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Writing a Grant

  • Roles

    Members of the Grants Department, Grants Accounting and Institutional Research & Effectiveness teams are available to assist you through the planning, development and implementation stages of your grant.

    Grants Department

    For idea, proposal and implementation support: 

    Contact the Grants Department when you have an idea or you need help finding and developing a grant. The Grants Department is a great resource for helping you develop your proposal framework and offering insights into government agency and private foundation funding priorities. The Department also coordinates the President and Board of Trustee approvals. The Department can share “boilerplate” materials that may strengthen needs statements and provide background, history and accomplishments of the College.

  • Vonda Woods
    Director, Accounting Services
    (727) 341-3210

  • Do's & Don'ts


    • Remember to follow all the instructions regarding formatting and submission or you your proposal may not even get reviewed.  In a time of increased needs and decreased resources, grant makers are inundated with grant proposals.
    • Write as if the person reading it has no background on the topic, the institution, etc.  With this in mind, avoid jargon and limit acronyms.  If you are going to use acronyms, make sure you you spell out the acronym when first mentioned, as well as later in in the proposal so that the reader does not need to refer back too far.
    • Make your proposal clear and easy to read. 
    • Justify project design and needs statement comments and data with internal and external research and supporting evidence. Be sure to cite your sources either at the end of a statement or as a footer.
    • Keep in mind the question you are being asked to answer.  Stay on topic and focused on the funder's information request.  A recommendation would be to format your proposal in alignment with the outline detailed in the RFP. Add headings and subheadings to signal the location of essential content to the reader. Do not leave any criteria unaddressed.
    • Provide a brief background on the institution, even if it is not requested in the RFP.
    • Ensure your budget is consistent and aligned with your proposed activities. Check your cost per participant for reasonableness and competitiveness. Provide sufficient detail in your Budget Narrative.
    • Abstract should not contain any information not included in the proposal. The abstract/executive summary should be considered an independent document.
    • Demonstrate transparency.


    • Get creative with the order of proposal sections.
    • Talk in generalizations.
    • Assume panel reviewers are going to make sense of your proposal or budget if it isn't clear.
    • Have math errors in your budget.
    • Have unreasonable outcome goals.
    • Include leverage resource goals that are unattainable.
    • Include Letters of Commitment without specific activities and leverage resource amounts (if applicable).  If including Letters of Commitment, do not use a template letter for organizations to sign, rather create individualized letters relative to your relationship with the organization, as well as the outline of resources and activities they will be contributing.
  • Grants Accounting

    For accounting and budget support: 

    Be sure to get in touch with Grants Accounting to discuss your budget.  SPC has developed a guideline for expenditures that will help to ensure you are covering common program costs, such as personnel, benefits, equipment, supplies and other items like tuition or stipends.  Grants Accounting will need to approve your final budget prior to grant submission.  Grants Accounting is also your point of contact for all things related to financial reporting, compliance, Time and Effort (T&E) reporting, budget, invoicing and purchasing.

  • Katie Shultz
    ExecDir of Grants Development

    Jennifer McBride
    Grant Writer

    Liliana Coronado-Gil
    Grant Management Specialist
    (727) 341-4455

    Melissa Holtz
    Sr Administrative Svcs Speclst
    (727) 341-3176
  • Magaly Tymms
    Dir, InstitutionlEffectiveness
    (727) 341-3195

    Daniel Gardner
    OPS Professional
  • Institutional Research and Effectiveness

    For data and evaluation support: 

    Contact Institutional Research and Effectiveness (IRE) regarding customized data needed for your proposal or for evaluation services as required by the grant. It is important the IRE is involved at the front end and back end of your proposal so you know exactly what can be tracked and what parameters are available to you.

    • Visit the IRE website for common data related to the SPC’s student body, academics, personnel, facilities and outcomes indicators: /central/ir/
  • Writing the Proposal Narrative

    A great proposal addresses in detail each requirement of the RFP.  It demonstrates that the project is likely to fulfill a proven need and provides a clear roadmap for efficient, effective implementation.  A great proposal convinces the funder that you know what you are doing and have a solid plan for getting it done.   

    Step 1: Proposal Formatting & Structure 

    • Be sure to follow the formatting guidelines detailed in the RFP.  If they are not followed, you run the risk of your proposal getting removed from consideration prior to review.  Funders will be as specific as detailing margins, font size, font type, page count, line spacing and attachment titles.
    • Organize your thoughts and ideas as they relate to the information being requested in the proposal.
      For example: Begin by outlining your thoughts and planned activities in alignment with the outline of the RFP. It will be easier to expand your proposal narrative from there. If you don’t get them down on paper, you may miss some key points you wanted to make.

    Step 2: Set Goals & Objectives

    Establishing your project goals and objectives is a fundamental grant writing component. A goal setting session will provide you with the foundation to develop measurable objectives. So, what is the difference between a goal and an objective?

    • A goal is a broad statement of what the program hopes to accomplish. Goals exist to clarify what is to be accomplished, to communicate planned outcomes to all stakeholders, evaluate program effectiveness, and to identify ways in which individual strategies fit into overall program design. Write your goal in the positive, not the negative. Examples include: 
      • For Example: The project goal is to mobilize the community to get involved in the restoration and conservation of the Tampa Bay ecosystem, creating a generational awareness of the environment.
    • An objective is a specific, measurable condition that must be attained in order to accomplish a particular program goal. Program objectives are derived from program goals and are developed for each of the major instructional elements in a specific program. All effective objectives have three components: 1) a condition; 2) a performance; and 3) a criterion statement. Objectives tend to answer the questions Who, What, When, Where, Why, How and How Much?  Your objectives need to be realistic and achievable.  Only identify objectives you are confident you will meet because the funder will hold you to it if awarded. 
      • For Example: 100 SPC students will assist in planting over 75 plants native to Florida while learning about the Tampa Bay Estuary by December 2013.

    Step 3: Proposal Outline

    The following are common sections you will find in a grant proposal, particularly government proposals:

    • Abstract/Executive Summary: The Abstract or Executive Summary is the most important section of the proposal. Here you will provide the reader with a snapshot of what is to follow. Specifically, it summarizes all of the key information and is a sales document designed to convince the reader that this project should be considered for support.
    • Needs Statement: If the funder reads beyond the executive summary, you have successfully piqued his or her interest. Your next task is to build on this initial interest in your project by enabling the funder to understand the problem that the project will remedy. The needs statement will enable the reader to learn more about the issues. It presents the facts and evidence that support the need for the project and establishes that you understand the problems and therefore can reasonably address them. The information used to support the case can come from studies, best practices, as well as your own experience. You want the need section to be succinct 
      Decide which facts or statistics best support the project. Be sure the data you present is accurate.

        Give the reader hope. The picture you paint should not be so grim that the solution appears hopeless. The funder will wonder whether an investment in your solution would be worthwhile.  

    • Project Description: This section of your proposal should have five subsections:  
      1. Goals and Objectives 
      2. Statement of Work - implementation plan (for example: start up; outreach; enrollment; training; follow up and support; placement; and reporting)  
      3. Staffing and Organizational Capacity - experience to be able to manage the program 
      4. Evaluation - assessing how you will achieve your objectives and outcomes 
      5. Sustainability - plan for continuing the program after funding comes to an end 
    • Attachments:  Common attachments include an organizational chart, flow chart, timeline, letters of commitment, resumes and Memorandum of Understanding.  The RFP will dictate which attachments are required.  Be aware of your page limit.  Attachments can easily put you over your page count maximum. 
    • Budget and Budget Narrative: See Budget 

    Step 4: Edit

    • Tailor your content to the reviewer by weaving in words directly from the RFP.
    • Have a third party review the final draft for a fresh view of the content. 
    • Ensure that your final draft is finished enough in advance to give you at least two to three days for editing.  

    Step 5: Submit for Approval

    • Prior to submitting the proposal to the funder, you will need the final approval of the Grants Department on the proposal and the Grants Accounting Department on the budget. Please allow for a minimum of one week ahead of the deadline for final review and approval.

  • Budget Development

    When developing your budget, you will need to work with the Grants Accounting Department to ensure proper guidelines and allowable costs are being followed. There are many hidden laws and regulations that can impact grant budgets. The involvement of the Grants Accounting Department from the beginning will help eliminate errors and allow for easier and quicker implementation if awarded.

    Below are common terms and definitions related to the budget:

    Allowable Costs

    Allowable costs are costs that SPC may be reimbursed under a grant or contract as determined by the RFP and accounting guidelines.

    Direct Costs

    Direct costs are costs that can be identified specifically with a particular project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, or that can be directly assigned to activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.

    Direct Costs generally include:

    • Personnel wages and salaries for staff time on activities directly related to the grant
    • Fringe benefits of direct employees
    • Consultant services - including any sub-contracts usually greater than $25,000, contracted to accomplish specific grant/contract objectives
    • Travel - in district, out of district and out of state travel related to the grant
    • Supplies, materials and communication costs such as long distance calls
    • Equipment purchased directly for grant use. Equipment is defined as any tangible item with a per unit cost greater than $5,000 and a life expectancy greater than one year. All other items, such as computers and software, are considered supplies.

    Indirect Costs

    Indirect costs are costs that are not directly accountable, but are incurred as part of the expense of operations, otherwise known as overhead. Some grant makers allow indirect costs while some do not. SPC currently maintains a negotiated modified indirect cost rate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If the funder allows indirect costs, we advise working closely with Grants Accounting to correctly incorporate indirect costs into your budget.

    Indirect costs generally include:

    • Salaries of administrative staff and clerical staff providing normal supporting activity
    • Office supplies, including postage
    • Local telephone calls
    • Facilities, utilities, operations and maintenance

    Cash Match/In-Kind Contributions

    In-kind contributions are resources that are not charged to the grant, but support functions of the grant. 
    Government funder regulations and legislation often stipulate that grant recipients must contribute non-federal cost-sharing or matching funds expressed as a percentage of the total grant. Unless otherwise provided by legislation or regulations, in-kind contributions may be used as a match, but the value of in-kind contributions must be evaluated and documented.

    Examples include: donated time and effort, real and personal property, and goods and services.
    If a matching funds are required, you will need to discuss this with the Grants Accounting Department to ensure that appropriate funds are available. 

    Unallowable Costs

    Unallowable costs are a particular item or type of cost which, under the express provisions of an applicable law, regulation, or sponsored agreement, is specifically named and stated to be unallowable.

    Unallowable Costs generally include:

    • Construction
    • Food and alcohol (unless otherwise specified as allowable in the RFP)
    • Legal expenses, settlements, fines and penalties

    Budget Narrative

    A narrative portion of the budget is used to explain all line items in the budget. It specifically shows the math and justification for the total amounts being charged to the grant.

    Project Period/Funding Period

    When preparing your budget, it’s wise to know the period of time your project will be active and how that will coincide with the funding period.  Project periods may cover multiple years.  You will need to know this information so that you can budget accordingly.

  • Dissecting the RFP

    Though you may have decided this grant is a perfect fit to support your project, it is important to take the time to thoroughly dissect the Request for Proposal (RFP) to help construct a strong and compelling application that aligns with the funder's mission.

    Once you decide to move forward with an application – the following information will help guide your planning stage, all of which should be detailed in the RFP:

    • Key dates: Is there a webinar or workshop to attend? Do you need to submit a letter of intent prior to the proposal deadline? Does the project period cover more than one year? This information will help you when developing your budget, and also to understand just how much money you can anticipate each year.
    • Key contacts: Is there someone listed to whom you can address questions?
    • Submission process: By mail? If so, give yourself plenty of time for it to arrive to the funder. Online? If so, check if you need to register or create an account. In some cases, this could take up to a month to establish.
    • Allowable costs: Will the grant cover the types of items or services you are looking to fund?
    • Required partners: Does the grant require specific partners as part of your project?  Business partners are commonly required partners.  You may also need to consider partnering with community partners, workforce boards and economic development organizations, depending on the funder.   

    InformationDo your research: Look at who has been supported by the funder before. Look for themes and trends around the types of proposals that usually are awarded and how much they were seeking. Ask around - often previous awardees are happy to answer questions and share their proposal.

  • Getting Started

    Writing a grant is not as daunting as it seems. By using the right framework, following the RFP questions and utilizing tricks of the trade provided here, you’ll be a professional grant writer in no time.

    Here you will learn how to:

    1. Read the Request for Proposal (RFP)
    2. Plan ahead: Develop your timeline, assign tasks and link with partners
    3. Develop the narrative
    4. Develop the budget
    5. Know the do's and don’ts
    InformationStart working on your project as early as possible.
    Give yourself adequate time to plan, research, write and submit.
  • Plan Ahead: Develop Your Outline & Assign Tasks

    By following the checklist below, you will be able to plan ahead when developing your project and proposal.  Most grants have a one to two month turnaround for deadlines. 

    • Teamwork: Establish your team to assist with proposal development, writing and ultimately to assist with program implementation.  Identify their roles and responsibilities and assign tasks by a specific timeline.  Be sure to include:
      • Your supervisor
      • Members of your staff, department and/or program
      • Other departments (consider an interdisciplinary approach to your project by communicating with departments like support services, curriculum, career services and financial aid).
      • Partners (internal and external partners that will contribute resources and ideas) - Partnerships take time to nurture.  Partnership development should be ongoing at all times.  You never know when you'll need them.
    • Grants Support: Meet with Grants and Grants Accounting to discuss strategies, as well as allowable activities and costs.  Representatives from these departments can provide important insights to help you along, saving lots of time.  Make sure you send them a copy of the RFP for proper review.
    • Information from Others: Identify information and items you will need to gather from others right from the start. Many components of the submission have you relying on others and are out of your control, like the time it takes to generate data or to gather resumes or letters of commitment from local companies. Identify these first and give yourself plenty of time to have them returned.
    • Content Library: Pull together content that relates to your project that has already been written for other purposes.  This process helps you to build a content library and saves valuable time in the long run.
    InformationGrants often follow a cycle. They may be up for competition every year or every other year. Knowing this helps you to plan ahead by setting meetings, devising a plan and developing partnerships throughout the year.