! 

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13+ SAMPLE Research Funding Proposal in PDF | MS Word

research funding proposal

Research Funding Proposal | MS Word

13+ sample research funding proposal, what is a research funding proposal, different types of research funding proposal, basic components of a research funding proposal , how to write a research funding proposal, what are some examples of a research funding proposal, what are the fundamental elements of a research funding proposal, what are the major types of research or grant funding, how to approach major donors for funding.

Research Funding Proposal Template

Research Funding Proposal Template

Faculty Scholarship and Research Funding Opportunity Grant Proposal

Faculty Scholarship and Research Funding Opportunity Grant Proposal

Research Funding Proposal Form

Research Funding Proposal Form

Electronic Research Administration Funding Proposal

Electronic Research Administration Funding Proposal

Sample Research Funding Proposal

Sample Research Funding Proposal

New Faculty Research Funding Proposal

New Faculty Research Funding Proposal

Research Funding Application Proposal Format

Research Funding Application Proposal Format

Research Funding Proposal From Scholar Activities Committee

Research Funding Proposal From Scholar Activities Committee

Research External Funding Proposal

Research External Funding Proposal

Undergraduate Research Funding Proposal

Undergraduate Research Funding Proposal

Research Funding Proposal in PDF

Research Funding Proposal in PDF

Research Funding Proposal Example

Research Funding Proposal Example

Basic Research Funding Proposal

Basic Research Funding Proposal

Research Funding Proposal in DOC

Research Funding Proposal in DOC

1. faculty scholarship and research funding opportunity grant proposal, 2. electronic research administration funding proposal, 3. research funding proposal from scholar activities committee, 4. research proposal for external funding, step 1: develop an engaging cover page , step 2: state the issue, goals, objectives and desired outcomes, step 3: present the research activities and plans, step 4: explain the sustainability, budget and other components of the research project, step 5: prepare the final draft, share this post on your network, you may also like these articles, 21+ sample demolition proposals in pdf | ms word.

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  1. FREE 12+ Sample Grant Proposal Letter Templates in MS Word

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal

  2. How To Write A Grant Cover Letter

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal

  3. 13+ Grant Proposal Cover Letter Sample

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal

  4. Research Grant Proposal Template

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal

  5. Research Grant Proposal Template

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal

  6. Grant Proposal Letter Sample

    sample cover letter for research grant proposal


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  2. Research Grant Proposal Writing #researchproposal

  3. How to prepare research grant proposal?

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  5. Why Are Cover Letters Important?

  6. Tip for Proposal Writing


  1. How To Write a Grant Proposal Cover Letter (With Example)

    1. Use a formal header At the top of a grant proposal cover letter, most professionals choose to include a formal header. In this section, you can include elements such as: Your contact information The date you sent the letter Recipient's contact information

  2. Grant Proposal Cover Letter Sample: Expert Guide (Templates)

    #01 Writing a Grant Proposal Cover Letter Organizations writing a grant proposal cover letter must ensure they follow a well-outlined process. The step-by-step process ensures that all elements of the grant proposal letter are included. It also helps ensure that the letter is written in an appropriate format.

  3. How to Write a Cover Letter for Your Grant Proposal

    Author: Amelie Heurteux , Customer Success Manager at Instrumentl Published: October 27, 2021 Last Updated: November 20, 2023 Grant Writing If you're applying for a grant, the funder will often ask you to submit a cover letter with your grant proposal. I know, this can be frustrating.

  4. Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

    Cover Letter Sometimes grant proposals are preceded by a cover letter. These often serve to personally introduce you as the grant- seeking individual/organization, establish your ethos and professionalism, briefly describe your proposed project, and convey enthusiasm for the project and appreciation for the readers' consideration of your request.

  5. Write Your Application

    How to Apply - Application Guide Format and Write Write Your Application Write Your Application The following guidance may assist you in developing a strong application that allows reviewers to better evaluate the science and merit of your proposal.

  6. How to Write an Effective Grant Proposal Cover Letter

    Mim Carlson and Tori O'Neal-McElrath, authors of Winning Grants, Step by Step,  point out that the cover letter should: Introduce your organization to the correct person. Assure the funder that this project has the support of your board of directors. State what you are asking for - how much and for what. When Do You Include a Cover Letter?

  7. Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!)

    - The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!) What this handout is about This handout will help you write and revise grant proposals for research funding in all academic disciplines (sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts).

  8. How to Write a Great Grant Proposal Cover Letter

    Final Formatting. Ensure the dates match since you'll have a date both in the cover letter and the main grant proposal. You don't want to send a proposal where the grant proposal has April 5th while the cover letter has November 27th. This goes for other files you'll send as well.

  9. How To Write An Effective Grant Proposal

    Grant Proposal Cover Letter (Format, Samples, and Tips) Grant Proposal Examples with Sample What are Grants? A grant is a bounty, contribution, gift, or subsidy (in cash or kind) bestowed by a government or other organization (called the grantor) for specified purposes to an eligible recipient (called the grantee).

  10. How to write a grant proposal: a step-by-step guide

    Create your grant proposal. Create, send and eSign your grant proposals. Receive automatic follow-up reminders to keep the conversation going. Start a free trial. Step 1. Write a strong cover letter. Your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to capture the funder's attention and get your foot in the door.

  11. Writing a Grant Writer Cover Letters: Do's, Don'ts & Examples

    The grant proposal sample cover letters letter introduces you and provides an overview of your experience and qualifications. While it should be brief, it should clearly explain why you are uniquely qualified for this job opportunity.

  12. How to Compose a Professional Cover Letter for Grant Proposals

    1. Utilize your company letterhead. 2. Ensure the letter's date corresponds to the date of your application proposal. 3. Constrain the letter to a single page, comprising three to four...

  13. Grant Writing

    The cover letter serves as an opportunity to capture the interest and obtain buy-in from your potential funder. Content. Suggested contents include: Briefly describe your organization and what it does. Name and describe the specific project for which funding is requested. Mention the total amount of your funding request.

  14. Four common grant proposal documents (free samples included)

    This is the most important part of your grant proposal: the cover letter. Think of a cover letter as a compelling introduction to the contents of your full proposal. It's your first chance to connect your project with the funder's philanthropic mission. At minimum, your cover letter should include: An introduction to your project.


    ANNOTATED SAMPLE GRANT PROPOSALS Are these real grants? Written by real students? How do I decide which sample grants to read? How do I get my proposal to look like these sample grants? METHODOLOGY DEFINITIONS & PROPOSAL FEATURES Research Methodologies Archival Computational/Mathematical Modeling Creative Output Design/Build Fieldwork Interviews

  16. Cover letter for grant proposal: Sample & tips for success

    Santa Fe, New Mexico 12345. [email protected]. 555-555-5555. With these tips & cover letter grant proposal sample, you should be well on your way towards writing a strong cover letter for grant proposals. For even more information on how to get a small business grant, check out our guide. If you are looking for more guidance on how ...

  17. PDF Sample Grant Proposal

    The cover letter should contain a summary of your proposal, introduce your organization and summarize any recent communications you've had with the funding organization. Include the amount of funding that you are requesting, the population it will serve, and the need it will help solve. Try to bring your project to life in the cover letter ...

  18. FREE 3+ Grant Proposal Cover Letter Samples in PDF

    1. Grant Proposal Cover Letter Template Details File Format PDF Size: 5 KB Download 2. Sample Grant Proposal Cover Letter Template Details File Format PDF Size: 198 KB Download 3. Agency Grant Proposal Cover Letter Template Details File Format PDF

  19. How To Write a Proposal Cover Letter (With an Example)

    How To Write a Proposal Cover Letter (With an Example) Indeed Editorial Team Updated July 20, 2023 Proposal cover letters are documents that professionals use to introduce their proposals to business partners and donors. They allow them to capture the attention of readers and explain why their proposals are beneficial for both parties.

  20. 35 Successful Grant Proposal Examples (How to Write)

    Step 1. Write a strong cover letter. When writing the cover letter, keep it short (three to four paragraphs), precise (amount needed, purpose, and reasons why you deserve the grant), and relatable to the reader. You should avoid repetition and compare yourself to other applicants.

  21. PDF Sample Cover Letter & Proposal for Funding Support

    Sample Cover Letter & Sample Proposal for Funding Support Uses for Document Proposals to corporations, civic clubs and organizations Simple corporate or foundation grants not requiring specific application form Solicitation of sponsorships (Include donor benefits for each level of sponsorship) Notes for speeches or oral funding requests Date

  22. How To Write a Cover Letter for a Research Paper (Plus Example)

    1. Set up the formatting. Set up your word processor to format your cover letter correctly. Formatting standards for research paper cover letters usually include: Using single spacing between each line. Avoiding indented paragraphs. Justifying the text to the left. Using one line of space between each paragraph. 2.

  23. 13+ SAMPLE Research Funding Proposal in PDF

    We will discuss the different types of research funding proposal, basic components, and steps in preparing this proposal, plus we have various downloadable research funding proposal templates such as student research funding proposal, science research project funding request proposal, clinical research project grant proposal, scholar activities ...