Good news! You found a grant source. Even better news, their interests and your needs match. Now you want to determine an amount to request from the donor. Determining the size of a request can be a tricky business. If you ask too much, you might get nothing, be perceived as greedy and even decrease your organization’s hard-earned credibility. If you request too little, your money is left on the table and your activities are underfunded.

Most people find it helpful to estimate a request size before they draft the proposal. If you can ask the donor for guidelines on a request amount, ask them. However, for many reasons people often cannot comfortably request this information. In this case, use the five steps outlined below to establish a request size:

1.Research the amounts funded by the group over the last several years. Use Local Sources, recent IRS reports or look for clues on the donor’s or funded organization’s websites.
2.Calculate the average grant given by the donor last year. For a first grant, consider a request close to or just less than the average.
3.Consider the amounts other groups in your specialty area received. Modify the estimate you made in step 2, if necessary, to fit within this range. For example, when arts groups received grants from $8,000-$10,000 and education groups received grants from $5,000-$7,000, adjust your estimate to fit into the range of your specialty.

4.Have there been any recent changes to the donor’s conditions? If so, adjust your estimate to reflect the impact of these conditions. For example, a good or bad economy, announcements of a large multi-year grant or a large bequest in the case of a community foundation are events that can impact request sizes.
5.Once you are satisfied with this estimate, draft the proposal. Fine-tune your estimate to reflect other funding sources impacting the project like earned income, your organization’s contributions, matching funds or the gifts of collaborative partners. (Generally the greater these other funding sources, the greater your request can be.) Your goal is to establish a specific dollar amount that offers sufficient, but economical resources to complete the activities, given the resources of the donor.
Here’s an example of the five steps applied to the Mythical Foundation:

  • The Mythical Foundation’s funding last year totaled $422,500.
  • $2,700-$25,000. You ballpark your request at $14,500.
  • Of the 28 funded organizations funded by Mythical Foundation, children’s groups ranged between $10,000-$25,000, older adults $3,000-$10,000 and health organizations received $7,500-$15,000. As an older adult service organization, you adjust your estimate down to $7,000
  • An article in the local newspaper from a year ago, states one of the Mythical family relatives died two years ago and left all of their assets to the Mythical Foundation. You revise your estimate up to $11,000.
  • At this point you consider what your organization needs in this price range.
  • After writing the proposal, you conclude you need $12,511 to economically complete the proposed activity and anything less will do it poorly. To make everyone’s bookkeeping easier, you trim the budget to equal $12,500.This is the amount you use on the proposal you submit.Establishing an appropriate request range is an important part of a grant submission. As you can see, the final amount is ultimately determined by what the donor is able to do for you balanced by the needs of the project. By using the steps above you can establish a request helpful to your organization, to those you serve and one that is inviting to the donor.

Note: This provides a set of general guidelines. Your knowledge about specific grant programs and donor’s advice will almost always override this and other general information.

For more than 20 more articles to help you with grant writing see this directory.

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For other sources of nonprofit income to augment your grant opportunities, read this article, Can Your Organization Obtain More Income?