Grant Writing Tips for Residential Intentional Communities

These grant writing tips use the term program, but most of the tips could apply to an agricultural or housing project. There’s a key difference in focus between projects and programs.

  • A project is temporary with a defined start and end, targeting a specific deliverable. Think of it as a single mission to complete a task.
  • A program is a collection of related efforts working towards a common, larger goal. It often involves ongoing efforts but the focus is on the overall benefit, not necessarily project completions. Programs can involve ongoing work through the coordinated projects. They might be ongoing or repetitive (seasonal) in nature. They can have an end date too, once the overall program objective is achieved.

Find Aligned Grant Makers

Carefully investigate grant maker priorities and funding focus areas to find the right funder match. See our lists of foundations, which include a few government or corporate grant makers too. These lists are intended to help you identify foundations that share a similar core mission or goals and have already supported ventures or projects in the listed topic areas. Search the internet using your location and keywords relevant to your program along with the term “request for proposals.”

  • Eliminate prospects that don’t fund:
  • In your state
  • Your type of organization
  • Your type of project or program
  • The type of support you need (startup costs, operating expenses)
  • Your size of project

Letter of Inquiry

If you are not responding to a request for proposals that specifies how to apply, write a brief letter of inquiry. Many foundations do not send out requests for proposals, but will accept a brief letter. You might use our sample letter of inquiry based on recommendations by expert grantwriters. Keep it to no more than two pages, and preferably shorter (Karsh & Fox, 2014, pp. 333-334). You might also find that Google’s gemini will create a draft that you can adapt.

Develop the Grant Proposal

  • Identify potential collaborators. If you have reputable partners in your project, funders will have more confidence that there is accountability for the funding. Document attendance at collaboration meetings to show commitment to your project (Karsh & Fox, 2014, p. 186).
  • Create a memo of understanding letter. MOUs document each collaborators’ activities, roles, and responsibilities (p. 186). This could go in a grant appendix. Also called a letter of commitment, Karsh and Fox describe this letter as follows: “A letter, signed by an authorized representative of each organization, from each partner in a collaborative project, specifying the activities and services that the partner will provide an the expectations the partner may have from the other partners an from the grant itself. This should be thought of as a brief contract that will take effect if a grant is awarded” (p. 318).
  • Create a linkage letter. Karsh and Fox (2014) describe a letter similar to the MOU or letter of commitment: “Linkage is the term used to describe relationships between and among organizations working together. Linkages tend to be routine and ongoing rather than project oriented. For grants requiring collaboration, linkage letters spell out the arrangements in detail” (p. 317).
  • State your organization’s mission and vision. Highlight the parts that match the funder’s priorities. It helps to do your research on who they have funded in the past and the dollar amounts they have given.
  • Describe your expertise and credibility. Show what other funders have given your project or organization in the past. Instead of them thinking you don’t need the funds, it will show that other funders have had confidence in you (p. 214). Brag about your own and your group’s leadership and accomplishments (p. 225).
  • Needs assessment. Identify the problem and its significance. Cite current background statistics to back this up, from reputable sources.
  • Create an evaluation plan. Develop clear, achievable, and measurable outcomes (p. 191). Operationalize your definition of success.
  • Check and double-check requirements. Typical components of a grant proposal include the following: cover letter (except government grants will have a form want as the cover page), the abstract (one-page summary), the table of contents, and an appendix with letters.

Budgeting and Cost Justification

  • Create a realistic and well-defined budget. Include in-kind donations provided by your own or partnering organizations, such as personnel time and office space (p. 200). Budgets need a narrative description (p. 205). Include a budget even if it’s not required (pp. 206-209).
  • Justify expenses and demonstrate cost-effectiveness. Describe the staff members who will carry out the project or program, and their qualifications, especially if they will be paid from the grant funds (p. 216).
  • Describe how it will be sustained. Funders want to know that you will continue the program when the grant funds run out. Describe what additional funding sources you can access if the program proves successful. If it will be self-sustaining financially, describe how.

Securing and Managing Grants

  • Prepare if you get a site visit. For a large grant, funders may want to see your physical facilities, meet the leadership, see programs in operation, and meet the partners (p. 272). A site visit means the potential funder is giving you serious consideration.
  • Find out if you got the grant. They may tell you, but a small organization might only inform those receiving the award. Make note if the funder states a date by which they will inform those receiving the award.
  • Show gratitude. If you get funded, write a thank you note to the foundation director or the person who announced the grant. If you received any help from a program officer of theirs, mention gratitude for their help (p. 286).
  • If you don’t get funded, learn from it. See if they will provide you the review notes or scorecard for your application (p. 293).
  • Manage grant funds. Keep track of how funds are used and meet financial reporting requirements. If you have a fiscal sponsor, they will take care of the IRS required reporting.

More Grant Writing Tips Sources


Karsh, E., & Fox, A. S. (2014). The only grant-writing book you’ll ever need (4th ed.). Perseus Books Group.