The key to receiving grant funding is the grant proposal. The grant proposal is the way that you tell the grant funder who you are, show that you’re worthy of grant funding, and describe how you plan to carry out the activities required to get the grant funding.

Grant proposal is a catch-all term, but there actually are several types of proposals. The one you’ll use depends, of course, on what the grant funder specifies. Generally, bigger amounts of grant funding requires more extensive proposals, but there can be exceptions.

We’ll take a look now at the three main types of proposals you’ll use to get grant funding, starting with the most common.

First is the full proposal, sometimes called the long proposal. I cover this one quite extensively in the How to Apply manual in the Free Money package. It follows a standard format, but you’ll modify it as necessary (and as allowed) to fit your purpose best. It normally will be 10-25 pages, but major projects can require hundreds of pages (but this is unlikely to be the case for you, so don’t worry). As always, you’ll need to be sure that you follow the grant funder’s guidelines. Even though there is a standard format with typical sections, the grant funder may have special requirements. In some cases, you may use an online form to submit your proposal. The grant funder can judge compare the proposals more easily, and you’ll be more likely to include all the sections that the funder requires.

The next document that you may use is the letter of intent (also known as the letter of inquiry). This is a short introduction of yourself to the funder to see whether they’re interested in having you submit a full proposal. Think of it as being like speed dating–they’ll get to make up their minds about whether they’re interested in getting to know you better. It’s usually a two- or three page summary of your project that briefly describes the need, how you’ll meet it, and how your project matches the funder’s priorities.

The next type of proposal is the letter proposal, which is more typically used for smaller amounts of grant funding. It differs from the letter of intent in that it’s a whole proposal, condensed. It’s usually three or four pages, and it’s up to you to make your case for grant funding in that amount of space. It sounds like a small assignment, but saying all that you want to, in that limited format, is not always easy. As long as you focus on the basic components, though, you can do it. The basic components are the need, how you’ll fulfill the need, how the grant funding will help you do it, and showing that your request align with the funder’s priorities. If the funder asks for a letter proposal, don’t get carried away and write too much. You may end up disqualified if you disregard what the grant funder asked for.

You may run across any or all of these types of proposals in your quest for grant funding. Understanding what they are and how they differ will help you do a good job of providing what the grant funder wants.